The Unpublished Martian Stories of Ray Bradbury
by Marc Scott Zicree
A man peers through a hole in a wall.
“What do you see?” his companion asks.
“Wonderful things,” Howard Carter replies, the first man to lay eyes
on the Tomb of King Tutankhamen in millennia.
Key among that assemblage of royal bric-a-brac, a treasure among
treasures, is a gleaming mask of gold and lapis, blind eyes and
The year is 1922. Soon enough, a young boy will see that mask. It
will lodge in his mind and, in time, what once looked upon a kingdom
will gaze out over a world.
The world of Mars.
We needn’t name that boy, of course. It’s Ray Bradbury, and the
glinting cold object that held such power within its simulated cheek
and brow was but one of a myriad magpie acquisitions that would
coalesce into one of the greatest works in modern literature.
Most such creations share one thing in common: they leave us craving,
in the words of Edward G. Robinson’s Rico in Key Largo, “More!”
For whether we’re talking about Luke Skywalker’s Tattoine or Huck
Finn’s Mississippi or the decks of the starship Enterprise, the most
compelling fictions create not just stories but whole worlds, the
beguiling suspicion that just over that hillside lies an infinity of
richness, that one could venture into that endless landscape and
Bradbury himself was snared in just this way when he read A Princess
of Mars at age twelve and promptly banged out a sequel on his toy
And I was, too, when at thirteen I wrote my own sequel to The Martian
Chronicles. In it, the last human left on Mars spends long years
wandering the dead cities and dry seabeds, his life at last dwindling
out beside an ancient canal, as the story concludes:
He lay back against an old cot and closed his eyes.
The Martians came to him, tens of thousands of them. All wore
luxurious robes and metal masks. The Martians came.
The Last Man opened his eyes and looked around him. “I haven’t much
time, you know.”
A Martian with a warm smile put his hand on the Last Man’s shoulder.
“We know. That is the reason we have come.”
The Last Man died.
And with that, the ancient Martians went back to the old cities, their homes.
Everything was as it had been.
On that day in 1968, I had inhaled, devoured The Martian Chronicles
and oh, how I longed for more.
Visit Ray Bradbury’s home and you will find he is surrounded by
everything he has ever known and loved – photos of his child self and
his beloved Aunt Neva, autographs of movie stars he collected as a
newsboy, mementoes of carnivals and magic shows, comic strips and
long-ago matinees – as if his head had exploded and the contents
shockwaved out around him.
His Martian tales are the same.
Bradbury’s Mars is a synthesis, a blending of details, of the Mars of
Wells and Percival Lowell and Burroughs, of Bradbury’s dandelion and
lightning bug boyhood in Waukegan, of the Arizona he encountered on
his family’s pilgrimage west, of the carnage and clamor and fine
aspirations he found when he arrived in Los Angeles.
Love is prevalent in these stories – naturally, as it has formed the
foundation of his life, and work, and art.
And death is there too, on a grand scale.
“I’d just begun to court Maggie,” Ray told me of the formative period
of these stories. “I met her in the bookstore, had a lot of dates
with her, and we got engaged in May, 1946.
“That summer, they began to carry out the atom bomb experiments. At
that time, various scientists were asked the question, ‘What if the
Earth catches fire? What if the atoms begin to inflame themselves,
and you can’t put out the fire, and the whole world goes up? Could
that happen?’ The scientists couldn’t answer, they didn’t know! They
were just going to drop the bombs, and maybe the world will burn up!
“So in the middle of my love affair with Maggie, there was a terrible
fear that I’d better love her as best I could, while there was time
remaining. A lot of those stories came out of that summer of being
really fantastically in love for the first time. Maggie was my first
real great love affair, and I was twenty-six. It’s all the more
precious when the world you live in is so incredibly fragile.”
Bradbury’s Mars, with its crystal towers and whispering sands, its
brooding canals, was – and remains — more real to me than many places
in my own life, more real certainly than the actual Mars, with its
desiccated landscape and pale thin air and life that may or may not
dwell somewhere beneath its surface.
Often as I navigated through high school and college, got married and
charted my course, I’d crack open The Martian Chronicles and idyll
awhile there, taking a breather from
this hectic, cacophonous life.
The stories, those marvelous stories — of the first four expeditions
and the fates that met them, of the night meeting between man and
Martian that was so like a dream, of elegant sand ships and garish
hot-dog stands — those and their companion tales always remained the
same. And whatever further marvels beckoned siren-like beyond the
horizon or blew whispered promise on the back of my neck might be
hinted at but could never be known.
Or at least, so I thought.
But with the passing decades, I discovered that the Chronicles, like
Tut’s storeroom, had an antechamber, a side room as large as the
And it too held wonders.
All the ungathered Mars stories, flung like golden coins throughout
Ray’s other collections.
And now finally the rarest of all, brought out into the sun —
Bradbury’s unpublished tales of Mars.
Here then are these scattered children, these strays and wayfarers,
lulled out of the dark and silence, assembled at last. And although
these scatterlings are of a piece with the stories contained in the
Chronicles and Ray’s other published Mars stories, they offer up their
own bouquet, subtle yet different, redolent of yearning and melancholy
The Disease, Dead of Summer, The Martian Ghosts, Jemima True, They All
Had Grandfathers, The Wheel, The Marriage.
At times showing their bones and rough edges, the stories are
breathtaking, original, fresh. Not merely covering old ground, they
fill in the blanks, shed light into black corners. Earthmen appear as
Martian ghosts, prostitutes ply their trade, Halloween is celebrated
on Mars, a saloon is erected, the first civilian dies on Mars, a
Martian girl and an Earthman marry.
But bare description does little to illumine their majesty and the
unique music that is Ray’s alone. Phrases that surprise and catch our
breath summon it best, as in “The Disease,” that equally-tragic sequel
to the Chronicles’ tale of the First Expedition, where the dying Yll
looks over at his already-dead wife Ylla “like a small dark craft
rising and falling upon the tidal mist of the room” and reflects how
“we shot the dream and killed it, and now the dream is killing us.”
Or the heat of Mars in “Dead of Summer,” “the time of dust rising in a
warm spice upon the air… leaving the boats deposited like brittle
leafs, upon the steaming dry channel.” Or Jemima True, “with hair
like an explosion of sunlight, and skin like snow.” Or the hard sweet
truth of Nowhere Town in “They All Had Grandfathers,” where “it’s
always the working men come first, the runaways and hard men,” those
who hear the siren call and know “it’s in every man, early or late,
sometimes he just wants to travel light.”
And finest and most delicate of all, the marriage of Captain Samuel
Pace and his Martian bride Elta and their world inbetween, where “half
the trees are elm trees and half the trees shed fire, and half the
children have blue eyes and half the children have eyes like melted
gold.” In its microcosm, “The Marriage” encapsulates the entire sweep
of Ray’s Martian saga; the alien becomes familiar, the familiar alien,
until they are mixed together and all division lost. This is the
American story, with Ray the inevitable offspring of it, and ourselves
Here’s Ray’s advice on how to read this entire book, and by extension
these long-lost stories: “Dive in! A book is a lake, a pond, an
ocean. Dive in, swim out, and drown. Read the whole collection.
Don’t linger. Keep moving, and you’ll wind up with ‘Dark They Were,
“And when you finish reading this book, you may wake up in the middle
of the night feeling that something’s happened to your eyes…”
A grand sojourn, a safari to new, far yet familiar terrains. “We have
met the enemy and he is us,” goes Walt Kelly’s oft-quoted refrain.
But whom we encounter in this distant mirror held close are ourselves
as both enemy and friend, through the lens of Bradbury’s love and his
concern, for he has long feared the obliteration of both future and
Fifty years on and more, we are staggered, not by how outdated these
stories might seem, but rather how immediate and relevant they are to
The threat of nuclear annihilation is still with us, though subtler
and thus less contained, diseases new and old ravage the world, and
everywhere the delicate and vulnerable confront being ravaged and
ground under heel.
But through all of this, Ray – even in his darkest moments – comforts
us that the blade of grass inevitably thrusts up through the concrete…
and that, over time, our finest, most sensitive, most Martian selves
Marc’s current project is SPACE COMMAND, a cinematic future history.
Marc Scott Zicree is a 2008 Hugo and Nebula nominee for “World Enough
and Time,” which was dedicated to Ray Bradbury. He’s also the author
of the bestselling TWILIGHT ZONE COMPANION and MAGIC TIME trilogy of
novels, in addition to being a writer-producer with hundreds of hours
of network drama credits