Thursday, April 09, 2009

Forgotten Books Friday: Short story

First, I'm sorry I haven't been around visiting blogs much this week. Besides feeling a bit down, I got the rough drafts from my writing class on Tuesday and spent a LOT of time commenting on and correcting those. But here's my post for Forgotten Books Friday for this week. I'll head out to look at blogs after I get this up.

Pattinase has suggested that this week’s Forgotten Book Friday feature a forgotten short story. Since I love me some short stories, I am so happy to take part. And man was it hard to narrow down my choices. There are so many wonderful short stories that I could talk about: The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin, Surface Tension by James Blish, Nightfall by Isaac Asimov, Hangover by John D. MacDonald, The Jaunt by Stephen King, The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke, Riding for the Brand by Louis L’Amour, A Relic of War by Keith Laumer, Valley of the Worm and Worms in the Earth by Robert E. Howard, etc. etc.

But I’ve decided on a story by Ray Bradbury. Bradbury has had so many incredible stories of course, The Veldt, The Fog Horn, The Golden Apples of the Sun, The Small Assassin, The Wind, and many more. But there’s one that I’ve never seen reprinted and almost never see anyone talk about. This is “Frost and Fire,” a longish story from the collection R is for Rocket, which was first published in 1962. I first read this collection sometime back in the sixties and “Frost and Fire” stayed with me for years after, although I forgot the title and the collection it was in. For several years in my late 30s I searched and searched for the story but was unable to remember the title or even who had written it until a friend of mine identified it for me. I believe that friend was Steve Tompkins. I immediately read the story again, and just reread it this week in preparation for this post.

Although it’s in an anthology whose title suggests science fiction stories, and it involves a space ship, “Frost and Fire” is very much a fantasy. Physically and technically it is an impossible tale, but it’s still wonderful for all that.

Imagine a world where humans are born, grow, mate, age, and die in 8 days. It’s a world where the sun kills and the ice at night freezes the very marrow, where for only two hours a day, at dusk and dawn, are people able to leave their caves and run and play and gather food amid the rapidly growing plants.

Imagine though, that in the distance, winking in the early morning sunlight, the people see a ship, the last intact ship from the space fleet that brought them to this nightmare planet. A child named Sim is born into this world. He is born with the racial memory of all his people, and the telepathy that lets them learn quickly what they need to know to survive. A girl named Lyte is born at the same time, and comes to love Sim. And all this happens quickly, quickly, quickly. Because death is only days away.

Sim yearns to reach that ship, although no one has ever survived such an attempt. And Lyte is determined to accompany him. I won’t tell you the ending, but the story is well worth the read if you can find it.

There was a brief revival of interest in this story in the 1980s. In 1983 it became the basis of a short film called Quest, and in 1985 it was adapted as a graphic novel by Klaus Jansen for DC comics. I have not seen the film or read the graphic novel, and didn’t even know that either existed until I started researching this post. I’ll begin looking for that graphic novel, though. “Frost and Fire” is definitely a forgotten story these days, though, and it shouldn’t be. It shows Bradbury at the height of his powers.


Cullen Gallagher said...

I think I need to read some more Bradbury....

And that list of other stories you considered is ALL new to me. So - I have my work cut out.

Thanks for all the suggestions!

Cloudia said...

Bradbury is seminal, a neccessary read for any SF writer, I think.

what do you think of Heinlein?


laughingwolf said...

not heard of it, charles, but now know to look, thx :)

i'm with you on heinlein, cloudia :D

steve on the slow train said...

Sounds very interesting. I recently listened to a Bradbury story that involved a magical town and Nefertiti--I can't remember the title. James Blish wrote a lot of the Star Trek novelizations, but I don't think I've ever read anything he wrote independently.

Heinlein was certainly a brilliant writer. A friend once called him a fascist. I took the comment with a grain of salt--to her, anyone to the right of Hubert Humphrey was a fascist. But after reading Stranger in a Strange Land and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, I began to see her point.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cullen, You'll find a lot of those in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume 1, which is the single greatest collection of SF stories ever written. You should definitely try The Cold Equations. What a powerful story.

Cloudia, I've read pretty much all of Bradbury's stuff. He definitely influenced me although in no way could I write like him. I liked a lot of Heinlein's early stuff but didn't much care for the stuff after STranger in a Strange Land.

Laughingwolf, definitely a good story, though hard to go wrong with early Bradbury.

Steve on the Slow Train, I'd say Heinlein's early stuff strongly suggests a conservative and patriotic bias but I don't know if I'd call him a fascist. Seems a bit harsh.

Lana Gramlich said...

I don't think I've read that story, but I must. Bradbury was a true master. Thanks for the tip!

the walking man said...

If the story is anywhere close to your fascinating description I will have to find it...well I suppose I will have to find it if I am to know...right...going in search of now.

writtenwyrdd said...

I know that title from someplace, so I might have read the story a long time ago. I know I read "R is for Rocket" as a kid, so I must have.

I wonder if "The Veldt" is still being read in jr. high story collections like when I was a kid?

Greg said...

sounds like a cool story! bradbury is a great author, and i recently had "dandelion wine" recommended to me, which i look forward to reading.

Sidney said...

More proof I should own that complete stories of Ray Bradbury collection. I'll have to go flip through my Bradbury anthologies to see if it's in there anywhere. I loved a lot of the other stories you mentioned to. Should have put "Names of God" on my Life in Counted Pages meme. "The Jaunt" is a good one too. If I recall correctly that was in the second issue of the old "Twilight Zone Magazine."

Paul R. McNamee said...

Bradbury stuns me almost every time. I read some of his stuff during high school, but only got to the true classics (Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Martian Chronicles) in the past few years and I loved them all.

Rachel V. Olivier said...

I love Bradbury. I think I need to try to find that story.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I read him extensively as a teenager. Never disappoints.

Stewart Sternberg (half of L.P. Styles) said...

A couple years back I read a collection of fiction by Bradbury; reluctant to do so because I feared in his advanced age that he might have lost something, and no one wants to feel our heroes diminish.

I was in bed with my wife, reading by nightlight, a story where five old men meet at the flagpole of their old elementary school. This was a promise they made to each other as children. They arrive, see each other, and withdraw without actually making contact.

I closed the book. My wife asked why a tear was running down my cheek. Charles, I don't often cry when I read, but dammit...even in his twilight years, Bradbury still has the ability to pull emotion from you and to write some of the most astonishing poetic prose one can ever read.

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana, I've got two copies of the book it's in so there's no waiting.

Mark, I thought it was quite enjoyable.

writtenwyrdd, I think there was also an animated fantasy by that name but it was a different story. Good question about "the Veldt." That's when I first read it, and was one of the few assigned readings I remember enjoying.

Greg Schwartz, Dandelion wine is Bradbury's coming of age story. It's not really SF or fantasy at all but it is a wonderful book.

Sidney, I have "the Jaunt" in Skeleton Crew. A great story.

Paul R. McNamee, It's hard to decide on my favorite book or Bradbury's but I'm leaning toward "Something Wicked This Way Comes" at the moment.

Rachel, I don't know if it was reprinted in his collected anthologies but I don't think "R is for Rocket" is that hard to find.

pattinase (abbott), agreed. I didn't even mention his Uncle Einar stories, so wonderful.

Stewart Sternberg, yes, one thing about emotion and Bradbury is that he seems to evoke so many of them together at the same time, awe, fear, melancholy, joy. It's amazing.

L.A. Mitchell said...

Impending death is always such a great ticking time bomb. Thanks for sharing, Charles :)

BernardL said...

I agree with your choice. That was a hell of a story.

Travis Cody said...

Nightfall was my introduction to Asimov. I read it in high school and the assignment was to imagine ourselves in the same situation, knowing what was about to happen. We had to make a catalog of knowledge to store against the coming catastrophe, to help humanity surivive.

Donnetta said...

I do not remember "Frost and Fire." Now I'll be on a mission. Sounds like good summer reading to me. Reread some Bradbury last summer. Will so again. Thanks for the heads up, Charles. D

Steve Malley said...

Hmmm, I wonder what it'd be like to come back to Bradbury, now that I'm a few years further down the track...

Leigh Russell said...

I'm courting support from you in USA, Charles. My book's available on (and also on all the major bookstore websites in UK - Borders, Waterstones, WH Smiths etc) but although claim it's displayed on their website - it's not there! have a glitch in their system which excludes my book, and it seems there's nothing can be done about it because they refuse to acknowledge their omission. As an individual I'm powerless against this huge faceless conglomerate. Unless I can solicit some support through, sales of Cut Short through amazon are going to be zero! I'm feeling rather low about it.

Middle Ditch said...

SF's were great in the fifties and sixties. The name rings a bell. I must have read a translation, not being English. Were his translated? I'm sure they were. Most SF I read in my home country were from US writers.

Mary Witzl said...

I'm not a SF fan by any means, but I remember reading Ray Bradbury as a kid and falling in love with some of his short stories. The one that has always stayed with me is one about a girl who is shut up in a room by bullies on the one day of the year that the sun comes out -- I'll never forget that.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

Hey Charles,

I'm so sorry about your friends and I understand why you are down.

Separately - April is crazy with its avalanche of papers for me too so I understand. Take it easy, enjoy nature with Lana and see you around the blogosphere.

Charles Gramlich said...

L.A. Mitchell, yes, and it was so well handled in this story.

BernardL, it was really good that I read it when I was pretty young too.

Travis, wow, why couldn't they have done assignments like that for us when I was in High school. I would have really gotten into that.

Donnetta Lee, hope you enjoy. I'm sure you will.

Steve Malley, it probably depends. I never really got into his later Mystery writing but I think I'd still be enamored of his earlier SF/fantasy stuff.

Leigh Russell, that's weird. I'll check it out. I can send an email to parties concerned but who knows whether that would help. I'll poke around today. Hopefully that will get straightened out. At least they only had my name wrong on my book, but it was there.

Middle Ditch, I know he had a lot of stuff translated. I'm not sure about that story particularly, but quite likely since I imagine that collection was. Interesting to find out.

Mary Witzl, oh yes, I remember that story. I'm pretty sure it was set on Venus. Or at least a world where it rained all the time except for that one day of the year. He had a lot of stories that were like that though, memorable to folks who normally didn't read SF.

Ello, papers are the bane of my existence. Yet, I feel I need to assign them. Maybe one day I'll wise up.

Anonymous said...

I'm jut gonna leave you a totally random comment cause I am way behind on the commenting ratio thing.


Aine said...

That sounds like a story I'd love. Thanks for sharing!

JR's Thumbprints said...

I, too, am not aware of this story - until now. I'll have to check it out.

One story I've always liked, and I used it in my classroom full of convicts, is "The Cold, Cold Box" by Howard Fast. Have you heard of it? I tell my students that they must vote on whether the main character should be freed from his suspended animation. Surprisingly, most of my students argue that he should never be brought back into society.

Charles Gramlich said...

Wil, we've all been behind at one point or another.

Aine, no problem.

JR, I actually have not, but now I'm intrugied. Going to have a look around on the net to see if I can find more info.