With the possible exception of Des Lewis, I believe I have read more short stories by Ray Bradbury than anyone.
Here are some of my favourites:-
Poor people live by the side of a highway, and one day all of the cars go by in a rush, leaving the city behind. Last man to leave tells them that it’s the end of the world, but the peasant carries on ploughing his land, unconcerned because his concept of the world is entirely different to that of the city dweller. A story of hope, recognising that our concerns are not universal, and life will go on, even if not on the terms we understand. Right now, that might be a timely lesson.
The Concrete Mixer
The invading Martians come to conquer but are welcomed with open arms, and eventually they are assimilated, showing that a superior culture can be killed with kindness.
At the far end of the galaxy a fully automated city waits twenty thousand years for the ship from Earth to arrive, Bradbury’s lyrical prose bringing this unlikely creation to memorable life on the page.
The April Witch
Cecy, who is paralysed but has the power to occupy the body of another, uses it to an unusual end, the story capturing the joy of love and the pain of those who can never experience it for themselves, the idea that just to be like everyone else, to share the same feelings, is for some a blessing.
One of my absolute favourite short stories, a modern evocation of the Grim Reaper, one in which a man is left so anguished by personal loss that he is willing to destroy the whole world simply to ease his own pain.
A more overtly horrific piece, the tale of an explorer who is terrified of the wind, attributing to it a malign intelligence. Reminiscent of work by Leiber and others, in which a kind of pantheism ‘infects’ the natural order.
Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms in Your Cellar
Children are ‘other’, and this chillingly effective story recognises that. It also brings to mind such things as the Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the strange adverts you used to see in the back of American comic books when I was a kid. I really, really wanted those X-Ray glasses that would let me see through clothes.
I Sing the Body Electric
A word perfect story of an electronic grandmother brought in to care for a child whose mother has died. The title comes from Walt Whitman.
The Haunting of the New
A haunted house story with a novel twist. Thomas Wolfe’s dictum that you can never go home again shunted through one hundred and eighty degrees, and then some.
Perchance to Dream
A man is threatened with takeover by an alien intelligence every time he sleeps and so must stay awake until help arrives, only when it does… A clever story, with a delightful sting in the tail.
And the Rock Cried Out
A beautifully written and meaningful exercise in putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes, as America falls and tourists in Mexico discover they are now immigrants, outsiders in a culture they previously looked down on.
Long After Midnight
Exquisite short, which says so much in so few words, taking in grief and gender identity, the labels we attach to others and their attendant expectations, as an ambulance crew tend to the body of a suicide.
A time traveller visits writers on their death beds to assure them that their work will be remembered by posterity. A story rich in sentiment and, possibly, wish fulfilment, but in tune with Bradbury’s concerns about literature and ultimately heartwarming. I hope the ‘traveller’ called in on Ray.
So, Ray Bradbury stories. What particular ones do the rest of you remember?