January 4, 2016
The Essential Bradbury #17
“June 2001:—And the Moon Be Still as Bright”
Where to Find It: The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury Stories
First Published: June, 1948, Thrilling Wonder Stories
Plot Synopsis: A cornerstone story in Ray Bradbury’s groundbreaking novel-in-stories, The Martian Chronicles, “And the Moon Be Still as Bright,” follows the arrival of the fourth expedition of Earthmen to Mars. The crew quickly discovers that nearly all of the Martians have died from chickenpox, a fatal disease to the natives of Mars, apparently brought by Earth colonists on one of their earlier expeditions. The first successful mission to Mars, the crew of the fourth expedition celebrates their accomplishment by getting drunk, making noise and throwing bottles into the Martian canals. One of the rocket crew, archeologist Jeff Spender, is disgusted by the antics of his fellow crewmates and their lack of respect for the planet and he goes off the rails to dangerous effect.
Critique: When Ray Bradbury connected his disparate Mars stories in the 1950 story cycle The Martian Chronicles, one of his intents was to use the colonization of outer space as an allegory for the westward expansion of the United States in the 1800s. If The Martian Chronicles is to be deemed a work of social commentary—for which it most certainly is—then “And the Moon Be Still as Bright” is the quintessential tale in the book that reflects the nucleus of Bradbury’s social philosophies at the time of its publication. The story clearly addresses the decimation of a native people, as well as humankind’s insidious encroachment upon nature and the accompanying corporatization to follow. Fifty years before anyone dared dream of naming sport stadiums after companies, Bradbury forewarned us of the “Rockefeller Canal” and the “DuPont Sea” on Mars. When archeologist Jeff Spender goes berserk and AWOL, disappearing from his rocket crew into the remote Martian mountains, it’s Bradbury at his best. “And the Moon” is a cautionary tale of social commentary and gripping narrative suspense. Jeff Spender is one of Bradbury’s most multi-faceted characters, a rage-fueled, conflicted hero—a homicidal protagonist who mirrors Bradbury’s own social and political concerns, circa 1950.
Excerpt: “We Earth Men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things. The only reason we didn’t set up hot-dog stands in the midst of the Egyptian temple of Karnak is because it was out of the way and served no large commercial purpose. And Egypt is a small part of Earth. But here, this whole thing is ancient and different, and we have to set down somewhere and start fouling it up.”
Nerd Detail: The crewmember “Hathaway” was named after a married couple of the same name who lived next door to Ray and his family at 1619 South St. Andrews Place. Ray was 14. In another detail of nomenclature nerdom, a crewmember in the earlier version of the story published in Thrilling Wonder Stories was named “McClure,” Ray’s wife’s maiden name.