First off, I’ve decided to take a short hiatus from the column. I’ve fallen chronically behind by inches each month with all of the reading for each installment, despite staying on a just-about monthly schedule. I’ve succeeding in impressing myself with my stamina, but I’ve been skirting the edge of burnout these last few months, which have been busy with travel. Along with a recent (and impending) major dayjob upgrade, I needed a moment to breathe. After checking in with my editor, I settled on taking the holiday months off, and we’ll jump back in with Asimov and beyond in the new year.
But the last one on Heinlein and all things DNA replication went up at the end of last month. It represents the first essay on the three corners of the Central Dogma, and the first of the Golden Age trifecta of grandmasters (which can be found here). Reading as much by and about Heinlein, I think, preventing me from letting my personal distaste cloud the essay while still not letting him off the hook for the problematic elements that make him hard to read in a modern context.
When I sent that piece off, I went on a gleeful Asimov palate cleansing binge. Despite knowing Asimov himself was no paragon of modern virtues, I much prefer his detective story frames and long form psychohistory chess games. Though both Heinlein and Asimov frequently resort to white rooms full of talking heads, Asimov’s diatribes read more like cold logical proofs than hyperbolic political screeds, and I’ll take a proof over a screed any day.
Which has got me thinking more and more of bypassing the obvious Clarke article to follow up Asimov and skipping ahead one to Bradbury. Reading The Martian Chronicles for the first time these past few days has me feeling more as though Heinlein’s the heart, Asimov’s the head and Bradbury’s the soul, with Clarke pulling it all out into the future with the evolution of humanity. I can almost justify it to myself to exit the Golden Age early to talk about how Bradbury (and Vonnegut) took the genre and painted it with shades of literary awe to bring in a wider general public.
I know I’m probably just looking for an excuse to read all the Bradbury that’s been heaped on my to read pile, but, true to form, I’ve been mostly following my whims with this column anyway and my intuition hasn’t steered me into a corner yet. Futhermore, in the introduction to my edition, Bradbury says,
The Martian Chronicles was published in the late spring of 1950 to a few reviews. Only Christopher Isherwood placed a laurel wreath on my head as he introduced me to Aldous Huxley, who, at tea, leaned forward and said, “Do you know what you are?”
Don’t tell me what I’m doing, I thought. I don’t want to know.
“You,” said Huxley, “are a poet.”
I can see so many shades of Bradbury in so many of the writers I adore, and reading his fiction is like crawling under some warm blankets with a flashlight. Of course I’m looking for an excuse.
Finally, Bradbury’s sentiment above (in italics), he picked up from Fellini in describing his creative processes – to ignore the film in the camera and let his feel for the scenes inspire him. Bradbury says writing The Martian Chronicles stories followed a similar path. So since I’ve been taking a very similar approach to writing this column, I’ll consider this my final, flimsy, fortune-cookiesque justification.
Since I last wrote, I went to New Orleans for the first time, camped in the desert, saw one of my dearest friends get married, saw a slew of bands and finished my Agent Cooper tattoo, but that’ll be for another post.
Until then, I’ve put together another new playlist of music I’ve been enjoying. You can find it here (opens in Spotify).