Saturday, 6 June 2015

Martian Crystal

"What does he know of England who only England knows?"

To appreciate Poul Anderson fully, we must also appreciate his contemporary sf writers. Personally, I prefer Anderson's hard sf to Ray Bradbury's soft sf. However, Bradbury is highly regarded, including by many hard sf writers. Further, I found considerably more in The Martian Chronicles when I reread it later in life. (Schoolboy opinions are not always trustworthy.)




"They had a house of crystal pillars on the planet Mars, by the edge of an empty sea, and every morning you could see Mrs K eating the golden fruits that grew from the crystal walls, or cleaning the house with handfuls of magnetic dust which, taking all dirt with it, blew away on the hot wind."
-Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles (London, 1977), p. 14.

This chapter heading and opening sentence display at least four interesting features.

(i) With its action beginning in 1999 (and continuing until 2026), The Martian Chronicles parallels SM Stirling's In The Courts Of The Crimson Kings, set on Mars in 2000 AD. However, ...Chronicles, copyright 1951, presents a future history whereas ...Crimson Kings, copyright 2008, presents an alternative history.

(ii) Bradbury consciously adopts an earlier narrative style that begins not with Mrs K's point of view but with an omniscient narrator directly informing the reader that the events of the story occur on the planet Mars.

(iii) Empty seas, dead sea bottoms, are familiar fictional Martian terrain.

(iv) Crystal is a Martian building material:

In "The U.S. Consulate...Robert Holmegard and his wife Dolores...gave a dinner for the explorers on a balcony of clear crystal supported by two curving braces of the same material shaped like slender snakes, a structure that seemed nerve-wrackingly fragile if you didn't know the strength of the stuff." (...Crimson Kings, p. 61)

That passage in ...Crimson Kings reminded me of Bradbury's opening sentence and thus initiated this post.

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