Ray Bradbury
(1920 – 2012)

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Kaleidoscope
Mars Is Heaven!
A Miracle of Rare Device


Science Fiction


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Introduction to Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow


Fantasy

Kaleidoscope

Copyright © 1949 by Standard Magazines, Inc.

It was gone. When life is over it is like a flicker of bright film, an instant on the screen, all of its prejudices and passions condensed and illumined for an instant on space, and before you could cry out. There was a happy day, there a bad one, there an evil face, there a good one, the film burned to a cinder, the screen was dark.

From this outer edge of his life, looking back, there was only one remorse, and that was only that he wished to go on living. Did all dying people feel this way, as if they had never lived? Does life seem that short, indeed, over and down before you took a breath? Did it seem this abrupt and impossible to everyone, or only to himself, here, now with a few hours left to him for thought and deliberation?

Topic:

Dying

text checked (see note)Feb 2005

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Mars Is Heaven!

Copyright © 1948 by Love Romances Publishing Company, Inc.
An adaptation of this story appears under the heading “April 2000: The Third Expedition” in The Martian Chronicles (1950).

“It may be, sir, that we are looking upon a phenomenon that, for the first time, would absolutely prove the existence of a God, sir.”

“There are many people who are of good faith without such proof, Mr. Hinkston.”

“I’m one myself, sir. But certainly a thing like this, out there,” said Hinkston, “could not occur without divine intervention, sir. It fills me with such terror and elation I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, sir.”

“Do neither, then, until we know what we’re up against.”

Topic:

Gods

text checked (see note) Feb 2005

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A Miracle of Rare Device

Copyright © 1961(?), 1971 by Playboy

See:

Kubla Khan

On a day neither too mellow nor too tart, too hot nor too cold, the ancient tin lizzie came over the desert hill traveling at commotion speed. The vibration of the various armored parts of the car caused roadrunners to spurt up in floury bursts of dust. Gila monsters, lazy displays of Indian jewelry, took themselves out of the way. Like an infestation, the Ford clamored and dinned away into the deeps of the wilderness.

What the world hadn’t done to them, thinking about it had. They had enjoyed 30 years of nonviolence together, in their case meaning nonwork. “I feel a harvest coming on,” Will would say, and they’d clear out of town before the wheat ripened. Or, “Those apples are ready to fall!” So they’d stand back about 300 miles so as not to get hit on the head.

Topic:

Labor

“Willy, Willy, we got hold of something strange and big here. I’m scared we won’t do right by it.”

“Well, we’re not keeping anyone out, are we?”

“Who knows? Might be a quarter’s too much for some. It don’t seem right, a natural thing handled by unnatural rules. Look and tell me I’m wrong.”

William looked.

And the city was there like the first city he had seen as a boy, when his mother took him on a train across a long meadow of grass early one morning and the city rose up head by head, tower by tower, to look at him, to watch him coming near. It was that fresh, that new, that old, that frightening, that wonderful.

“I think,” said Robert, “we should take just enough to buy gas for a week, put the rest of the money in the first poor box we come to. That mirage is a clear river running, and people coming by thirsty. If we’re wise, we dip one cup, drink it cool in the heat of the day and go. If we stop, build dams, try to own the whole river. . . .”

“Tell me again, why? Why every time our luck is good, Ned Hopper jumps out of the earth?”

Robert sighed on the opera-glass lenses and wiped them on his cuff. “Because, friend Will, we are the pure in heart. We shine with a light. And the villains of the world, they see that light beyond the hills and say, ‘Why, now, there’s some innocent, some sweet all-day sucker.’ And the villains come to warm their hands at us. I don’t know what we can do about it, except maybe put out the light.”

“I wouldn’t want to do that.”

Topic:

Innocence

“Right now, I’m feeling sorry for Ned Hopper.”

“Sorry!”

“He never saw what we saw. He never saw what anybody saw. He never believed for one second. And you know what? Disbelief is catching. It rubs off on people.”

William searched the disinhabited land.

“Is that what happened?”

“Who knows?” Robert shook his head. “One thing sure: When folks drove in here, the city, the cities, the mirage, whatever, was there. But it’s awful hard to see when people stand in your way.”

Topic:

Belief

text checked (see note) Dec 2006

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Editor’s Introduction to
Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow

Copyright © 1952 by Ray Bradbury

From this collection I have quoted selections by John Kier Cross, John Steinbeck, and Wessel Hyatt  Smitter.
Some people are frightened by it, some are elated, but I believe the sense of the impossible can be used to sharpen our senses to what we are doing and where, if anywhere, we are going. We have all had moments such at The First Day I Discovered I Was Really Alive, at the age of ten. Or The First Day I Finally Realized That Someday I Must Die, at the age of fifteen. We have all walked in meadows on certain afternoons and suddenly been so keenly aware of living that we have felt a very real and deep gratitude for this chance to live. We have seen sunsets so beautiful that there is no talking of them, caused by a million interactions of events in the atmosphere, in the light, in the dust particles, and in the hidden theatre of the mind. We have all felt ourselves participants of a precious privilege given to us by a God, of what ever shape or size you prefer, on the best birthday of all, the day each of us was born.

An occasional breather, a refresher, a bit of luck, a happy meeting, can make us cling once more to this soiled small bit of existence with a ferocity that borders on and surpasses insanity. Gripe as we may, criticize as we must, when the hour comes to leave the stage, when our particular scene ends and the curtain is dropping, most of us regret that we can’t stay on for at least another act.

This book, I hope, will be your refresher. This book, I hope, will show you that for all its reality, life is still a fantasy. For it is not only what life does in the material world that counts, but how each mind sees what is done that makes the fantasy complete.

A man who is unfamiliar with the mores of his own civilization is usually enlightened and re-focused by a journey through some foreign country such as Mexico where he sees his own customs through the Looking Glass, brought into an astonishing clarity so they suddently become ridiculous or understandable, or both. So a passenger through the lands of fantasy contained in this book should return, freshened and clear of eye to his normal existence. If this book achieves only one purpose, causes you to appreciate the stuff that holds you together, gives you an awareness of life that you may have lost somewhere between childhood and here, it will have done more than enough.

Beginning writers often err in thinking that if one magic trick is good, then sixteen magic tricks, running as a team, must be sixteen times better. Nothing could be further from the truth. Good fantasy must be allowed to move casually upon the reader, in the air he breathes. It must be woven into the story so as to be, at times, almost unrecognizable.

Topic:

Writing

When fantasy in any of its forms starts preaching, the miracle finds itself endangered. Most of these stories try to say what they have to say of life with a gentle breath so as not to melt the pattern of the snowflake you hold in your hand.

text checked (see note) June 2022

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Background graphic copyright © 2003 by Hal Keen