For the A-B-C of science fiction, rest in peace “B”

When I was in eighth grade, and looking back this was fairly progressive for an eight grade book of shot stories, there were two stories that jumped out at me as being different than the others … as a science fiction fan, I was used to teachers rolling their eyes at science fiction, but my reading book had two notable works.  One was Serling’s “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street”, which is a story that I feel everyone should be required to read, and twice in this day and age.

The other was Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains”.  It was initially published back in 1950, and was later incorporated with minor changes into Bradbury’s larger work The Martian Chronicles.  I had to look it up, but the story takes place on a specific future date:  August 4, 2026 (I remember contemplating that I would be 55 … an achievable age … something difficult to contemplate when you are 13).  The story has one character:  a fully automated house.  It begins in the morning: cooking breakfast, preparing for the residents to wake up and got to school … only the family is gone, and their only remains are their silhouettes from a nuclear explosion that vaporized them.  The people are gone, but the house continues doing its now useless chores for a family that will never respond … until the house burns down to complete the loss.

On the one hand, it is a depressing piece of literature, and reading it today likely doesn’t resonate as it did with my peers and those before us who grew up in a Cold War environment.  On the other hand, it is a rather beautiful way of conveying a message about destruction.  When people die, they hope that those who remain will remember them and keep a legacy alive.  I think Bradbury wished to convey that if our species decides to obliterate itself, there will be no one left behind to remember us or contemplate how great we were … there will simply be a few creations … perhaps some mechanical devices which continue to operate mindlessly and uselessly … and that this will be our species sole legacy … one of futile creativity.  The only other option is to find a way to not destroy ourselves so that future generations will be there to appreciate the good that we have accomplished.

The A-B-C’s of science fiction:  Isaac Asimov (who dealt with the technical details of science better than most … his science fiction likely was the most technically accurate), Arthur C. Clarke (who I think was wiling to let go on accuracy for the sake of philosophy … reading and seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey is a lesson in philosophy in and of itself), and Ray Bradbury (who landed somewhere in the middle).

Thank you Ray for sharing!

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2 Responses to For the A-B-C of science fiction, rest in peace “B”

  1. Alan P says:

    I remember this story! I was an A/V aide in 7th grade, and this story was adapted to filmstrip. I remember watching it in the library one day. The part that stuck out for me was that a dog came by the house enticed by the smell of food, but it couldn’t get in to eat any. I think that even the same piece of toast was cooking in the toaster for several days and was completely charred. At least, that’s the imagery I have in my head.

    I think that somehow the question of what will happen when we are gone is stuck in my head. Certainly it is interesting to wonder what would happen if all the humans suddenly disappeared from the Earth (isn’t there a TV show about that? I don’t have cable…). But frequently I consider what would happen if the kids are in the house and Arlis and I step outside to answer the door, never to return. Or if I’m getting out of the car at the store, and disappear before I can get the kids. They’re completely stuck, at the mercy of the physical restraints we use to protect them.

    It’s really chilling for me. I wonder if I can blame Bradbury for this aspect of my psyche.

    • teganx7 says:

      Not being a parent myself, I’m not sure, but having talked to a lot of parents over my career and now as friends like you have kids, I think it is a very common fear to start playing the “what if” game. Certainly, some fears are chilling, bet genuinely very unlikely to happen. Others may be unlikely, but still have to be addressed (hopefully, you and Arliss have already talked to a lawyer about a will and what happens to the kids in the event of an unforeseen accident).

      In other words, I think you are normal, and I wouldn’t blame Ray. Even if you would have never seen this, I think you would still have these concerns. I think not having those fears would be the more abnormal condition.

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