Hey all. This week’s short fiction post is about Ray Bradbury’s short story The Emissary. I suppose it might be necessary to explain how or why I even know about this story, and decided to post about it. So here’s the skinny on that:
– Recently I’ve received a few mentions on my twitter account from a particular author who writes zombie fiction (check out Devan Sagliani. He’s awesome. You can read a review of his book, The Rising Dead, which I wrote here). He’s been using the hashtag #FF to get the word out about different twitter handles and he’s mentioned me two weeks in a row (like I said he’s awesome). He usually just tweets out a list of handles he thinks people should follow; usually they have some relevance to horror or zombie fiction. I’ve been following most of them and getting super excited about zombies all over again.
– So, last weekend I go to Barnes & Noble and drop $50 on zombie books and anthologies (Psh. Who says bricks-and-mortar stores are dead?). I didn’t even feel remotely bad about it even though I definitely can’t afford to be doing that often. Nor did I look through the table of contents for the anthologies. Just dropped the cash and left.
– Now I’ve been slowly eating through some of the stories (Braaaiiiinnnssss!!) and I’ll admit, I was a little surprised to see Bradbury’s name in the lineup. Certain authors I had no trouble digesting. Stephen King, Max Brooks . . . even Neil Gaiman wasn’t too much of a stretch, but Ray Bradbury? Really?
This is the Bradbury I know:
A sort of nerdy looking science fiction writer. We had to read Fahrenheit 451 in high school. While I didn’t think the novel was incredibly engaging, he seemed to be a good writer and it was cool that he predicted ear-buds or whatever. I remember learning that he was born in the 20’s (1920 to be exact) and attributed what I thought to be an overly ‘literary’ aspect of his writing to the fact that he was from a different time. And while Science Fiction is probably one of my favorite genres of fiction, I wasn’t attracted to his writing. I thought it seemed dull and a little boring.
Imagine my surprise . . .
What I didn’t know (which I now do thanks to Wikipedia), was that Bradbury actually got his start writing horror. Apparently, he was a pretty voracious reader and while H.G Wells, and Jules Verne, seem to fit as influences for his work in science fiction, I was surprised to learn of his fascination with Edgar Allen Poe (I keep seeing Poe’s name in the zombie anthologies also). Bradbury actually tried to imitate Poe in a lot of his writing until he turned 18, at which point I guess he had developed the style he has come to be known for.
My thoughts on The Emissary:
Sorry Bradbury. This might be strike two. I’ll explain. The Emissary, much like Fahrenheit 451, was certainly well written. There is a way in which I feel Bradbury’s writing feels simple even though I know it isn’t. Like he’s delivering the scenes in their most basic elements. A bunch of individual units which can only be understood in any larger context after it has already been read. It’s like you sense the story instead of read it. It’s quite impressive. Certainly poetic to say the least. However, I felt like it simply wasn’t what I was hoping for. Like it kept building and building and then simply forgot to do the big reveal. Also, and this is likely the fault of the anthology’s editor not Bradbury’s, it didn’t feel like there were any zombies in it. At least not the way we are used to. It is suggested that the boy’s favorite visitor comes back to visit “from the other side” so to speak, but it just doesn’t feel like a zombie at all. Not the way we know them now. I guess my earlier assessment still holds. Bradbury and his work is simply . . . from another time.
That’s all for today guys. Hopefully next week my review won’t be such a downer. Laters!