Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Martian Chronicles Playlist (DIMX)

Radio script writers working in the 1950's loved the author, Ray Bradbury. His stories seemed perfectly suited to dramatization. I recently read through The Martian Chronicles for the fourth or fifth time and I had some thoughts on what would be the best approximation of the book, in terms of a playlist of vintage radio drama, and on how one should read the book itself. I left the reading notes to the end, so you can ignore them if you want.

The Martian Chronicles Playlist
This playlist uses the Dimension X lineup of the stories. The trick is that the actual episode titled The Martian Chronicles is split up in the playlist, so pay attention to the notes at the end of the links! The missing section is a shortened version of --And the Moon Be Still as Bright. There is a longer version of There Will Come Soft Rains I didn't include because it is so interwoven with Off Season and The Million-Year Picnic.

1. Rocket Summer/Ylla
19500818(020)_DIMX_TheMartianChronicles.mp3 - stop at 11:25. 

2. Mars is Heaven (MC chapter title: The Third Expedition)

3. —And the Moon Be Still as Bright

4. The Off Season, There Will Come Soft Rains, & The Million-Year Picnic montage
19500818(020)_DIMX_TheMartianChronicles.mp3 - start at 17:10

5. The Long Years (MC chapter title: Dwellers in Silence)

Or, you can download the whole thing as a "remix" by me.

Reading Notes
First, buy an old copy of the book. If the timeline in the TOC starts with 2029, you've got a newer one. It's not a big deal, but I don't like that the publishers have monkeyed with it.

Second, you don't need to read every story. The stories are so good! But, I think The Martian Chronicles, as a book, was a mistake. The vignettes that are supposed to tie the stories together really cause confusion, as if Bradbury is telling you all of this is happening in the same universe. It isn't. You should read the stories as if each were happening in a slightly different dimension from the last. When viewed as a continuity there are discordant notes, but when taken as a collection of thematically-related stories the book is brilliant. This is no surprise as many of the chapters were written separately and published in pulp magazines in a radically different order than they appear in the book. The added vignettes are well-written, so they are seductive; you want them to belong, to have a home, but they really don't add anything except a kind of literary padding and false glue. I think that focusing on the core stories and taking out this glue, ironically, will make it a better book.

Here are the stories and reading order I recommend. I keep to the same chronology as the book. The structure (three headings) is something I added, but I'm rather fond of it. It divides the stories into 1) first contact stories, 2) the struggles of the settlers to feel at home on Mars and deal with the Martian remnants, and 3) the stories of humans as a species caught between two worlds. (I don't want to explain that because ... spoilers.)

Part I: First Contacts
Ylla: February 1999
The Earth Men: August 1999
The Third Expedition: April 2000

Part II: Mars is Ours?
—And the Moon Be Still as Bright: June 2001
Night Meeting: August 2002
The Martian: September 2005
The Off Season: November 2005

Part III: Between Worlds
The Long Years: April 2026
There Will Come Soft Rains: August 4, 2026
The Million-Year Picnic: October 2026

If you read/re-read it this way, I'd love to hear about it!

By the way, I know there are other good stories in the book! But honestly, they don't add much and some of them don't have anything to do with the story of Mars ("Usher II" for instance, seems repurposed to fit the book). I think the pattern above will be a more condensed, coherent, and potent reading experience.

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