New Interview

Permalink Posted by L.B. Graham Email @10:22:04 am (2859 views)
Category: Writing

With the 3rd annual Realm Makers conference just around the corner - where I will once more be happy to serve on the faculty - I have a new interview posted at the webpage for the Faith and Fantasy Alliance. I have posted the link here for any who might want to go and read it, just click here.

To Kill A Mockingbird

Permalink Posted by L.B. Graham Email @11:38:05 pm (5502 views)
Category: All Things Literary

I know I haven't posted anything 'original' in a while, but I am rereading To Kill A Mockingbird and just had to come here and say, it has been a long time since I first read it, but it is just as great as I remember it.

It is hard for me to explain just how dear to me certain books are. It may be a cliche to say they are like 'old friends,' but I don't care. They are. A book like To Kill A Mockingbird on a cold winter's night is just the thing.

I hope you have had that experience with reading. I hope you still do have that experience with reading. If you haven't, or if it has been a while, maybe you should pick up Harper Lee's masterpiece and give it a read - or a reread. A great book can be just as great the second time around...

Brock Eastman KickStarter Campaign

Permalink Posted by L.B. Graham Email @09:44:19 pm (8846 views)
Category: All Things Literary

Last year I participated in a huge, multi-author scavenger hunt organized by fellow speculative fiction writer Brock Eastman. Brock has an ongoing KickStarter campaign that wraps up in about a week, so I wanted to post some information about it. Here it is:

Sages of Darkness is an exciting action packed series about a demon hunter. It put readers face to face with the battle between good and evil and teaches them about spiritual warfare. HowlSage the first book was released in 2011 with Destiny Image. But in 2012 Destiny Image closed their fiction imprint and the series was left in limbo. With the rights to all three books returned and the covers given to me, I set out to fund the editing of the final two books via a KickStarter campaign. This campaign seeks to unite myself the author with readers so we can publish the trilogy together. I've kept the budget as low as possible and every dollar will go to either the editing or reward fulfillment of the campaign. It's an exciting endeavor, but one that has been successful for other authors and publishers. Please team up with me to provide more great YA christian fiction!

You can join the KickStarter here:

Family Fiction Interview

Permalink Posted by L.B. Graham Email @11:46:32 am (9367 views)
Category: All Things Literary

I want to thank Family Fiction for the chance to do an interview about "The Lesser Sun," the second book in The Wandering, to correspond with its Fall release. While the book doesn't look like it'll be out in October as we'd hoped, I trust it won't be delayed too much longer.

In the meantime, follow this link to the interview if you're interested, and while you're there, check out all that Family Fiction has to offer...

Interview at Enclave Publishing

Permalink Posted by L.B. Graham Email @11:56:06 am (11784 views)
Category: News

Just a quick note to say I have a new interview posted at the Enclave Publishing website. Here's the link if you are interested.

My thanks to Morgan Busse and Enclave for the chance to do the interview.

"A Summer with Ray Bradbury" - Wrap

Permalink Posted by L.B. Graham Email @05:20:02 pm (12824 views)
Category: All Things Literary

This post is part of a series on Ray Bradbury and his book, “The Martian Chronicles,” which will run from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.

Well, way back over Memorial Day weekend when I posted my first official post for my summer project of doing a 'book club' on Ray Bradbury's classic, The Martian Chronicles, Labor Day and the end of both summer and my series seemed to be pretty far away. Now both are here, and it is time to wrap this series up.

I've mentioned a few times that I used to teach this book, which is true. I think I taught it about ten times over the years, but I haven't now for almost a decade. So, as I think about this past summer and how much fun it was to spend time with the book again, there are a number of things that come to mind as parting thoughts to briefly reflect on here.

One thing that comes to mind is the originality of Bradbury's description of the Earth's encounter with Mars. I think of 50's movies about Martians and they are nothing like this. First of all, in Bradbury's book we go there, whereas it always felt like in the movies they were coming here. Also, while there is hostility in the initial encounters, it isn't of the ray gun, take me to your leader direct conflict type. The personal vendetta of "Ylla," the big misunderstanding of "The Earth Men," and even the cold, calculated trap of "The Third Expedition," they're just so different then those movie scenarios. And, in the end, it is the Earth that wipes out Mars and not the other way around.

Another thing that comes to mind as I reflect back is just how vivid many of Bradbury's descriptions are of Martian culture. I enjoy the whole book, all three distinct 'parts' as I describe them in some of the earlier posts, but my favorite is probably the first part when the Martian culture is still alive and well to be encountered. There's a bright, sunny feeling to those stories that is really unusual for scifi and space stories. The darker world of Mars after that first part feels more like the standard story of man in space.

I could also mention here that Bradbury's ability to successfully knit together a book from such disparate stories is impressive. While I feel that the term 'novel' really shouldn't be applied to The Martian Chronicles, I understand why it is. The book is more than just a collection of short stories, it rises above that to something else, and lacking a specific title for that something else, I suppose novel will do. As a short story writer, Bradbury shows off his mastery of the form time and time again, as he seems to achieve maximum effect in each short encounter, no matter how different the setting or event or tone.

Thematically, neither of the big themes in the book are terribly surprising. Writing in the wake of Hiroshima and Nagasaki explain pretty well Bradbury's fear that we were on a trajectory to destroy ourselves. That also explains Bradbury adopting perhaps that most ubiquitous of all scifi themes, the idea of only caring about whether we can do things with technology and not enough about whether we should.

What's interesting to me is that after the utter pessimism of a story like "There Will Come Soft Rains," that he would write a story like "The Million Year Picnic" where he suggests that the solution is to get rid of the institutions of Earth and start over. That suggests that man's problem is something extrinsic to himself - ie, in the institutions we create, and not in us. It seems to me, rather, that man's biggest problems are not institutional, they are personal - they are inside us, not outside of us. Thus, Bradbury's final images of important Earth documents being burnt as survivors of the great atomic apocalypse prepare to start over on Mars seem to me strikingly naive for someone who seems so pessimistic about mankind elsewhere in the book.

Of course, I am a Christian and see man as a fallen mess, whose great hope is deliverance from the outside, and Bradbury clearly didn't see the world that way. Still, while I can't agree with the way he saw people and our future, and while that disagreement makes me both more optimistic than he is (I don't think a sovereign God will let us annihilate ourselves) and more pessimistic (completely starting over will never fix things as long as we're the one's making the new institutions), I still enjoy Bradbury as a writer and a story architect very much - and I sincerely hope that anyone who has taken this opportunity to read Bradbury too can say the same.

"A Summer with Ray Bradbury" - The Million-Year Picnic

Permalink Posted by L.B. Graham Email @11:20:29 am (15765 views)
Category: All Things Literary

This post is part of a series on Ray Bradbury and his book, “The Martian Chronicles,” which will run from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.


In "The Long Years" we saw that in 2026 Mars was largely empty, and in "There Will Come Soft Rains" we saw that in 2026 Earth was largely destroyed, so with "The Million-Year Picnic" we get Bradbury's last word on the future of the human race in this speculative history of Earth's contact with Mars.

It's a simple story, in many ways. The Thomas family - a family with 3 little boys & a girl on the way - has come to Mars on one of the last rockets from Earth. They have come, hoping to rendezvous with the Edwards family - a family with 4 little girls. It's clearly a sort of new Adam & Eve story, where they hope to start over and begin to rebuild the human race.

Symbolic of that rebuilding, Mr. Thomas burns various government documents as a way of suggesting that the systems we had built on Earth had failed and that more than repopulation would be required if humanity was going to rebound from this catastrophe. He was a governor on Earth, and as he burns the documents he speaks the funeral oration for the failure of our way of life. There aren't any surprises here, as Bradbury's theme has already been made clear, but here is perhaps the key section:

Science ran too far ahead of us too quickly, and the people got lost in a mechanical wilderness, like children making over pretty things, gadgets, helicopters, rockets; emphasizing the wrong items, emphasizing machines instead of how to run the machines. Wars got bigger and bigger and finally killed Earth. That's what the silent radio means.

The final act is for Thomas to take his wife and boys down to the canal they use to reach the Martian city where they are settling, and to introduce them to the "Martians." As his family lean over the edge and stare down into the water, they see their own reflections, and Bradbury's final twist is revealed. The last humans from Earth are the last Martians, and perhaps from that world and civilization which Spender so admired earlier in the book, we'll learn the things we need to learn to build a better society.

And that is Bradbury's final word in The Martian Chronicles. My final word on The Martian Chronicles will wait until next weekend though, when I wrap up this summer series with my last post on the book.

"A Summer with Ray Bradbury" - There Will Come Soft Rains

Permalink Posted by L.B. Graham Email @07:52:38 pm (17737 views)
Category: All Things Literary

This post is part of a series on Ray Bradbury and his book, “The Martian Chronicles,” which will run from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.


This story has been so often anthologized that it is probably the best known of all the stories in The Martian Chronicles. The fame is probably deserved, too, since it is a phenomenal short story and a great example of Bradbury's mastery of the form.

In "The Long Years," we got a glimpse of Mars in the year 2026, learning that the planet was nearly uninhabited, and Captain Wilder's own curiosity about Earth should have echoed the reader's, as we were meant to wonder if it was also a 'tomb planet.' "There Will Come Soft Rains" answers that question for us, and it is an unsettling answer.

The story, strikingly, has no human characters. The protagonist is a mechanized house, and we watch it die, the final house in the city where it once stood to do so. The apocalyptic carnage of the scene that Bradbury describes deviates abrasively from mundane nature of the running commentary the house provides, and in that tension lies the success of the story.

There are so many fascinating things in this story, this post could get very long and unwieldy, but I'll try to show some restraint and simply highlight three things that perhaps deserve the most attention.

First, I think the silhouettes of the family that once lived in the house, visible on the side of the house, is one of the most striking images in the book. Perhaps the most striking. When I first read the story, I misunderstood what I was reading here. I thought the family had been 'burned' into the side of the house, but that's not what Bradbury suggests. Rather, the whole side of the house is charred EXCEPT where the family member intercepted the force of the atomic wave. Where their bodies absorbed that force, the house was somewhat spared, thus the silhouettes are the only places where paint remains, not vice versa. I first read this as a teenager, and this image has never left me.

A second striking thing about this story is the Sara Teasdale poem the story is named for, "There will come soft rains." It is the poem the house chooses to read in the evening to the long dead family that no longer dwells there. The poem is just 12 lines long, but they're pretty dark lines. If you read just the first 6, you have some typical Romanticism, with glowing, almost over-the-top descriptions of the beauty of nature. The last 6 lines, by contrast, speak of how nature won't miss us when we're finally gone, the strong implication being we're going to destroy ourselves and nature might almost be better off without us.

Third, and last, Bradbury's story begins on August 4th and ends on August 5th. Hiroshima, of course, was bombed on August 6th. He's too careful a writer for this to be an accident. Here we get pretty close to the heart of The Martian Chronicles, I think. The world in 1950 was pretty scared - and rightfully so - of the power that had been unleashed with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That fear is clearly in and around and under this entire book. Here, it is perhaps most clear, as Bradbury juxtaposes the remarkably inventive and imaginative technology of the mechanized house with the remarkably destructive technology of the atomic bombs that have laid waste to the Earth.

This is, I think, Bradbury's fundamental point. The same people and the same science & technology that may one day produce rockets that can travel to Mars and houses that can cook our breakfast, are the same people with the same science and technology that have already made the bomb. So what does the future look like? And will we be able to avoid the atomic holocaust envisioned here?

It is comforting to think that 64 years after The Martian Chronicles was first published, the atomic/nuclear holocaust still hasn't come. And, believing in a sovereign God who holds the world in His hand comforts me sufficiently so that I don't think it ever will, but that doesn't mean that Bradbury's question isn't still relevant. Technology and how we use it has always been a double-edged sword, and if our hope is in ourselves and in our creations alone, we have cause to be afraid...

Next week, we'll look at the last story in The Martian Chronicles, "The Million-Year Picnic."

"A Summer with Ray Bradbury" - The Long Years

Permalink Posted by L.B. Graham Email @06:32:21 pm (17255 views)
Category: All Things Literary

This post is part of a series on Ray Bradbury and his book, “The Martian Chronicles,” which will run from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.


The short vignette 'in between' stories are over, and now we are down to the final three Martian Chronicles. All three of these last stories take place a long time after all the ones we've read so far. The entirety of the rest of the book takes place between January of 1999 and December of 2005, but here we find ourselves in 2026, and there we will remain until the end.

This first of these stories from 2026, "The Long Years," is a stark contrast in mood from the light, humorous feel of "The Silent Towns." It tells the story of Hathaway, one of the men from the Fourth expedition. The twist that comes perhaps midway through the story, is that his wife and three children, whom we see with him early in the story, are actually robots. His real wife and children died some 19 years previously, and he builds these to keep him company. There are a number of clues before the reveal, like the 4 crosses he visits and the fact that the wine they drink runs down their chins, and of course, robots that look just like people have already played an important role in the book, namely in "Usher II."

In addition to the story about Hathaway and his robot family, we get a good deal of information/closure on other characters and stories we've encountered so far. We learn that Parkhill went home shortly after the war started 20 years earlier - so he didn't end up having much use for his hot dog stand or the land deed for half of Mars. Walter Gripp is still living alone and smoking his cigars - no word on Genevieve Selsor. Captain Wilder from the Fourth expedition has been out exploring other planets, and he has just returned. And, of course we learn about the current situation on Mars and Earth.

Mars is described as a tomb planet. Other than Gripp, Wilder's circumnavigation of Mars reveals no one else alive - human or Martian. On Earth, the war continues, but Hathaway and Wilder both expect that after 20 years, the devastation is likely extensive, if not complete. It is an ominous backdrop to the somber events of this story.

And, it is a ominous prelude to the next story, "There Will Come Soft Rains," which is perhaps the most famous of all The Martian Chronicles, an extremely unusual, powerful and effective story.

"The Long Years" ends in a really poignant way (I think Bradbury really excelled at his endings). We have Hathaway's robot family, alone now that Hathaway is dead (he dies of heart complications) and Bradbury leaves us with the striking visual of them going through their routines that Hathaway programmed and that they themselves don't fully understand, and with a striking line about the dead sea, going on being dead. Not very cheery, but then again, Bradbury's picture of a world that has destroyed itself, and the other planet it comes into contact with, is not terribly cheery.

Next time we'll look at "There Will Come Soft Rains."

"A Summer with Ray Bradbury" - The Watchers and The Silent Towns

Permalink Posted by L.B. Graham Email @06:51:45 pm (15231 views)
Category: All Things Literary

This post is part of a series on Ray Bradbury and his book, “The Martian Chronicles,” which will run from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.


This is the last of the short vignettes, as the stories that follow this one are all 'full' stories that stand very well on their own. It ties in with "The Luggage Store," as the outbreak of war on Earth creates a wave of homesickness among the settlers on Mars. It is as though they have been dreaming while on Mars but the sight of the burning Earth wakes them from the dream, and they all think of loved ones they haven't seen or heard from in while, and that is the beginning of the exodus back to Earth, though of course, not everyone goes ...


Without a doubt, "The Silent Towns" was always a crowd favorite among my students when I taught The Martian Chronicles. While the last three stories after this are fairly dark, this one is light and humorous and quite the foil to the atomic-holocaust backdrop that Bradbury has painted for it. What's more, Bradbury plays on the old "not if you were the last person on Earth" theme (only its Mars, of course) with very entertaining results.

Poor Walter Gripp. He lives remotely and missed all the hubbub and the mass return to Earth. Now he's all alone. Only, he hears a phone ring & realizes someone else is still on Mars. He desperately hopes that someone is a 'she.'

It is. It is Genevieve Selsor. Walter tracks her down by calling the largest beauty parlor in a place called New Texas City - after all, where else would a woman be when the world is deserted and she can be anywhere she wants to be? (No hate mail please, this is Bradbury 'winking' at the reader...)

Alas, the call is interrupted before they get very far, and a delirious Walter drives the 1000 miles to New Texas City, singing a song of his own making in homage to Genevieve, Oh Genevieve, sweet Genevieve, the years may come, the years may go... I'm not sure why I always found this so amusing, but the image of the already besmitten Walter on his way to see Genevieve makes me chuckle, mostly because I've read the story before & know what he's going to find.

Of course, by now, the reader who has been paying attention knows enough to know what's coming, at least, she knows enough not to trust Bradbury here. He likes a twist, especially cruel ones, and things can't end well for Walter, can they?

Well, after finding Genevieve gone from New Texas City, Walter has to drive the 1000 miles back to where he'd been (and to where Genevieve had gone in her own excitement) to finally meet her. Oh, and meet her he does. She's not quite the dream girl Walter had hoped for. She's like a dream, as nightmares count as dreams, and she's both awful to look at and awful to be with.

They spend a perfectly terrible day together, full of much unpleasantness for Walter, and then comes the final straw - Genevieve tells him about the wedding dress she's picked out. That's all poor Walter can take, and he makes a run for it, going to his car and tearing out of town.

He puts 10,000 miles between himself and Genevieve Selsor, finds a nice small town, and lives there with enough food and cigars to last as long as he needs to. And as the last line says, "... when once in a while over the long years the telephone rings - he doesn't answer."

Well played, Mr. Bradbury, well played.

Next time, we'll look at "The Long Years."

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