The Columbus, Ohio metropolitan area where I reside averages forty inches of precipitation per year. Seattle, which has the reputation of being rainy all of the time, averages thirty-eight inches annually. I am given to understand that Seattle receives a steady, gentle rain (and a bit of snow in the winter) throughout the year, with precipitation occurring a bit more frequently than every other day. It rains every few days in Columbus over a period of about six months — April through October — and then we of course get some snow during the rest of the year.
We sometimes get some spells of heavy, flood-warning rain. We had several days of those a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t have any damage, outside or inside. It was still a bit emotionally wearing, in a seasonal affective disorder way. It is easy to wonder by the second or third straight day of rain whether the sun will ever be seen again.
It is on such days that I think of Ray Bradbury, or, to be more precise, two of his stories. The first of these was originally titled “Death by Rain” and appeared in the pulp magazine Planet Stories in an issue published on September 23, 1950, almost one year to the day before I was born.
Forgive me for exhibiting a moment of looseness of association. I actually had the opportunity to buy that magazine for a dollar in 1962 at a used bookstore. I instead used the dollar to buy several brand new comic books, including one titled The Amazing Spider-Man #1, which I still own. My logic at the time was that I already had “Death by Rain,” retitled as “The Long Rain,” in the Bradbury short story collection The Illustrated Man. The original cover price of Planet Stories was twenty cents, and the merchant was selling it for a whole dollar. It seemed like a bad deal to me. I was right. I can buy that issue of Planet Stories for under thirty dollars on e-bay while that Spider-Man comic is worth considerably more than that.
To digress from the digression, I have read “The Long Rain” dozens of times. It presents a future in which a rocket ship crashlands on Venus in the early days of Venusian colonization by Earth. The astronauts on board who survive are beset by constant rainstorms which, in the 1940s, were thought to occur to occur on Venus. The astronauts attempt to reach one of the sun domes — shelters constructed during earlier visits to Venus — in a last-ditch survival effort. Hilarity does not ensue. Tragedy does. The ending is enigmatic, even more so upon each rereading. Folks still argue about it. I think of that story whenever the rain never seems to stop and the sun becomes a memory stay thankful for having my own sun dome, as well as the (almost) certain knowledge that the rain will eventually pass.
The second Bradbury story that comes to mind during the central Ohio version of monsoon season is titled “All Summer in a Day.” It isn’t as well known as “The Long Rain” but is a bit more poignant and ultimately maybe the better tale of the two. “All Summer in a Day” published in the March 1954 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction which, unlike Planet Stories, is still around. Bradbury is mentioned on the cover but does not get top billing, interestingly enough. His contribution to that issue is a classic nonetheless. “All Summer in a Day” is also set on Venus. The Venus of this story is somewhat similarly inhospitable to the Venus of “The Long Rain” but has been sufficiently colonized to have children residing there who were born planetside and elementary schools built for them to attend. One of the school children is a girl named Margot who moved from Earth to Venus five years prior to the story’s present. Margot is the only one in her class who has seen the sun. The reason for this is that (in the story) the sun is only visible on Venus for one hour every seven years, The event is coming up, and it’s a big deal, particularly for Margot, who misses seeing that which she had previously taken for granted. The problem is that some of Margot’s classmates are unhappy with her, and as a result they…well, you will have to read the story to find out, but I will tell you that it is for me one of the saddest stories I have ever read (I’m getting a little misty-eyed just writing about it, but don’t tell anybo… Oops). “All Summer in a Day” has been collected in a number of Bradbury’s anthologies, including the U.S. Edition of A Medicine for Melancholy. Bradbury, as the result of stories such as “All Summer in a Day” and the chilling “The Small Assassin,” acquired the reputation of hating children. Maybe he did. I don’t share that opinion, but after reading “All Summer in a Day” you will understand why he was painted with that brush, and why I think of it after several days of central Ohio gloom.
I doubt Bradbury thought at the time he wrote the stories I’ve been discussing that either of them would be remembered decades later. He lived long enough to see that happen, and to see them taught, studied, and even adapted to other media. That’s pretty good for a couple of stories that were purchased by editors at the rate of a couple of pennies per word and published in what were referred to as “pulp” magazines. The lesson here is that you might have a story or five that accumulated some rejection slips. Check your hard drive or your file drawer and read a few of them, pick up a couple, shine them up, and send them out again. It is possible that the churl who rejected them initially now sleeps with the fishes and that a pair of fresh editorial eyes will look more favorably upon them. Sixty years from now someone may be discussing your story as a result. I assure you that stranger and more unlikely things have happened. You might even be still alive to see it.
Back to the rain… I am not alone in feeling this way, at least about “The Long Rain.” Our own blogger emeritus Joe Moore reported having a similar reaction to that story in this space way back in 2012. What about you? Do you have a favorite story that deals with weather that has been written either by you or someone else? And sure. It can take place on any world, including this one.
Enjoy your weekend. May it be sunny.