Friday, July 30, 2010

“They All Had Grandfathers” a previously unpublished Martian tale by Ray Bradbury

In last week’s post about the new, sold-out, expanded, limited, signed, 750-page The Martian Chronicles: The Complete Edition (2009), by literary giant Ray Bradbury, I blogged about a beautiful little gem titled “Jemima True.” This week, I’m highlighting “They All Had Grandfathers,” which, according to Sam Weller's The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury (2005), was “excised” from the working manuscript before The Martian Chronicles was first published in 1950.

“They All Had Grandfathers” (2009) is six-and-a-half page tale about a Western “cowpoke” named Samson Wood (1935-2001), who came to the Red Planet to “find something” and finds something in establishing the first bar, The Milled Buck Saloon (dancing girls, entertainment, good food & liquor), in the first human town on the planet. Here are the opening lines:
IT WAS Wednesday, May 17th, 2001 A.D. on the planet Mars.

The men were stalking across the rough grass with white twine in their big hands, followed by men with steel hammers and wedges they drove into the earth. They tied the white twine into place. All over the land the twine was humming, like a great spider web.

“Here’s the post office, there’s where’ll be the city hall, the grocery, the jail, the dry-goods, the dime store …” Hands swept to all horizons, pointing. Men spat and took hold of their hats in the wind....
The most striking feature of “They All Had Grandfathers” is the concept of the frontier. As the first settlement is staked out on Mars, Samson Wood is reminded of the frontier in American history, how his grandfather went West in 1890, and how “A man could say, I don’t like New York and go to Illinois, and when Illinois got too full he could hit the Oklahoma Territory. And on out through Texas, open spaces and then the sea.” You see, Samson Wood “grew up in an age when you couldn’t ride the rods of a freight train because they took away the rods and you couldn’t hitch-hike the highways because every state passed laws against it. There was nothing for a man to do who just wanted to run away.” Perhaps appropriately, Samson Wood ends up being the first civilian to die on the new Martian frontier.

“They All Had Grandfathers” is the eighth of Bradbury’s "Other Martian Tales" and if reincorporated back into The Martian Chronicles, it would, presumably, be placed after the chapter titled "The Third Expedition" (April 2000/2031) but before the chapter titled "—And the Moon Be Still as Bright" (June 2001/2032).

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