Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury

Coursera Fantasy and Science Fiction Week 8

The only Ray Bradbury I've read previously was in English classes at school where we read the short story collection "The Golden Apples of the Sun". Although it includes the classic "A Sound Of Thunder", I don't clearly recall any of the other stories. Reading this excellent book has opened a door to further reading, exactly what I'd hoped for from this course.

Insightful comments this week. I had got distracted from my original thesis by some interesting ideas and was in a rush to submit. If I'd started earlier, left it overnight and returned to it, I might have picked up the problem and fixed it. Thanks to the reviewers.

The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury

Only forty years separate the writing of Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles" and Burroughs' "A Princess Of Mars", but the two books are clearly from different ages.

Burroughs' story is rooted in the nineteenth century and he transposes the Wild West to Mars to act as a backdrop for heroic adventure. By contrast, Bradbury's post-modern narrative is a product of the twentieth century which examines the mechanics of colonisation in a collection of stories replete with irony and black humour.

Burroughs signals otherness by casting the Martians as a physical analogue of Native Americans whose strength is literally in their strength. Bradbury though pushes further, evoking a sense of the uncanny in the astronauts' interactions with the Martians through the latter's telepathy. When the first expedition to Mars ends in the death of the astronauts, interplanetary warfare isn't the cause: the men are killed by a jealous Martian husband who tells his wife he's “Just hunting...” When the second expedition fails, the mental impact of Martian telepathy leads to the astronauts' murder and a Martian psychologist's suicide.

Were Bradbury merely writing an adventure about the inevitability of colonisation and the triumph of humanity, the rule of three would lead us to expect two failures then success. Instead he adds irony by having the third landing party killed and making the Martians appear unassailable. Yet, like the Martians who succumbed to the common cold while attempting to invade Earth in H.G. Wells' “War Of The Worlds” and the Incas killed by the smallpox virus, humans overcome Martian resistance by inadvertently infecting them with disease.

Mankind does not deserve to have conquered Mars. His victory is an accident, a side-effect. And Bradbury forces us sympathise with the Martians as subsequently, human after human blunders foolishly and selfishly across their planet.


Form: 2/3

peer 1 → You write well and saw no obvious errors in grammar or use of language. However, your conclusion didn't mirror your introductory paragraph.
peer 2 → Nice clear comparative structure and effective language use
peer 3 → Clear exposition, correct grammar and a nicely constructed flow of sentences.
peer 4 → The form is fine. Spelling grammar and word usage. It is well laid out and paragraphs logical. The exposition and argument are unclear.
peer 5 → The essayist clearly possesses a decent mastery of the English language, and his grammar and vocabulary are relatively well developed. However, I personally found the essay to be a little unfocused; the introduction seems to propose an impending comparison between Bradbury and Burroughs, but Burroughs is abruptly and conspicuously dropped in the midst of the essay. The third paragraph is particularly suspect; from that point onwards, the diction of the essayist makes him sound as if he is going off on a tangent.

Content: 2/3

peer 1 → I'm not sure I agree with your conclusion that man's victory was an accident. Earthmen didn't give up easily even after losing several expeditions. They were persistent, which is usually what is required for conquest. Also I'm not sure that Bradbury's sympathies lie with the Martians. They are absent through most of the book. As I have mentioned, from your introduction I thought you were going to compare Burroughs' and Bradbury's approach in writing about extraplanetary conquest but you veered off half way through. Nevertheless your essay makes some good points about Bradbury's post-modern narrative.
peer 2 → Nice ideas
peer 3 → A novel, absorbing and nicely narrated work displaying a good understanding of Ray Bradbury's work.
peer 4 → The essay is interesting but doesn't tell me anything new. You start off by telling us that the books are clearly from different ages but this doesn't seem to be the premise that you argue through to a logical conclusion. I would have liked to see some comparison between the two showing how they are " clearly form different ages".
peer 5 → A relatively well written essay; the background knowledge, and the contextual interpretation and comparison, does make a striking point when viewed in that respect. However, as mentioned, the essayis should focus his essay a little more, possibly focusing on either the Burroughs-Bradbury comparison or the colonization/alienation theme, which would make for a narrower, more detailed, and this more engaging essay.
peer 6 → I like what you are saying with Wells bringing to light the uncanny, but I don't see how Burroughs connects into the essay. It's as though you started with one idea and then changed.


peer 1 → It would have been interesting to pursue Bradbury's novel as an example of post modern fiction considering its structure, the ironic playfulness and its ambiguity of meaning.

1 comment:

  1. This is the problem with being so restricted. You had a lot of interesting things to say with not enough word allowance to say it in.
    I would like to read the essay based on your original premise. Many of your peers say the same thing and I agree. Lots of great ideas.