The Martian Chronicles [essay] by

21 September 2012

Ray Bradbury once said that he didn’t write science fiction. Science fiction is about the possible; he wrote fantasy. Events in his books “couldn’t happen.” [1] An argument could be made for his writing soft science fiction, more concerned with character or society rather than with the hard scientific facts.[2]

Bradbury is not exploring technology but society. The flaws of the various expeditions to Mars are the flaws of humanity as a whole. The Martian Chronicles can be read as both an echo of the past and a warning about the future. Bradbury was shaped and influenced by his culture; the discovery and colonisation of Mars mirrors that of the U.S.A. [3]

The Cold War loomed over America in the 1950s. An obvious example of this influence is the references to atomic war. From The Taxpayer’s worries about imminent doom right through to There Will Come Soft Rains nuclear war and the threat of destruction are never far away.

Yet it is not the only issue Bradbury confronts. Throughout the stories he returns to the conflict between the individual and society. The 1950s was also the era of McCarthyism, of the red terror, of authority battling the rights of the individual. –And the Moon Be Still as Bright focuses both on this conflict as well as on the inherent problems of colonisation. Bradbury uses America’s past to try and influence the future. The past, with its destruction of the Native American peoples and cultures, is happening all over again, only this time on Mars.

Unlike a utopian vision he is not attempting to show the reader perfection. He does not look eagerly to the future[4] instead he is concerned with the past and the present. The Martian Chronicles is a warning, an attempt to redirect society away from “self-annihilation”.[5] Martian Chronicles may not be an example of plausible scientific possibilities, it is, however part of the “literature of ideas”.[6]


  1. Stagg, Guy. – Ray Bradbury Wrote Modern Myths, Not Science Fiction
  2. Soft Science Fiction – Wikipedia
  3. Slusser, George, & Eric S. Rabkin. Visions of Mars: Essays on the Red Planet in Fiction and Science. McFarland, 2011
  4. Slusser, George. The Bradbury Chronicles. Wildside Press LLC, 1977
  5. Harlow, Morgan. – ‘Martian Legacy: Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles’. War, Literature & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities 17.
  6. ‘Science Fiction’. – Wikipedia

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