I got to listen to the audio files for Endless Summer over the last few days.
I was blown away. Seriously, the experience of having the stories read to me, one after the other, was so intense that I had to stop several times to catch my emotional breath.
Brandon McKernan does an amazing job, and more than that, he gets me. He understands my dry sense of humor, my understated pathos–he fits the tone of my work, hitting all the right notes.
Listening to the audio of my stories lets me experience them “from the outside” in a way that I can’t when I read the text. It’s the closest I can get to enjoying the stories as if they had been written by someone else.
In an email to my publisher I described Endless Summer as my Martian Chronicles. He took that to mean that it’s my masterpiece, and I do believe with as close to objectivity as I can get that the collection contains some of the best stories I’ve written.
But more than that I meant that the “shape” of the collection reminds me of The Martian Chronicles. There’s the same sense that the stories outline a trajectory, like one of Bradbury’s rocketships. Although, in both cases, it’s an inverted trajectory, diving to perigee and then climbing back up.
In my case the nadir is probably the end of the ironically titled “The Happiest Place On Earth”. I can’t get through that story without crying, and I can hear the emotion in Brandon’s voice as he reads the last lines.
In Bradbury’s case I think his saddest moment is “There Will Come Gentle Rains”–a story which in large part inspired “The Happiest Place”. (The saddest story in Martian Chronicles, anyway. His absolute saddest is, in my opinion, “All Summers In A Day”–another story that I echo, rather distantly, in Endless Summer.)
There is only so much comparing myself to one of the greatest geniuses ever to work in the English language that I can do. I’m not going to claim that Endless Summer is on par with The Martian Chronicles as a work of literature, just that it has a similar structure and, I think, similar themes.
The twin chimeras of loss and hope. There is nothing that can be gained that won’t, in time, slip away–but also nothing that can be lost that might not, someday, be regained.
And I very deliberately mimic Bradbury’s approach to Science Fiction as a genre, with the emphasis on the second word. While my stories are set in the future, they aren’t really about the future, they are about there here and now, my life and your life as we live them every day.
Science Fiction allows us to see, in strange new eyes, familiar tears.