The Long Rain…

 

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. 

 

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About Joe Hartlaub

Joe Hartlaub is an attorney, author, actor and book and music reviewer. Joe is a Fox News contributor on book publishing industry and publishing law and has participated on several panels dealing with book, film, and music business law. He lives with his family in Westerville, Ohio.

33 thoughts on “The Long Rain…

  1. I read Somerset Maugham’s short story “Rain” (set in the South Pacific), and remember the way he painted the unrelenting downpour behind the story every time we get something approaching typhoonesque, visibility limiting sheets and curtains of the wet stuff…

    Fortunately, sunny and moderately warm here through the rest of the week.

    Enjoy your nice weekend, sir.

    • First! Thank you, George. I just found “Rain” online and bookmarked it.

      I hope you enjoy your weekend as well. Right now it’s raining here, but that’s okay. I can read “Rain” instead of mowing the lawn!

      • Almost anything beats mowing the lawn~ almost ~ (Which reminds me – Pop named our dingy-sized sail boat the “Beastsmowen” a word he claimed was old Seminole for something I’ve since forgotten, but that I suddenly “understood ” one hot afternoon, mid-yard, when I was thirteen).

  2. Two stories come to mind, one grim:

    “Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?/And where have you been, my darling young one?…. And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard/It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.” (Bob Dylan)

    The other not entirely grim:

    “For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth…. [But the rains stopped and the earth dried, and the dove did not need to return to the ark.] And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.'” (Genesis)

    Apparently other ancient cultures had similar flood stories. I don’t think any of the others had the rainbow covenant. The ending to the Hebrew version of the myth seems to indicate a theological break with other ancient cultures.

    • I’m of course familiar with both of those, Eric, but hadn’t thought of them until now. Excellent! Thanks!

  3. Good morning, Joe

    It’s raining here in western Ohio, too. I was hoping to get some outside work done this morning, but it looks like it will have to wait until this afternoon.

    I recently read Andy Weir’s, The Martian. It was an enjoyable way to learn about the Martian atmosphere and weather, and a great story of the human will to survive, against all odds.

    I hope the rain stops and you can mow your lawn.

    Have a great weekend!

    • I’m with you on The Martian, Steve. Thanks for the reminder. I hope you get your outside work done today yet…I’ll have to wait until the lawn dries. Maybe tomorrow! Or Monday! Or Tuesday! Or…

      Hope you have a great weekend, Steve.

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  5. Moving from Florida to the Colorado Rockies was a major weather change. I did include a blizzard in one of my Mapleton books, including the ‘stranded with a killer?’ trope.
    No lawns to mow up here, and not all that much rain. We had snow last Monday, though.

    • Snow last week, Terry? Oh, the humanity! And moving from Florida to the Rockies must have been a HUGE shift, and not just weatherwise. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I love reading in the rain. Anything dark and pensive (my favorite 😉 ) becomes even more moody with the ting, ting, tings of rain on the metal roof.

    May the sun soon shine and bless you with its rays, Joe. Enjoy your weekend!

    • Sue, we have the same tastes. You might enjoy THE MIST by Ragnar Jonasson which will be available June 23, 2020. A great deal of it takes place in an isolated farmhouse during a blizzard. In Iceland, no less.

      I also love the sound of rain on a tin roof. For a variety of reasons.

      Thank you for the good and sweet wishes, Sue. Back to you!

    • Great choice, Jim! How could anyone forget that story, once having read it?! London could really set the mood. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. So embarrassed to admit I’m a disaster story junkie. The more far-fetched the better. But the special effects must be well-done, so I’m “completely” fooled.

    Asteroids hitting the earth, category *%* tornadoes, tsunamis and 100 ft waves hitting New York, massive earthquakes leveling…everything. Not exactly “weather-related”, but a good old-fashioned disaster can sure create some weird weather.

    And one of my fave movies of all time isn’t exactly about weather either. Book of Eli was filmed with lots of grays, which gives the impression of a just-happened disaster (WW 3?) and the nuclear winter which must’ve ensued.

    When Eli reaches journey’s end they dripped in some color. Every time I watch that movie, it gives me the willies…

    • Deb, no need to be embarrassed! You’re just ahead of your time.

      Thanks for the Book of Eli recommendation. If you want to watch a really bad made-for-tv disaster movie, try “On Hostile Ground” which seemed to be an excuse to film a movie in New Orleans and to be a star vehicle for Brittany Daniels.

      Oh, and Twister is on Netflix this month! Enjoy!

      • [Face brilliant, flashing red] I have Twister on VHS…yes, VHS! But we did just acquire a 47″ LED TV with a great picture. My husband fixes stuff. He got this “broken” set from an acquaintance, who said he could keep it for parts if he wanted.

        Alan bought a fuse, or some such thing, repaired the circuit board, and voila! We have a bigger TV to watch our VHS tapes on. (BTW, our previous TV was a 42″, and we acquired that the same way.) In 32 1/2 years of marriage, we’ve never bought a TV. 🙂

        • Alan sounds like a keeper, Deb. But you knew that. If I tried repairing something like that it would be a disaster on par with the movies you love, with fire in the house and power out for a five-block radius the first time I plugged the repaired item into a socket.

          Of course, that’s because I don’t know how to conduct myself…

  8. Anyone who says that science fiction can’t be literary is usually beaten over the head with the works of Ray Bradbury. His use of language and story were brilliant. Also, scarily prescient. His “smart house” stories of many years ago make me shudder.

    Don’t get me started on rain. My area of NC had more than three months’ average rainfall in May, and we broke an all-time record for rainfall in one day at over six recorded inches. Mind you, we have frinkin’ tropical storms and hurricanes planting themselves over us so we see a heck of a lot of rain at once. I live on the highest point of the highest point in the Triad, and I had flooding. Fortunately, not expensive damage. Sigh. And the hurricane season has already started.

    With the exception of “It was a dark and stormy night,” I’m blanking on a weather-related story. I’ll think about it as I’m trying to mow the over-watered hay that is my lawn today.

    • Thank you for your own weather-related stories, Marilynn! Re: your lawn…maybe rent a couple of goats? They work great for that…

      • I have goat-toxic mulberry trees everywhere. No lawn goat service would rent them to me. (I actually looked in to them several years back for a wild area filled with ivy, kudzu, bamboo, or other nasty invasives and discovered the mulberry problem.)

        I just came in from my sad attempt at mowing the hay. I almost murdered a turtle in the high grass in the front yard so that ended before it started. The snakes and the small wild mammals run, but the turtles can’t. I’ll give it another shot after it dries out next week from the next torrents of rain starting tomorrow. The other lawn areas were dutifully turned into chopped hay.

        • Good looking out on missing that turtle, Marilynn. “Almost” only counts when you’re playing horseshoes or throwing hand grenades. It sounds like you have some very interesting property!

  9. Sorry to re-chime in so late, but I had, ah, yard chores ( discussed above)….

    But I did recall another interesting weather related opening I’ve always enjoyed:

    “Clouds have been playing with the blue style of the sky all day long, moving their heavy black wardrobes in, but so far nothing rain has happened…”

    Richard Brautigan, _The Abortion: An Historical Romance_, 1966 (I read it in high school or early college daze, ah, days, ten or a dozen years later).

    Something about it made me realize how to look at things from a different angle~

    • Richard Brautigan was my spirit animal in the late 1960s – early 1970s, George.

      I friend of mine who was living in San Francisco in the 1960s described getting on a city bus and seeing every — every — young woman on the bus reading a Brautigan book.

  10. What’s one of the stone-chiseled writing rules, Joe? Never open with the weather, or something like that? Try telling that to a literary success like Snoopy who stole his hook from the 1830 novel “Paul Clifford” by Edward Bulwer-Lytton who penned:

    “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

    But, like, who can cut grass in that crap?

    • Thanks, Garry! Any excuse to not mow the lawn will do.

      The rule you mentioned was/is Number One of Elmore Leonard’s “10 Rules of Writing.” It’s the one that folks remember and tend to ignore.

      My favorite Leonard story:

      Leonard had been advised by his physician to stop smoking and drinking. When Leonard was out to dinner with friends a few months later, and he fired up a cigarette (the restaurant was non-smoking, but…) and ordered a beer. One of his friends said, “I thought you stopped that.” Leonard looked at him and said, “I did not stop. I paused.”

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