Day 19) S is for Short Stories: Choose a collection of Short Stories
The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
I don’t remember when I first read this book, but I know it was after Fahrenheit 451. Out of all his short story collections; this is my ultimate favorite. The stories range from funny, thoughtful, and downright creepy. It is an incredible collection and once you start, you just can’t stop.
The Illustrated Man starts with an average joe taking a walking tour in the summer of Wisconsin. As he stops for the night he is come upon by an illustrated man.
This man used to work for the circus, but back in 1900 he broke his leg. Looking for a way to make money while he rested, he went to a tattoo artist who covered him from neck to belt. What he didn’t know was that this tattoo artist was a witch.
Yes, she infused his illustrations with magic making them be alive and always moving telling their story.
However, there is one blank spot on his back. If you are a woman, you see your whole life from birth to old age. If you are a man, you see how you die.
The illustrated man warns his companion not to look, but he doesn’t listen and has to see them…
Illustration I: The Veldt
This is what the DCOM Smart House is loosely based on.
The live in the future in a smart house that does everything for them. They even can change the pictures on the walls to be anything they want them to be. The children constantly want it to be a veldt with lions.
The parents try to discipline their children and get them to do more but all they want to do is sit around and have the machines do everything for them. The parents determine it is time to turn off the house and go back to how things are supposed to be. Will the parents be able to change their kids? Or will the kids make sure their parents can never boss them around again?
“The lions look real, don’t they?…I don’t suppose there’s any way—–‘
‘—that they could become real?”
Illustration II: Kaleidoscope
The crew of a space ship has been torn apart, and this records their last thoughts as they hurl toward Earth.
“It was so very odd. Space, thousands of miles of space, and these voices vibrating in the center of it.”
Illustration III: The Other Foot
Mars has been colonized only by African Americans. Now they hear that European Americans are traveling to Mars and decide to institute a Jim Crow law for them. Will they decide to make them pay for past wrongs, or will they all be able to start a new life in equality?
“This is the other shoe, Mayor, the other foot…”
Illustration IV: The Highway
A husband and wife live by a highway in rural Mexico, where people stop all the time. Something seems to be more pressing than usual, but what?
“Oh, please hurry!’ one of the girls cried. She sounded very high and afraid.”
Illustration V: The Man
A crew arrive on a planet ready to have glory and fame, but find the people uninterested as the person who came before them brought extreme happiness and bliss. One crewman believes him to be Jesus and wants to learn from the people. The Captain, however, is set on getting his glory and will stop this man any way he can.
“Leave these people alone. They’ve got something good and decent, and you come and foul up the nest and sneer at it. Well, I’ve talked to them too. I’ve gone through the city and seen their faces, and they’ve got something you’ll never have–a little simple faith, and they’ll move mountains with it. You, you’re boiled because someone stole your act, got here ahead and made you unimportant.”
Illustration VI: The Long Rain
We have colonized Venus, but it is a horrible place of endless rain. Sun domes were built to help us stay sane and in health, and this story follows a group of astronauts as they hope to make it to the dome, but will they?
“Drops fell and touched other drops and they became streams that trickled over his body, and while these moved down his flesh, the small growths of the forest took root in his clothing.”
Illustration VII: The Rocket Man
Astronauts are hard to come by and a hard life, so those that are astronauts are paid a lot, but gone for months. This story is the relationship of the mother and son as they deal with the father/husband’s absence.
“Doug…I want you to promise me something.’
‘Don’t ever be a Rocket Man.”
Illustration VII: The Fire Balloons
A group of priests go to Mars to start a church and help bring peace and morals to a crazed group of colonists. One priest makes it his mission to try and bring Christ to the Martians.
“We feel absurd here—even I; for it is something new, this business of converting the creatures of another world.”
Illustration IX: The Last Night of the World
A married couple realize that today is the last day on Earth. How would you spend your time if you had such an inclination?
“What would you do if you knew this was the last night in the world?”
Illustration X: The Exiles
On Earth, countless literature from Edgar Allen Poe to William Shakespeare to Charles Dickens have been banned on Earth. They remain alive on Mars as their last books are still undamaged there. But when humans decide to completely destroy every page, these characters and their creators decide to wage a war on them. Will they win?
“His last book gone. Someone on Earth just now burned it.’
‘God rest him. Nothing of him left now. For what are we but books, and when those are gone, nothing’s to be seen.”
Illustration XI: No Particular Night or Morning
Two friends are traveling in a spaceship, as one determines that nothing exists that he cannot touch. Is he right and there is nothing in space but emptiness?
“So I began to find gaps between everything. I doubted I was married or had a child or ever had a job in my life…I couldn’t prove anything.”
Illustration XII: The Fox and the Forest
In the future, the world is an ugly one full of war and life in a factory creating more weapons of war. The one bright spot is the ability to travel back in time. A couple, William and Susan Travis, decide to run for their lives by remaining in 1930s Mexico. But will their plan work, or will they be captured and sent back?
“Save me, hide me, help me! Color my hair, my eyes; clothe me in strange clothes. I need your help. I’m from the year 2155!”
Illustration XIII: The Visitor
Mars is a place where those with deadly diseases go and live out the remainders of their days. One day a young boy comes with the ability to create any image or bring back any memory. He plans to use it and rule over the others; but will they be willing to share or will they take him for what they want?
“Come on. Don’t you realize what’ll happen once they discover your talent? They’ll fight over you. They’ll kill each other–kill you–for the right to own you.”
Illustration XIV: The Concrete Mixer
Mars goes to invade Earth, but instead finds the people welcoming them. One Martin, Ettil, never wanted to travel to Earth. He finds that although the Earthlings hope to exploit Martians, the Earth ways will also mark death for the Martians.
“Don’t you feel it?’ he whispered…Something’s going to happen to us. They have some plan. Something subtle and horrible. They’re going to do something to us-I know.”
Illustration XV: Marionettes, Inc.
A man is tired of his clingy wife and pays for a cyborg double to take his place so he can go off and have fun. But what if the puppet is no longer satisfied at being controlled and wants to control the strings?
“Your wife is rather nice,’ said Braling Two. ‘I’ve grown rather fond of her.”
Illustration XVI: The City
A group of astronauts land on an uncharted planet and find an empty city. But they soon realize this city is not as empty as it looks, as it has been waiting to unleash what it was made for.
“I am no longer your captain,’ he said. ‘Nor am I a man.’
The men moved back.
‘I am the city,’ he said, and smiled.”
Illustration XVII: Zero Hour
Kids are playing that aliens are coming, an invasion in which they will rule and the grow ups will be gone. But what if it isn’t a game?
“Mom, I’ll be sure you won’t be hurt much, really!”
Illustration XVIII: The Rocket
Fiorello Bodoni has saved $3000 to send a family member into space, but only one can go. Which one?
“We will remember it for always, Papa. We will never forget.”
In the end the last image is shown, our narrator’s death by the illustrated man. He runs for town, but will he make it?
To start the 30 Day Challenge from the beginning, go to It Was a Pleasure to Burn: Fahrenheit 451
For the previous post, go to She Struck Him as a Fixer-Upper, a Block of Clay Ready for Pygmalion’s Chisel: The Overnight Socialite
For more on Ray Bradbury, go to It’s A Fan World After All
For more on aliens, go to I Can Make You all Go Away! Any Time I Want To!: Charlie X, Star Trek (1966)
For more bible verses, go to So You’re the Little Woman Who Wrote the Book that Made this Great War: Uncle Tom’s Cabin
In The Exiles, they mention how no one believes in Santa Claus and he has become a shadow of the man he was, a skeleton in red. No more Christmas, no more.
This reminds me of the song I Believe in Santa Claus. This was written by Maury Laws and Jules Bass and used for the Christmas Special, The Year Without a Santa Claus.
I never believed in Santa Claus, but I like this song as it reminds you that no matter what happens you must hold on to the spirit of Christmas.
No matter what, always believe in its goodness and love.
This song was performed by Mickey Rooney and Ron Marshall
For more on The Year Without a Santa Claus, go to A Baker’s Four Dozen
For more Christmas Carols, go to A Quest of Swords and Wizards: The Crown Conspiracy