Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Radio: The Rocket (NBC Short Story)

Based on the story by Ray Bradbury, published in Super Science Stories, March 1950.

Guess which network it was originally broadcast on, January 4, 1952.

A story by Ray Bradbury called "The Irritated People," not found in any other collection, appeared in Thrilling Wonder Stories, Volume 1. Hint, hint.

Is it my imagination, or is the introduction to this episode basically saying, "Sure, we all know science fiction sucks. But Ray Bradbury is such a fine writer, he actually redeems this crap!"?

It's a real, real commonplace observation that in a time when most science fiction writers wrote about the intellectual puzzles faced by Campbellian engineers and other members of the professional class, Ray Bradbury found his voice and his power in writing about "common" people, and their deep emotions that run closer to the surface. Certainly, it's difficult picturing an Asimov or Heinlein hero feeling the almost primal need of Bradbury's protagonist here to go into space. And it's appropriate that the characters are almost entirely recent-generation immigrants, since no doubt it takes a need something like that to leave everything you know, and cross the Atlantic to start over again with nothing in a country where you probably can't speak the language.

For my own part, I think that had I been around in one of the times and places of the great European emigrations that helped build the America we know... I would have been that spineless guy you never hear about, who considered it, thought about the hardships, and stayed home.

Or maybe I'm just assuming the Italian-named characters are recent-generation immigrants. Only the lead actor seems to make a serious attempt at an accent. And the story does, after all, take place somewhere in the neighborhood of 2035. But it's probably missing the point to get all literalist with a Bradbury story, which are often what you could call magic unrealism: they're real life in a metaphorical setting... the way that The Martian Chronicles was more about Manifest Destiny than it was about Mars.

Anyway, "The Rocket" is a very simple story, but it generated probably more tension in me than any of the other shows I've posted, and that's because, for a change, I really felt for the hero of this story.

It was probably a good adaptation choice for a series that apparently found the regular run of science fiction a bit juvenile.

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