It’s been so long since I did a short story post. Time has really been in short supply these past couple of months. But, here we are again. I’ve got two fantasy stories for you this time. Sci-fi or fantasy is not usually my genre of choice but I saw Francois Truffaut’s movie version of Fahrenheit 451 and loved it. It made me curious about Ray Bradbury’s work and when I found a copy of his Zen in the Art of Writing, I picked it up. It was a good book, but as far as writing guides go, I didn’t like it nearly as much as On Writing by Stephen King. Fiction is obviously what Bradbury does best. This week I read two of his best known short stories. Both of them have been adapted several times in writing, on TV and on film so some elements may seem familiar to you while you read them.
The Veldt: George and Lydia live in a fully automated house with their two children. Society has reached staggering levels of mechanization with machines to do absolutely everything for you. There are machines that will tie your shoes, cook your food and even rock you to sleep. The highlight of this home is the nursery which can convert the children’s imaginings into a virtual reality on its walls. Things start getting scarily real when the kids’ obsession with the African Veldt comes alive on the walls of the nursery.
A Sound of Thunder: This story takes the concept of “the butterfly effect” and gives it a literal spin. Set in a future where time travel is not just a reality but a form of recreation. Time Safari is a company that promises to take its customers back to prehistoric times for a thrilling dinosaur hunt. But the slightest move you make in the past can have a powerful ripple effect that can change the future in unimaginable ways.
Both stories are set in the future. However, I hesitate to call it dystopian because, at least on the surface, it seems like mankind has reached amazing heights. But beneath the clever inventions and smart machines, people seem more dissatisfied than ever. The Veldt, especially, makes a very pertinent comment on our increasing reliance on machines and disconnect from each other. If, like me, you don’t usually dabble in these genres, read these stories anyway. They are very entertaining and there is a lot more to them than time machines and smart homes. You can read them online here and here.