Orbiting Ray Bradbury’s Mars

Biographical, Anthropological, Literary, Scientific and Other Perspectives

by Gloria MacMillan, editor


In a career spanning more than seventy years, Ray Bradbury [1920–2012] has inspired generations of readers to dream, think, and create. A prolific author of hundreds of short stories and close to fifty books, as well as numerous poems, essays, operas, plays, teleplays, and screenplays, Bradbury was one of the most celebrated writers of our time.”


For some time I have been intrigued by the publish-or-perish paradigm in academia that has been around for many a decade, perhaps too many. Consider that roughly 50,000 PhDs are awarded annually in America and about 5,000 of these are in the humanities. It is easy to find online the tribulations of those with doctorates in literature who are seeking employment. Tenure track? If only. One result of all of this is the enormous proliferation of papers, essays, studies, books, and compilations generated by graduate students, PhDs, post-docs and faculty members. The subject matter of these is far-reaching, all-accommodating. I have seen academic papers on Frank Sinatra and The Batman—along with the more traditional studies of, say, Samuel Richardson, Jane Austin, or Isabel Allende. It is not hard to imagine how a scholar, whether newly graduated and seeking employment or a professor hoping for tenure, might plan her strategy, how she might decide what subject may ensure publication, perhaps notice, might find some way to explore an author or an idea that sidesteps the canon. A new niche if you will. One particular result of all this is this book. Among the contributors are professors of English, professors of Indigenous Nations Studies, adjunct and assistant professor, and PhD candidates

Another consideration is that in our ongoing, seeming endless, ever expanding universe of online information—can a book like this survive in this immensity? Will it be noticed? Tough to answer. Google “Ray Bradbury” and in .62 seconds you will find 33,700,000 results—give or take. Orbiting is certainly a worthy addition to this ocean. Bradbury fans will appreciate gleaning biographical facts such as the author’s early Tucson days and his early trip to Mexico; Bradbury and other literary scholars will find even more grist for their research to incorporate into their projects and papers (fodder for even more papers); sci-fi aficionados will lap up the chapters by the engineers, astronomers, and astrogeophycists covering the science part of sci-fi; and those interested in sociology, history and ethics will appreciate the given parallels between Bradbury’s fictional conquests of Mars and the all too true displacement of Native Americans by Europeans.

The quality of the essays varies. Inevitably the reader has to deal with academicese such as “The Other”, “axiological system”, “non-alienated relation to nature”, and “ecocritics posit as the locus for praxis.” Fortunately these are not preponderate. The more important of Bradbury’s stories from The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man are parsed and analyzed. Much is said about how the Arizona landscape influenced Bradbury’s imagining of the landscape of Mars. Details of the various Mars landings are given. Overall the essays are readable and a few stand out. I particularly liked Paul Cote’s De-Alienating the Alien; I especially liked his take on how background music in the 1980 miniseries of The Martian Chronicles “dehumanized” the portrayal of the Martians. Gloria McMillan’s editing is competent. The book can be read from start to finish as a single entity or selectively perused. There are both an index and brief biographies of the contributors. Hardcore fans of classic sci-fi will want a copy, and Orbiting should be a found in every university library. Recommended.


Copyright 2017, Bill Wolf (speedreaders.info).

Orbiting Ray Bradbury’s Mars:
Biographical, Anthropological, Literary, Scientific and Other Perspectives
by Gloria MacMillan (editor)
McFarland, 2013
264 pages, 9 photos, softcover
List Price: $35
ISBN-13: 978-0786475766

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