Ray Bradbury & The October Country

Ray Bradbury died earlier this year. He wasn't exactly the greatest prose stylist in fiction history, but he created some of the most magical books in the history of science fiction and, ah, I guess you'd call it magical realism. His novels Something Wicked This Way Comes and Fahrenheit 451 both had a profound, profound influence both on the world of fiction and myself and he is credited for being one of the earliest "crossover" writers, meaning he could write genre fiction and still get some literary cred. He also wrote a collection of intertwined stories set on Mars called The Martian Chronicles which is simply wild and beautiful, like finding an arctic wolf taking a nap in your backyard.

But at this time of year, I can't help thinking about his The October Country, "a collection of 19 macabre short stories". Published in 1955, the stories involve surreal mayhem and cool Edgar Allen Poe stuff like that but what stands out to me, personally, is how they somehow manage to get at the true essence of autumn, and October specifically, in a way few other works have. In The October Country Bradbury built a world that crackles like walking through dry leaves and smells like woodsmoke on the page, making the reader nostalgic for a place that never really existed at all.

And that ability to world build, and imagine, is truly the big beating heart of Ray Bradbury's legacy, even as he now spends his first autumn beneath the earth.


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