Reading Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles for the first time was an unsettling experience. This was back in middle school, and I must have been eleven? Twelve? Some time around that age. I loved sci-fi, but to that point I had mostly read Isaac Asimov’s stuff, which is generally lighter and more optimistic, I think. He has his own social commentaries, but in general, what I had been reading to that point was more innocent, perhaps a little naive. Bradbury, though…he didn’t pull punches. Where I expected rocketships and grand adventure, I found a eulogy for a dying culture and a hard look at colonization and cultural imperialism. It had the rocketships, too, but they were grimmer and had less of the sheen that Heinlein’s had. A few years later, I read The Illustrated Man for a class, and again I felt that disturbance. The chill that the future might not be as shiny as I’d thought, that there might be something to be wary of in holograms and robots and people. His writing made me uncomfortable, and it was hard to say why – it just dug in to my brain and stayed there.
A couple of weeks ago, I read Something Wicked This Way Comes. In the afterword of that edition, Bradbury wrote about an experience he had as a child with a carnival magician named Mister Electrico who called upon the young Bradbury during a performance and commanded him to live forever. A few days later, he begun to write, and he did so every day up until his death last Wednesday.
I guess I just wanted to pay homage to that essay, to his lyricism, and to making eleven-year-old me feel weird and uncomfortable and intrigued and apprehensive and excited all at once.