December 14, 2010
“There Will Come Soft Rains”
Where to Find It: The Martian Chronicles, The Stories of Ray Bradbury
First Published: May 6 1950, Collier’s
Plot Synopsis: On a post-apocalyptic Earth, an automated suburban home goes through its daily mechanizations even as all of its human inhabitants have been eradicated by atomic war.
Backstory: Ray Bradbury talking about the story in Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews:
“I picked up the newspaper after Hiroshima was bombed and they had a photograph of the side of a house with the shadows of the people who lived there burned into the side from the intensity of the bomb. The Japanese people were gone, but their shadows remained. That affected me so much, I wrote the story.”
Critique: Technology can be used for the greater good, or it can lead to humanity’s downfall. Ray Bradbury has called it “the human choice.” Even with all the modern technological luxuries prophesied in “There Will Come Soft Rains”—from robot mice that vacuum, to a stove that cooks breakfast—it is mankind’s ingenuity for invention that ultimately leads to his demise. In Bradbury’s view, man, because of his warrior ways, is both miraculous creator and terrible destroyer.
What is perhaps most striking about “There Will Come Soft Rains” is that Bradbury wrote a story populated by no human beings. Not one. What was the last literary story that pulled that bit of sleight-of-hand? And in addressing the social concerns of the Cold War, Bradbury deftly used the field of science fiction to explore contemporary fears of nuclear annihilation. This story, along with the entirety of The Martian Chronicles, brought literary respectability to the oft-maligned genre of science fiction. The story is at once, like so much in the Bradburian tradition, haunting, sad, and poetic.