Tomorrow, Solaris Rising 2 will launch at Waterstones Gower Street in London where editor Ian Whates will be joined by authors Paul Cornell, James Lovegrove, David Mercurio Rivera, and Martin Sketchley, to talk about their contributions to this cosmic collection.
James Lovegrove has chosen The Veldt by Ray Bradbury...
Ray Bradbury's The Veldt isn't his very best short story. That accolade would go to either The Fog Horn or A Sound Of Thunder. It's definitely up there in the top ten, though, and for me it was vital in setting me on the path to becoming a writer -- specifically a writer of science fiction.
I was perhaps ten or eleven when our English teacher turned up for a lesson one afternoon. This was during the summer, and it may even have been the Long Hot Summer of 1976. She led us pupils outside because it was so stiflingly hot in the classroom and she sat us down on the grass and read The Veldt to us. I have no idea why she chose to do this. A whim? She was bored of the curriculum? She didn't think we'd pay attention to much else because we were quietly baking to death?
At any rate, the combination of beating sunshine and the artificial, fictional savannah in the story worked an alchemy in my brain. I was there with those kids in their virtual reality romper room, the lions prowling and roaring in the distance and the disaffected parents next door who didn't care what their offspring got up to. I had never encountered a story like this before, both literately articulate and baldly science-fictional at the same time. Was such a thing possible? Could SF be something other than the lowbrow trash that my parents and my educational experience had until now insisted it was? Could it be -- gasp -- cultural? Surely it must be, if an English teacher thought so.
I quickly began to read everything else I could find by Bradbury with the devouring devotion of the new convert. Another teacher, this time at senior school, endorsed and encouraged my enthusiasm for Unca Ray's work and even helped me prepare a thesis on the author for my Oxbridge entrance exam. I've tried, in my own work, to maintain the poise between fine writing and wild ideas that Bradbury seemed to manage so effortlessly in his. It all stemmed from The Veldt and its sinister, if predictable, twist ending, its beautiful simplicity, its subtle message. Those leaping lions.