Bradbury and Bellow, Jupiter and Saturn
“He wanted to go to Mars on the
rocket. He went down to the rocket field in the early morning and yelled in
through the wire fence at the men in uniform that he wanted to go to Mars. He
told them he was a taxpayer, his name was Pritchard, and he had a right to go
to Mars. Wasn’t he born right here in Ohio?
Wasn’t he a good citizen? Then why couldn’t he
go to Mars? He shook his fists at them and told them that he wanted to get away
from Earth; anybody with any sense wanted to get away from Earth. There was
going to be a big atomic war on Earth in about two years, and he didn’t want to
be here when it happened. He and thousands of others like him, if they had any
sense, would go to Mars. See if they wouldn’t! To get away from wars and
censorship and statism and conscription and government control of this and
that, of art and science! You could have Earth!”
Martian Chronicles (1950) by Ray Bradbury (p. 31)
“The moon was so big tonight that
it caught the eye of Wallace, drinking in the back seat, in the unlimited
luxury of upholstery and carpets. Legs crossed, leaning back, he pointed
moonward past Emil, above the smooth parkway north of the George Washington
moon great? They’re buzzing away, around it,’ he said.
It’s in the papers. Would you go there?’
ever! In a minute,’ said Wallace. ‘Out – out? You bet I’d go. I’d fly. In fact,
I’m already signed up with Pan Am.’
airlines. I believe I was the five-hundred-twelfth person to phone for a
already taking reservations for moon excursions?’
certainly are. Hundreds of thousands of people want to go. Also to Mars and
Venus, jumping off from the moon.’”
Sammler’s Planet (1970) by Saul Bellow (p. 150)
What do you notice about those excerpts? The exclamation
points, for one thing. When was the last time characters in American literature
so zealously wished to exit Earth?
Thirty-nine years isn’t a long time, by sidereal standards. Yet
migrating to Mars and the moon – utterly feasible to readers of
Bradbury and Bellow in 1950 and 1970 – has already become a bygone yearning.
Of course, there’s still plenty of earthly chatter about extraterrestrial
life. You can read all about NASA’s cell-seeking missions – to the moons of
Jupiter and Saturn – in the Washington
Diego Union Tribune (but beware of pop-up ads), and Science
But the notion of human relocation en masse – escape from
Earth – has vanished in the present day. Scientists don’t discuss it. And seldom
do characters in contemporary fiction.
Two notes of self-promotion before I sign off:
Manny (Scribner, 2009), a biography of baseball player Manny
Ramirez, has cracked Amazon’s top five in the baseball category. My name is
in the acknowledgments. The authors, Jean Rhodes and Shawn Boburg, were my
clients. Congratulations, Jean and Shawn.
- I received a Literature Artist Fellowship grant from the Somerville Arts Council, a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
Congratulations to the other grant winners and shout-outs to Sam Cha
and Catherine Nichols, the other recipients in the literature category.
Ilan Mochari's fiction has been published in Keyhole and honored by Glimmer Train.
In 2009, he received a Literature Artist Fellowship grant from the
Somerville Arts Council, a local agency supported by the Massachusetts
Cultural Council. He is a former staff writer for Inc, and he has also written for Fortune Small Business and CFO. He has a B.A. in English from Yale University.