The Martian Chronicles


Rocket Summer (January 1999/2030)

First published in Planet Stories, spring 1947.

The stories of the book are arranged in chronological order, starting in January 1999, with the blasting off of the first rocket. "Rocket Summer" is a short vignette which describes Ohio's winter turning briefly into "summer" due to the extreme heat of the rocket's take-off, as well as the reaction of the citizens nearby.

Ylla (February 1999/2030)

First published as "I'll Not Ask for Wine" in Maclean's, January 1, 1950.

The following chapter, "Ylla", moves the story to Mars, describing the Martians as having brown skin, yellow eyes, and russet hair. Ylla, a Martian woman trapped in an unromantic marriage, dreams of the coming astronauts through telepathy. Her husband, though he pretends to deny the reality of the dreams, becomes bitterly jealous, sensing his wife's inchoate romantic feelings for one of the astronauts. After taking his gun under the pretense of hunting, he kills astronauts Nathaniel York and "Bert" as soon as they arrive.

The Summer Night (August 1999/2030)

First published as "The Spring Night" in The Arkham Sampler, Winter 1948.

This short vignette tells of Martians throughout Mars who, like Ylla, begin subconsciously picking up stray thoughts from the humans aboard the Second Expedition's ship. As the ship approaches their planet, the Martians begin to adopt aspects of human culture such as playing and singing American songs, without any idea where the inspirations are coming from.

The Earth Men (August 1999/2030)

First published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1948.

This story tells of the "Second Expedition" to Mars. The expedition is a group of 4 men. The astronauts arrive to find the Martians to be strangely unresponsive to their presence. The one exception to this is a group of Martians in a building who greet them with a parade. Several of the Martians in the building claim to be from Earth or from other planets of the solar system, and the captain slowly realizes that the Martian gift for telepathy allows others to view the hallucinations of the insane, and that they have been placed in an insane asylum. The Martians they have encountered all believed that their unusual appearance was a projected hallucination. Because the "hallucinations" are so detailed and the captain refuses to admit he is not from Earth, Mr. Xxx, a psychiatrist, declares him incurable and kills him. When the "imaginary" crew does not disappear as well, Mr. Xxx shoots and kills them too. Finally, as the "imaginary" rocket remains in existence, Mr. Xxx concludes that he too must be crazy and shoots himself. The ship of the Second Expedition is sold as scrap at a junkyard.

The Taxpayer (March 2000/2031)

First appeared in The Martian Chronicles.

A man insists that he has a right to be on the next rocket to Mars, because he is a taxpayer. He strongly insists on boarding the ship due to the impending nuclear war on Earth. He is not allowed on the ship and eventually gets taken away by the police.

The Third Expedition (April 2000/2031)

First published as "Mars is Heaven!" in Planet Stories, fall 1948.

The arrival and demise of the third group of Americans to land on Mars is described by this story. This time the Martians are prepared for the Earthlings. When the crew arrives, they see an idyllic small town of the 1920s occupied by the long-lost loved ones of the astronauts. The bewildered and happy crew members ignore their captain's orders and disperse to join their supposed family members. The Martians use the memories of the astronauts to lure them into their "old" homes where they are killed in the middle of the night. The next morning, sixteen coffins are carried from sixteen houses and are buried by mourners who sometimes resemble humans and sometimes "something else".

The original short story was set in the 1960s and dealt with characters nostalgic for their childhoods in the Midwestern United States in the 1920s. In the Chronicles version, which takes place forty years later but which still relies on 1920s nostalgia, the story contains a brief paragraph about medical treatments that slow the aging process, so that the characters can be traveling to Mars in the 2000s but still remember the 1920s.

—And the Moon Be Still as Bright (June 2001/2032)

First published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, June 1948.

The next chapter opens with the men of the Fourth Expedition gathering firewood against the cold Martian evening. The scientists have found that all of the Martians have died of chickenpox (brought by one of the first three expeditions)—analogous to the devastation of Native American populations by smallpox. The men, except for the archaeologist Spender and Captain Wilder, become more boisterous. Spender loses his temper when one of his crew-mates starts dropping empty wine bottles into a clear blue canal and knocks him into the canal. When questioned by his captain, Spender replies, "We'll rip it up, rip the skin off, and change it to fit ourselves," and that "we Earth Men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things," referring to Earth. He leaves the rest of the landing party to explore Martian ruins after one crew member vomits on an ancient tile mosaic.

In some editions the two stories relating to Spender were combined as one.

The Settlers (August 2001/2032)

Spender returns to the rest of the expedition. He carries a gun and, claiming to be the last Martian, shoots six of his crew-mates, including one with sympathy towards the Martians from his Cherokee ancestry. Captain Wilder approaches under a white flag and has a short discussion with Spender during which the archaeologist explains that if he manages to kill off the expedition it may delay human colonization of the planet for a few more years, possibly long enough that the expected nuclear war on Earth will protect Mars from human colonization completely. Although he opposes Spender's methods, Captain Wilder somewhat agrees with his attitude towards colonization and wishes for him a humane death. He returns to the others and joins them as they pursue Spender, and Wilder shoots Spender in the chest during the fight before he has the opportunity to be killed by anyone else. The captain later knocks out the teeth of Parkhill, another expedition member, when he disrespectfully damages some Martian glass structures while "target practicin'".

Many of the characters of the Fourth Expedition—Parkhill, Captain Wilder, and Hathaway—re-appear in later stories. This is the first story that focuses on a central motif of The Martian Chronicles: the colonization of the Western frontier in the United States. Like Spender, Bradbury's message is that some types of colonization are right and others are wrong. Trying to recreate Earth is viewed as wrong, but an approach that respects the fallen civilization that is being replaced is right.

In the previously mentioned version, this short story describes the first settlers coming to Mars, the "Lonely Ones", the ones that came to start over on the planet. It first appeared in The Martian Chronicles.

The Green Morning (December 2001/2032)

First appeared in The Martian Chronicles.

The next several chapters describe the transformation of Mars into another Earth. Small towns similar to those on Earth begin to grow. In "The Green Morning", Benjamin Driscoll makes it his mission to plant thousands of trees on the red plains to increase oxygen levels. Due to some property of the Martian soil, the trees he plants grow into a mighty forest in a single night.

The Locusts (February 2002/2033)

First appeared in The Martian Chronicles.

This vignette concerns the swift colonization of Mars. The title refers to the rockets and settlers which quickly spread across all of Mars.

Night Meeting (August 2002/2033)

First appeared in The Martian Chronicles.

This story begins with a conversation between an old man and a young traveler, Tomás Gomez. The older man explains that he came to Mars because he appreciates the new and novel. Even everyday things have become amazing to him once again. He has returned full circle to his childhood. Later, Tomás encounters a Martian named Muhe Ca. Each can see the Mars he is accustomed to, in his own time frame, but the other person is translucent to him and has the appearance of a phantom. The young man sees ruins where the Martian sees a thriving city, while the Martian sees an ocean where Tomás sees the new Earth settlement. Neither knows if he precedes the other in time, but Bradbury makes the point that any one civilization is ultimately fleeting.

This is the only full-length story in The Martian Chronicles that had not previously appeared in another publication.

The Shore (October 2002/2033)

This story describes the rippling outward of colonization, the first wave being loner, pioneer types, and the second, also Americans, being from the "cabbage tenements and subways" of New York.

The Fire Balloons (November 2002/2033)

First appeared as "…In This Sign" in Imagination, April 1951.

A missionary expedition of Episcopal priests from the United States anticipates sins unknown to them on Mars. Instead, they meet ethereal creatures glowing as blue flames in crystal spheres, who have left behind the material world, and thus have escaped sin.

This story appeared only in The Silver Locusts, the British edition of The Martian Chronicles, the 1974 edition from The Heritage Press, the September 1979 illustrated trade edition from Bantam Books, the "40th Anniversary Edition" from Doubleday Dell Publishing Group and in the 2001 Book-of-the-Month Club edition. It otherwise appeared in The Illustrated Man.

Interim (February 2003/2034)

First appeared in Weird Tales, July 1947.

This story describes the building of a Martian town by colonists and how much it was made to resemble an average Midwestern American town. The town was said to have appeared to have been swept up by a tornado on Earth, and brought to Mars.

The Musicians (April 2003/2034)

First appeared in The Martian Chronicles.

Several boys venture into the ruins of Martian cities. They enter houses and play with the debris, imagining that they are on Earth playing with the autumn leaves. They have fun playing "white xylophones"—Martian ribcages. They play with a sense of urgency because the Firemen, men whose job is to clean up the ruins of Martian cities, will presently come and clean everything up, eliminating this source of fun.

The Wilderness (May 2003/2034)

First appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1952.

Two women, Janice Smith and Leonora Holmes, prepare to depart on a rocket to Mars, to find husbands or lovers waiting for them there. Janice muses on the terrors of space, drinks in last memories of the Earth she will soon be leaving, and compares her situation to that of the pioneer women of the 19th-century American frontier.

This story only appears in the 1974 edition of The Martian Chronicles by The Heritage Press, the 1979 Bantam Books illustrated trade edition, and the 1997 edition of The Martian Chronicles. In its original form, the story was dated 2003, and this date is consistent with the other stories. As it appears in the 1997 edition, the date (together with all the other dates) has been shifted ahead 31 years, to May 2034.

Way in the Middle of the Air (June 2003/2034)

First appeared in Other Worlds, July 1950.

In an unnamed Southern town, a group of white men learn that all African Americans are planning to emigrate to Mars. Samuel Teece, a racist white man, decries their departure as a flood of African Americans passes his hardware store. He tries to stop one man, Belter, from leaving due to an old debt, but others quickly take up a collection on his behalf to pay it off. Next he tries to detain Silly, a younger man who works for him, saying that he signed a contract and must honor it. As Silly protests, claiming that he never signed it, Teece's grandfather volunteers to take his place. Several of Teece's friends stand up to him and intimidate him into letting Silly depart.

As Silly drives off, he yells to Teece, "What you goin' to do nights?" - referring to Teece's nightly activities with a gang that had terrorized and lynched blacks in the area. The enraged Teece and his grandfather give chase in their car, but soon find the road cluttered with the discarded belongings of the rocket passengers. After they return to the hardware store, Teece refuses to watch as the rockets lift off. Wondering how he and his friends will spend their nights from now on, he takes a small triumph in the fact that Silly always addressed him as "Mister" even as he was leaving.

This episode is a depiction of racial prejudice in America. However, it was eliminated from the 2006 William Morrow/Harper Collins, and the 2001 DoubleDay Science Fiction reprinting of The Martian Chronicles.

The Naming of Names (2004-05/2035-36)

First appeared in The Martian Chronicles. Not to be confused with the short story "The Naming of Names", first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1949, later published as "Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed".

This story is about later waves of immigrants to Mars, and how the geography of Mars is now largely named after the people from the first four expeditions (e.g., Spender Hill, Driscoll Forest) rather than after physical descriptions of the terrain.

Usher II (April 2005/2036)

First published as Carnival of Madness in Thrilling Wonder Stories, April 1950.

"Usher II" is about censorship. William Stendahl is a book lover who has retreated to Mars after the government confiscated and destroyed his vast collection. On Mars, he constructs his image of the perfect haunted mansion, complete with mechanical creatures, creepy soundtracks, and thousands of tons of poison to kill every living thing in the surrounding area. He is assisted by Pikes, a film aficionado and former actor whose collection was confiscated and destroyed by the government and who was subsequently banned from performing. When the "Moral Climate Monitors" come to visit, Stendahl and Pikes arrange to kill each of them in ways that allude to different horror masterpieces, culminating in the murder of Inspector Garrett in a sequence reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado". Once Stendahl's persecutors are dead, he and Pikes watch from a helicopter as the house crumbles and sinks into the lake as in Poe’s short story "The Fall of the House of Usher". At the end of this story, Poe (or Stendahl) hint that the "Moral Climate Monitors" could have avoided these deaths if they had only read books.

Bradbury hints at past events on Earth, set in 1975–30 years prior to the events in "Usher II". The government sponsored a "Great Burning" of books and made them illegal, which leads to the formation of an underground society of book owners. Those found to possess books had them seized and burned by fire crews. Mars apparently emerged as a refuge from the fascist censorship laws of Earth, until the arrival of a government organization referred to only as "Moral Climates" and their enforcement divisions, the "Dismantlers" and "Burning Crew". Bradbury would reuse the concept of massive government censorship (to the point of abolishing all literature) in his book Fahrenheit 451.

In 2010 Los Angeles artist Allois, in collaboration with Bradbury, released illustrated copies of "Usher" and "Usher II".[6]

The Old Ones (August 2005/2036)

First appeared in The Martian Chronicles.

A very brief prelude to the following story, describing the immigration of elderly people to Mars.

The Martian (September 2005/2036)

First published in Super Science Stories, November 1949.

LaFarge and his wife Anna have forged a new life for themselves, but they still miss their dead son Tom. A night thunderstorm startles the elderly pair, who see a figure standing outside their home in the rain. Afraid, Anna goes to bed, while LaFarge believes that somehow Tom is standing before him. He leaves his house unlocked.

When morning comes, "Tom" is busy helping Anna with chores. LaFarge sees that Anna is somehow unaware of Tom's death, and after speaking privately with him, LaFarge learns that "Tom" is a Martian with an empathic shapeshifting ability: the Martian appears as their dead son to them.

Later that day, Anna insists on a visit to the town. "Tom" is deathly afraid of being so close to so many people. LaFarge promises to keep him close, but at the town they become separated. While searching for "Tom", LaFarge hears that the Spaulding family in town has miraculously found their lost daughter Lavinia. Desperate to avoid a second devastating heartbreak to his wife, LaFarge stands outside Spaulding's home and finds "Tom" now masquerading as Lavinia. He is able to coax "Tom" to come back, and they run desperately back for their boat to leave town. However, everyone "Tom" passes sees a person of their own—a lost husband, a son, a criminal. The Martian, exhausted from his constant shape-changing, spasms, and dies.

The Luggage Store (November 2005/2036)

First appeared in The Martian Chronicles.

The story of Mars and its inhabitants is continued in a discussion between a priest and a luggage storeowner. Nuclear war is imminent on Earth, and the priest predicts that most of the colonists will return to help.

The Off Season (November 2005/2036)

First published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1948.

On Mars, former Fourth Expedition member Sam Parkhill has opened a hot-dog stand and is expecting a huge rush of business as soon as the next wave of settlers and workers arrives from Earth. When a lone Martian walks in one night, Parkhill panics and kills him. Other Martians arrive in sand ships, prompting Parkhill and his wife to flee across the desert in their own ship. Once the Martians catch up, they surprise Parkhill by giving him ownership of half the planet. He returns to his hot-dog stand just in time to witness the start of the nuclear war on Earth, which puts an end to the settler flights and his business.

The Watchers (November 2005/2036)

First appeared in The Martian Chronicles.

The colonists witness a nuclear war on Earth from Mars. They immediately return out of concern for their friends and families, buying up the luggage store owner's entire inventory before they leave.

The Silent Towns (December 2005/2036)

First published in Charm, March 1949.

Everybody has left Mars to go to Earth, except Walter Gripp—a single miner who lives in the mountains and does not hear of the departure. At first excited by his find of an empty town, he enjoys himself with money, food, clothes, and movies. He soon realizes he misses human companionship. One night he hears a telephone ringing in someone's home, and suddenly realizes that someone else is alive on Mars. Missing the call, and several others, he sits down with a phone book of Mars and starts dialing at A.

After days of calling without answers, he starts calling hotels. After guessing where he thinks a woman would most likely spend her time, he calls the biggest beauty salon on Mars and is delighted when a woman answers. They talk, but are cut off. Overcome with romantic dreams, he drives hundreds of miles to New Texas City, only to realize that she drove to find him on a back road. He drives back to his town, and meets Genevieve Selsor as he pulls in.

Their meeting is the opposite of what he had hoped for in his dreams; she is unattractive (due to her weight and pallor), foolish, and insipid. After a sullen day, she slyly proposes marriage to him at dinner, as they believe they are the last man and the last woman on Mars. Gripp flees, driving across Mars to another tiny town to spend his life happily alone, avoiding all contact with Genevieve.

The Long Years (April 2026/2057)

First published as "Dwellers in Silence" in Maclean's, September 15, 1948.

Hathaway (the physician/archaeologist from the Fourth Expedition), now retired, is living on Mars with his wife and children in the hills above an old, abandoned settlement, vacated many years ago when everyone returned to Earth at the beginning of the war there. A gifted inventor and tinkerer, he has wired the old ghost town in the valley below so that he can make it come alive at night with lights and sounds as if it were still inhabited. One night, he sees a rocket approaching Mars and sets fire to the old town to attract the attention of those on board.

On board the rocket is his old commander, Captain Wilder, (also from the earlier stories about the Fourth Expedition) returning to Mars after twenty years exploring the outer solar system. He and his crew land and are met by Hathaway, now old and suffering from heart disease. Hathaway brings the crew to his house for breakfast and introduces them to his family. Wilder, who remembers meeting Hathaway's wife many years earlier, remarks that she looks remarkably young, while Hathaway has aged considerably. Wilder pales when he and one of his crew realize that Hathaway's son, who gives his age as 23, must be at least in his forties. Wilder sends the crewmember off to the local cemetery to check the headstones. He returns to report that he has found the graves of every member of the family but Hathaway.

Wilder offers to take Hathaway back to Earth, but he declines. In the next moment, Hathaway has a heart attack and dies, begging Wilder not to call his family to his side because they "would not understand". Wilder then confirms that Hathaway's wife and children are actually androids, created by Hathaway after his wife and children died years ago.

As Wilder prepares to depart, one of the crew returns to the house with a pistol, thinking to put an end to the androids, whose existence seems pointless now that Hathaway is gone, but he returns shortly, having been unable to bring himself to kill the robotic family even knowing that they are not truly human. The rocket departs, and the android family continues on with its meaningless routine.

There Will Come Soft Rains (August 4, 2026/2057)

First published in Collier's, May 6, 1950.

The story concerns a household in Allendale, California, after the nuclear war has wiped out the population. Though the family is dead, the automated house that had taken care of the family still functions.

The reader learns a great deal about what the family was like from how the robots continue on in their functions. Breakfast is automatically made, clothes are laid out, voice reminders of daily activities are called out, but no one is there. Robotic mice vacuum the home and tidy up. As the day progresses, the rain quits, and the house prepares lunch and opens like a flower to the warm weather. A starving dog, apparently the family pet, whines at the door, is admitted and dies. Outside, a vivid image is given: the family's silhouettes were permanently burned onto the side of the house (as occurred at Hiroshima) when they were vaporized by the nuclear explosion. That night, a storm crashes a tree into the home, starting a fire that the house cannot combat, as the municipal water supply has dried up and failed. By the next morning, the entire house has collapsed except for one wall that announces the date over and over.

The title of the story comes from a randomly selected bedtime poem called "There Will Come Soft Rains", which is an actual poem by Sara Teasdale published in 1920. The theme of the poem is that nature will survive after humanity is gone, reflecting the theme of the story; that even the vast cities of humanity will eventually be reclaimed by nature. In the original story in Collier's, the story takes place 35 years in the future.[7]

The Million-Year Picnic (October 2026/2057)

First published in Planet Stories, summer 1946.

A family saves a rocket that the government would have used in the nuclear war and leaves Earth on a "fishing trip" to Mars. The family picks a city to live in and call home, destroying the rocket so that they cannot return to Earth. They enter and the father burns tax documents and other government papers in a campfire, explaining that he is burning a misguided way of life. A map of Earth is the last thing to be burned. Later, he offers his sons a gift in the form of their new world. He introduces them to Martians—their own reflections in a canal.

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