“Do the scientists really know? Will it happen today, will it ?”
First published on the 1st March 1954, Ray Bradbury’s short story came to my attention today thanks to a chat on our local ABC radio morning show. One of the presenters remembered a story she read as a child about a planet where it rained ALL the time. It didn’t take long for people to text in with the details. It was a Ray Bradbury short story called All Summer in a Day.
It turns out that lots of people had been thinking about this story lately.
The east coast of Australia has endured several weeks of non-stop rain. Most of the time, it has been regular steady, persistent rainfall, but sometimes it turned into torrential downpours, dumping hundreds of mls of rain in short periods of time. Homes, bridges and whole towns have flooded, many suffering record breaking flood levels.
For the rest of us, it is has been an unending, uninspiring scene of grey skies, dampness and leaks…and frightening news updates. Reading All Summer in a Day during this time felt ominous and portentous.
It had been raining for seven years; thousands upon thousands of days compounded and filled from one end to the other with rain, with the drum and gush of water, with the sweet crystal fall of showers and the concussion of storms so heavy they were tidal waves come over the islands.
Bradbury wrote something like 600 short stories during his writing career, which is a pretty impressive achievement.
Written in 1954, Bradbury’s story reflects the poltics of his time. The Cold War and the space race between the US and USSR were predominant narratives of every day life. Fear of a nuclear war was very real as our polticians played at brinkmanship. The desire to be the first into space was a matter of ego for many.
this was the way life was forever on the planet Venus, and this was the schoolroom of the children of the rocket men and women who had come to a raining world to set up civilization and live out their lives.
Times have changed.
Most of our Cold War fears dissolved along with the USSR in 1991, although recent events have reminded us that war and ego and pride are never far away in the minds of our leaders. However, All Summer in a Day resonated more strongly today as a climate story. A world where it could just rain and rain and rain, and then rain some more, feels like an undeniable reality all along the east coast of Australia at the moment. How such an environment can affect the inhabitants feels prescient rather fantastical. From Margot, who
was a very frail girl who looked as if she had been lost in the rain for years and the rain had washed out the blue from her eyes and the red from her mouth and the yellow from her hair. She was an old photograph dusted from an album, whitened away, and if she spoke at all her voice would be a ghost.
To the jungle itself that,
covered Venus, that grew and never stopped growing, tumultuously, even as you watched it. It was a nest of octopi, clustering up great arms of fleshlike weed, wavering, flowering in this brief spring. It was the color of rubber and ash, this jungle, from the many years without sun. It was the color of stones and white cheeses and ink, and it was the color of the moon.
It’s easy to see young Margot as a scientist, locked away for knowing too much, whilst the nay-sayers run rampant, uncaring until it’s too late. She is also the outsider, the intruder, the newbie, fresh with her ‘otherness’ and her different ways and experiences. It’s rather to sad to think that even on another planet, in a do-over futuristic civilisation, that the bullies could still reign supreme.
Yes, there is contrition and shame at the end, but it is too late.
she had come here only five years ago from Earth, and she remembered the sun and the way the sun was and the sky was when she was four in Ohio. And they, they had been on Venus all their lives, and they had been only two years old when last the sun came out and had long since forgotten the color and heat of it and the way it really was.
But Margot remembered.
Walking home today, for a few brief moments, the gusty winds pushed aside some clouds, and the sun came out.
It felt like a miracle! I stopped and turned my face up to the warmth. For those few fleeting moments a blissful surge of joy and well-being flooded my body. I knew exactly how the Venusian children felt.
The sun came out. It was the color of flaming bronze and it was very large. And the sky around it was a blazing blue tile color. And the jungle burned with sunlight as the children, released from their spell, rushed out, yelling into the springtime.
Title: All Summer in a Day Author: Ray Bradbury Published: 1st March 1954 Format: ePub Pages: 4
- This post was written on the traditional land of the Wangal clan, one of the 29 clans of the Eora Nation within the Sydney basin. This Reading Life acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are this land’s first storytellers.