Coursera: Fantasy and Science Fiction (Summer 2012) discussion

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Unit VIII: Bradbury > Martian Chronicles

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message 1: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Any first thoughts on Martian Chronicles?


message 2: by Seawood (new)

Seawood I'm about half-way now and...you know what, I'm just not getting the Bradbury love. S&L seemed to go into deep mourning when he died recently but I'm finding it hard to see the reason.

It's more like poetry than sci-fi. Not a bad thing in itself but I can't treat it seriously as "science" when there are so many logical flaws (the biggest being "where is all the money coming from for these failed trips to Mars?"). And AGAIN, the frustration that a male author couldn't envisage an equal world. It's not just failing the Bechdel test, it's getting a U grade.

It's funny, I'm reading Asimov's Foundation at the same time (anyone else reading along with S&L?) and for me it's the better book in terms of scope and science despite the same lack of female characters. Chronicles feels more like the predecessor of "literary fiction" rather than "science fiction".


message 3: by Maggie (new)

Maggie K yes, almost like literature that just happens to have Mars for a setting, but not really about space travel, or meeting alien cultures


message 4: by Seawood (new)

Seawood *nods* There's a name or expression for it, isn't there...when you could pick up your characters and drop them in pretty much any setting, but the story would play out roughly the same? You can imagine these Rocket Men stepping through a portal to another dimension. How is Chronicles different to say, 1Q84? It's a portalling novel, not a space travel story.


message 5: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Caroline wrote: "I'm about half-way now and...you know what, I'm just not getting the Bradbury love. S&L seemed to go into deep mourning when he died recently but I'm finding it hard to see the reason.

It's more l..."


I haven't read many stories yet, but I'm hoping I'll be able to get into it soon. So far, things are really disjointed.

As to S&L, I belong to the group, but I haven't been reading Foundations. I read it a very long time ago. I am really more of a 'fantasy' kind of gal than a 'sci-fi' one.


message 6: by Seawood (new)

Seawood I probably would have skipped it if I hadn't been doing this course, actually! I really didn't like Hyperion but loved Leviathan Wakes, so the Lasers have been a little hit-and-miss. But I wanted to see where Foundation fitted in the evolution of sci-fi, and whether I could see influences in it from what we've read so far. Or, indeed, whether Asimov had had much of an influence on more modern sci-fi.


message 7: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Okay I'm about half way through the book and I do like it better than I did at the very beginning. However I feel like there is some huge secret I'm missing....


message 8: by Seawood (new)

Seawood Yes! That's what I mean. I can't see why it's so worshipped. Yes, it's beautiful imagery, I get that much. But there are threads on the forum going on about how these stories are "all about humanity" and terribly funny and I'm thinking "eh?". There is now an "I don't get it" thread as well, so I feel better now :)

I was theorising that perhaps *I* don't get it because the area and timeframe are just too specific (I'm a Brit born in the 70s) - it has a real small-town America/50s vibe and perhaps it doesn't resonate with me because I have no fondness/sentiment for that era, and I didn't grow up reading Bradbury. The characters are absolutely flat to me - nothing but foils for ideas - so other than "pretty writing" I've nothing to get my teeth into.

I feel a bit down now, really, having got a poor score for Burroughs/Gilman, being bored to death by Bradbury and having had a bad experience with Le Guin at school. Nothing strikes me as interesting to write about this week.


message 9: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Well, I'm American and I'm old enough that the small town American thing was part of my upbringing. (Yes, I am old enough to be your mother! )

I suppose I can understand the 'small town' thing, but I find the stories I've read so far pretty creepy.

I'm also one that doesn't like the 'no hope' or desolation kind of feel that I'm getting from the stories so far.


message 10: by Seawood (new)

Seawood Oh well, guess that's my theory exploded then :)

I'm not even getting "creepy" off it. I wish I was! I'm mostly getting "so what?" and "that's obvious" and "oh look, the mild human illness kills off the Martians, thanks Mr Wells" and "why does it have to be on Mars, killing off any pre-existing civilisation would have done".

It is a different kind of dystopia, I will give it that; it's not Handmaid's Tale or 1984 or even Hunger Games, which are bleak because there's seemingly no way out without revolution. The characters always seem very vital in those stories, though, and you root for them to win. Here the characters don't stick around long enough to give a monkey's about.

Bradbury could have used any past Earth civilisation to explore how incomers write over the history of place...why Mars in particular (why not any other planet)? I think that's the thing that's going to niggle at me.


message 11: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Bradbury is a seriously tough read, but also a master of language and humanism.

He is like Hans K. Andersen to me.

That's my personal opinion, since I'm just a reader who always found it tough to actually comprehend Ray :( I'm not cut out for literary studies, le sigh...


message 12: by Seawood (new)

Seawood Anyone want to play Coursera bingo? I'm hoping you won't mind spoilers...

So far I've got:

- plot point nicked from Wells (Earth virus kills Martians)

- Country of the Blind (at least twice)

- Fall of the House of Usher (quotations, entire chapter uses it as a framing device)

- Christianity (rapture of the "negros")

- Communism is bad, m'kay (in Usher II)

- Phallic rockets ;-)

- mentions fairy tales, Alice and vampires

- The Tell-Tale Heart, the Pit & the Pendulum - and probably a bunch of other Poe references I'm missing as I haven't read them all...


It's a bit like references to everything we've read so far has been stuffed into this book alongside the Prof's favourite themes. Bonus points if you can find Frankenstein and Herland...:) Was this whole course a means to understanding Bradbury's endlessly referential novel?


message 13: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Caroline wrote: "Anyone want to play Coursera bingo? I'm hoping you won't mind spoilers...

So far I've got:

- plot point nicked from Wells (Earth virus kills Martians)

- Country of the Blind (at least twice)

- ..."


I've already read the first - and to me it was more about Native Americans. "Country of the Blind" once so far, I think. Have not read Usher yet, but clear influences of Poe. Fairy tale structure and language, prejudice, dichotomies... Lots of intertextuality, lots of it.


message 14: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments BTW, "Usher II" is not about Communism :) Unless you want to read it that way, I guess... see if you can find "A Princess of Mars" elements.


message 15: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Okay I'm almost 2/3rds of the way through and I have to say the book has grown on me. Bradbury's writing is lyrical, it's almost like poetry. But I have too literal a mind sometimes for some poetry and I feel kind of like that with some of these stories. As if there is something really neat here in the symbolism that I'm just not quite getting.


message 16: by Xiri (last edited Sep 15, 2012 12:19PM) (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Jute wrote: "Okay I'm almost 2/3rds of the way through and I have to say the book has grown on me. Bradbury's writing is lyrical, it's almost like poetry. But I have too literal a mind sometimes for some poet..."

If that helps any, I'd dare to say that Bradbury was a master of understatement. More often than not, the overall feel or statement is left out, and the reader must form the judgement him/herself, by bringing together all the minute details into a coherent whole.

"Usher II" is one of the tales where one of the most obvious themes is very overtly stated. The first story about the Fourth Expedition was very obvious too, IMHO.


message 17: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Maybe I'm completely crazy but it seems almost like there's some reasoning behind the length of his stories. The stories told from earth are all mostly very short. The stories told on Mars seem to get longer and longer until there is this turning point and the Earth story "The Wilderness" which is from the POV of people on Earth. That story is long and it almost seems like a turning point.

Then it appears to be kind of downhill for Mars after that one story.

Am I crazy or does anyone else see that?


message 18: by Joyce (new)

Joyce Hertzoff (hilandmum) | 18 comments I didn't want to comment until I'd finished the book. I liked it, the lyrical writing, the 'message' or maybe it's messages, and the fact that it ends on a slightly more upbeat note. (Hope that's not a spoiler for anyone.) It reads to me like a retelling of How The West Was Won, only in the Martian deserts rather than the American west. That wherever people go they bring their civilization and all its good and bad with them, and how they rarely respect what was there before.


message 19: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Hilandmum wrote: "I didn't want to comment until I'd finished the book. I liked it, the lyrical writing, the 'message' or maybe it's messages, and the fact that it ends on a slightly more upbeat note. (Hope that's n..."

I would disagree that it is somewhat upbeat, but that's just me - I tend to view his stories with a mixed message of "melancholic, but some hope remains".


message 20: by Joyce (new)

Joyce Hertzoff (hilandmum) | 18 comments I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't finished it yet, but after the rest of the book, 'some hope remains' IS somewhat upbeat.


message 21: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments This might help for any who are done with the reading :)

http://www.theparisreview.org/intervi...


message 22: by Joyce (new)

Joyce Hertzoff (hilandmum) | 18 comments Thanks! That was an exceptionally good interview!


message 23: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Hilandmum wrote: "Thanks! That was an exceptionally good interview!"

You're welcome :)


message 24: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Well, I'm all done marking my stuff...straight 2s this time. Nothing bad but nothing fantastic either. I did have one student make up a word though! :)


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