Monday, October 21, 2013

The Cottages of Mars

"The stars were bright and the blue Martian ships were skimming across the whispering sands."
Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles

Almost seven decades before the roving robot Curiosity, Ray Bradbury brought readers to Mars with his fantastic imagination and shining style. In a chapter called "Night Meeting," an old earth man describes why he likes Mars. If you substitute the word "genius" for "junk" in the following quote, you have a perfect description of Bradbury's phantasmagorical writing. "You know what Mars is? It's like a thing I got for Christmas seventy years ago - don't know if you ever had one - they call them kaleidoscopes - bits of crystal and cloth and beads and pretty junk. You held it up to the sunlight and looked in through at it, and it took your breath away. All the patterns! Well, that's Mars. Enjoy it."

Rereading The Martian Chronicles recently did take my breath away. Bizarre things like singing books and talking watches Bradbury envisioned in 1945 when his science fiction classic was first published exist now. If only that magnetic dust that collected dust bunnies and blew them clean away and those robot housecleaning mice that Bradbury's Martian housewives used existed too. This kind of household help would certainly allow more time for creative writing and, more importantly, major daydreaming. My two favorite stories in this extraordinary novel are Bradbury's tribute to Edgar Allan Poe,"Usher II," a story so scary and brilliant, I suspect it would delight Poe, and the achingly tender "The Long Years" about a lonely astronaut and his odd but loved family.

Not surprisingly, I've started thinking about my own chronicle. I'm not old enough to be a curmudgeon and not young enough to be taken seriously. I'm at that awkward age between older woman and death. There's nothing left for me but truthfulness. And the truth is I would love to volunteer for any future NASA expedition to colonize Mars. The thought of a world without mommy porn, reality TV, or politicians is stunningly appealing. I'm also volunteering my husband Victor and our dog Pip as first settlers on Mars. I envision a community of charming cottages painted soft pastels to complement the red soil, a neighborhood of scientists, artists, and others, single folk, married folk, kids, cats, and canines. A small cottage is all Victor and I would need, one with room enough for his tweeters and woofers, and a fenced yard for Pip's woofing. All I require is my Kindle and a twenty year supply of Peppermint Patties. I will miss fresh peaches grown by local farmers, Woody Allen movies, and the way the sky looks during cocktail hour. I promise to keep in touch with family and friends though I imagine interplanetary postal service may be somewhat ify. Thanks to Ray Bradbury I see the Mars neighborhood, hear those whispering sands, and imagine my name on the spacecraft passenger list.

Illustration: Copyright © Socrates/

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