Whether your tastes tend towards science fiction, fantasy, or horror, the short stories of Ray Bradbury will sate your deepest cravings.
We are so hooked on the idea that bigger is better these days.
We think that if something is bigger, we are somehow winning. Getting our money’s worth. At last, going to be satisfied.
And novels are big.
Ray Bradbury has written many novels, you’ve probably even studied some in school: Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Dandelion Wine, to name a few. His Zen and the Art of Writing is studied by many aspiring writers.
Although I love his larger works, it’s in his short stories that Ray Bradbury reigns supreme.
To this day I remember as though it were yesterday when my ten-year-old self read the opening to Bradbury’s short story, The Man:
Captain Hart stood in the door of the rocket. “Why don’t they come?” he said.
“Who knows?” said Martin, his lieutenant. “Do I know, Captain?”
“What kind of a place is this, anyway?” The captain lighted a cigar. He tossed the match out into the glittering meadow. The grass started to burn.
Martin moved to stamp it out with his boot.
“No,” ordered Captain Hart, “let it burn. Maybe they’ll come see what’s happening then, the ignorant fools.”
Martin shrugged and withdrew his foot from the spreading fire.
Captian Hart examined his watch, “An hour ago we landed here, and does the welcoming committee rush out with a brass band to shake our hands? No indeed! Here we ride millions of miles through space and the fine citizens of some silly town on some unknown planet ignore us!”
Here we have two very different characters–one full of his own importance to the exclusion of effect, the other aware of outcome but without the power to affect it–in a delightfully ironic situation: Humanity has at last succeeded in the monumental accomplishment of visiting another inhabited planet, and the aliens they discover simply do not care. With these lines, I found myself hooked by the wizard words of Ray Bradbury. I inhaled all his short stories over the coming months (and he’s written almost 600).
It was Mr. Bradbury’s stories that taught me the mechanics of telling a rollicking good adventure. It was his stories that tutored me to excise the extraneous and only keep the meat. It was his stories that showed me the beauty of setting a scene that captures not just the reader’s mind, but their imagination.
Just read the opening to his novella The Halloween Tree:
It was a small town by a small river and a small lake in a small northern part of a Midwest state. There wasn’t so much wilderness around you couldn’t see the town. But on the other hand there wasn’t so much town you couldn’t see and feel the touch and smell the wilderness. The town was full of trees. And dry grass and dead flowers now that autumn was here. And full of fences to walk on and sidewalks to skate on and a large ravine to tumble in and yell across. And the town was full of…
And it was the afternoon of Halloween.
Ray Bradbury’s short stories are full of enchantment such as this, as well as critical statements about what it is to be human, where humanity might be heading in the future, and what really matters thoughout all of it.
A short story might not be a novel, but it is just as mighty. Possibly more, in this world of ever-shortened attention spans and ever-less time to read anything other than social media.
Read one short story by Ray Bradbury each evening before going to bed, and I guarantee you will be changed for the better, as a reader, as a creator, and even more importantly, as a human being.
Muchier Scale: 9 out of 10.