Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Recap - Rain

On what was one of the sunniest and warmest days of the year so far, we met to discuss Ray Bradbury's 'Death-By-Rain', or 'The Long Rain'. Liz gave a fantastic introduction, which introduced not only Bradbury's own life and ambitions (to 'prevent' not just to 'predict' the future), and the film version of the set text (see above), but also set 'The Long Rain' in a context of 1920s-1960s Venus stories. Based on observations of the planet's cloud cover, these tales often depicted Venus as a water-world: a tropical jungle, humid, warm, and uniform, akin to a prehistoric Earth. Bradbury's story - Liz showed - used this setting for a extreme adventure narrative, looking at the psychological and sensory experiences of people trying to navigate such an unforgiving landscape.

Our discussion followed on from these themes, to explore how Bradbury focused on the reactions of his militaristic men to the situation they were in (with, perhaps, slight inconsistencies or unanswered questions of plot or detail), rather than providing an omniscient overview. We looked at his ways of describing the rain - whether through the repetition of the word 'rain', to place the reader, like his characters, under its ceaseless or even torturing presence; or through passages where the rain took on more of a character or agency, posing for photographs, turning into monstrous forms and storms. We considered how the protagonists became unmoored in time and space, with fast-growing vegetation and aimless wandering, bleached- and leached-out bodies and hopeless futures; and wondered what on earth (or on Venus) they were doing there. Finally, we considered the story's ambiguous ending: was the heavenly-sounding Sun Dome just too good to be true?

Our next meeting - continuing to be seasonally inappropriate, and to think about extreme adventures - will be a discussion of The Frozen Deep.

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