Bradbury is the last of the great generation of sci fi writers in English – I think Stanislaw Lem is still with us. He wasn’t just a brilliantly insightful writer, he was, as the clip and this poem shows, incredibly funny.
This is a transcription from a resent Open Culture post, from a symposium held at Caltech on November 12 1971 on the eve of the launch of NASA’s first Mars mission, Mariner 9. He was on the stage with Arthur C Clarke, journalist Walter Sullivan and scientists Carl Sagan and Bruce Murray.
“I don’t know what I’m doing here. I’m the least scientific person on the platform today. 9 year old boys are always finding me out.
A 10 year old boy ran up to me a few years ago
He said, are you Mr Bradbury?
I said, yes.
He said, ‘that book of you’re the Martian Chronicles, on page 92 where you have the moons of Mar s rising in the East.
I said, yes,
He said, nooo.
So I hit him. (A.C.Clarke pats him on the back) I’m damned if I’ll be bullied by a boy.
I was hoping on the last few days as we got closer to Mares and the dust cleared we’d see a lot of Martians with big signs, saying “Bradbury was right”… or even Clarke.
So I’ll keep this short cause I’d much rather listen to out scientific friends about what’s coming up this week, but every time I get a group of people trapped in a hall together like this I like to read a poem and you can’t escape me. It’s only short poem, but it shares some of the feelings and philosophy I have about space travel and why I write science fiction and why I’m intrigued by what’s happening this weekend on Mars.
“If Only We Had Taller Been”
The fence we walked between the years did bounce us serene.
It was a place half in the sky where, in the green of leaf and the promise of peach. we reached our hand and almost touched the sky.
If we could reach out and touch, we said, it would teach us not to, never to, be dead.
We ate, and almost touched that stuff;
Our reach was never quite enough
If only we had tallied then, and touched God’s cuff, his hem
We would not have to go with them, with those who had gone before
Who, short as us, stood tall as they could and hoped that by stretching tall that they could keep their land their home, their hearth, their flesh and soul.
But they like us were standing in a hole.
Oh Thomas! Will a race one day stand really tall, across the void across the universe and all?
And measure all with rocket fire. at last put Adam’s finger forth as on the Sistine ceiling
And God’s hand come down the other way to measure man and find him good ?
And gift him with forever’s day
I work for that , for that short man, large dream
I send my rockets forth between my ears
Hoping an inch of good is worth a pound of years
Aching to hear a voice cry back across the universal mall
We’ve reached Alpha Centauri!
My God! We’re tall!
And here’s a shot of reality from Sesame Street, with ‘Martian Radio’.