Friday, July 2, 2010

Rocket Summer: “The Disease” a previously unpublished Martian Tale by Ray Bradbury

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the unique things about the new, long-awaited, already-sold-out, expanded, limited, signed, 750-page The Martian Chronicles: The Complete Edition (2009), by Ray Bradbury, is the inclusion of seven previously unpublished and fifteen previously uncollected “Other Martian Tales.” One of the previously unpublished tales is “The Disease” (2009), which, according to The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury (2005), by Sam Weller, was “excised” from the manuscript before The Martian Chronicles was first published in 1950.

“The Disease” is a sad two-page piece that chronicles the death of Yll from “a fever and black disease” brought to Mars by Nathaniel York and the other “men from the stars.” Yll's wife, Ylla, has already died, and she lies next to her husband in the sleeping area of their home. Here are the opening lines:
In the night, the Martian awoke.

“I am dying,” he thought, and after a short while of terror, he became immediately calm, lying there. “My name; what is my name? I am dying and must know my name, for if I can’t remember it, no one ever will. I can’t remember. I am dead. Part of me is dead already. My legs. I cannot move them. My left hand, it is like wood.”

He turned his head to look upon his wife where she lay....
Although “The Disease” is not dated, if reincorporated back into The Martian Chronicles, it would have to come at some point after the chapter titled “Ylla” (February 1999/2030).

According to Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction (2004), by Jonathan R. Eller and William F. Touponce, “there is evidence that he [Bradbury] was considering yet another race of Martians. This material includes “The Disease,” a four-page story identified in all chronologies but deleted from the first edition prior to publication. The story is told from Yll’s (husband of Ylla) point of view and reflects the ravages of chicken pox on the Martian population. Since the disease happens after the third expedition (it is dated “March 2001”), Yll reflects on the 'funny story' of that mission: 'another ship from the stars and the men from it landing among the Shapers of Dreams. And finding a small town devised of their own memories. And being buried with music and speeches and cheers. A good joke, surely.' Apparently, only some Martians -- here called Shapers of Dreams -- are telepathic or can project dreams. The irony that Yll reflects on in the story is that he killed Ylla’s dream; now the dream is killing him.”

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