I encountered There Will Come Soft Rains when I was a little kid. I was reading high school level novels in grade school, eventually graduating to college textbooks on astronomy and science when I was nine years old.
I read this short story and it did something that shocked me. When I was done I had tears on my face. I didn’t understand why, but something in this story had found a way through the maze of my mis-wired brain and triggered an emotional response.
Two things within the story made me sad enough to show it, and unlike most folks who would think it would be the dog in the story, it was the odd things that set me off – the shadow of the family burned into the side of the house when they were playing catch, and the house itself, still doing its best to fulfill its primary function and reason for existing. The bright, chipper language that nobody would ever hear again announcing the daily schedule while it cleaned up and made the meals that nobody would eat. The way the house battled for its life against the flames.
This story made me realize just how powerful the written word can be.
Bradbury’s lyrical style still rings true 67 years after it was originally published. Everything within the story can still theoretically happen, although we’re about to reach the year the story takes place (2026). In the 1950s, it seemed that we’d be off to see the stars (or at least living on the moon or Mars) by this time. The next millennium was so far off that it was like Star Trek or Lost in Space, or at least something cheesy like This Island Earth or Destination Mars.
It’s a couple of generations later and we still are worried about things like a nuclear holocaust while our space program has withered from neglect. It seems we’ve dropped the ball, but once in a while we see a glimmer of hope like private space corporations and the recent flybys of Pluto, Saturn, and Jupiter.
Soft Rains suffers from a common problem in science fiction: using dates that eventually come and make the stories, well, dated. I see this less now than from the pulp and ‘golden age’ eras because authors want to make their stories relevant beyond a particular date range. In nine years, Soft Rains will succumb to the unrelenting forces of time catching up. Tick-tock! Time to wake up