June 30, 2018
This blog is called Jazz For A Saturday Night. It has been quite a while now since I felt motivated to write about jazz, although I definitely still love the music. In fact, as I write these words I am listening to the Ray Brown Trio.
But although my urge to write about jazz has waned, the desire simply to write is alive and well.
This is a warning that the short essay below has nothing to do with jazz. It is about a science fiction short story written by the late Ray Bradbury and which was first published by him in 1952. It is also about the results of the 2016 US Presidential election.
What does a short story written in 1952 have to do with an election that did not take place until 64 years later? To find out, read on. If you couldn’t care less, and I’m sure that many who will read these words feel that way, then by all means, leave. No hard feelings. 🙂
A Sound Of Thunder
Whenever I have dinner alone, which these days is most of the time, I eat it in my living room while I watch an episode of some favorite TV show from the past.
A few years ago I cut back my cable TV service to the bare minimum. Every month after that, I took the $85 that I would have sent to Comcast and instead invested it in buying boxed sets of my favorite shows.
Over the course of three years, I managed to accumulate a nice little video library. The best thing about it is that every penny was paid for, in effect, by Comcast.
Some of the shows I bought with Comcast’s money:
3rd Rock From The Sun
The Avengers (Only the Diana Rigg episodes so far)
Being Human (Both the British original series and the American version)
Nightmares & Dreamscapes
The Sarah Jane Adventures
Star Trek: Deep Space 9
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: Enterprise
WKRP In Cincinnati
And a few others. To be completely honest, I already owned some of these, such as Deep Space 9 and Doctor Who, before I began my little project.
Getting back to the business at hand, currently I am working my way through The Ray Bradbury Theatre, a science fiction/fantasy anthology series that produced 65 episodes that aired between 1985 and 1992.
This episode I watched tonight was based on one of Bradbury’s most famous short stories, the 1952 classic, “A Sound Of Thunder.”
The basic premise of the story is this: A rich man pays a fortune to be taken back in time so he can shoot a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Before they leave for the past, several people discuss the presidential election that had been held that day. The election pitted a moderate against a fascist with hitleresque qualities, and many expressed relief that the moderate won.
After the safari arrives in the past, the rich man accidentally steps off the elevated pathway and takes several steps on the muddy ground, despite having previously been given a specific warning against doing that very thing.
The head guide finally gets the rich man back on the pathway, and the group gets in the time machine to go home.
When they step out of the machine and into the time they left from, it is quickly apparent to them that several things have changed. Chief among the changes is the election results.
Not only did the fascist win, but it seems that everyone who had not gone into the past with their group was now celebrating the fascist’s victory.
The head guide looks down at the rich man’s mud-covered boots and notices a dead butterfly in the mud. He picks it up and looks at it, then lets it slip out of his fingers and fall to the floor.
At that point he draws his handgun, a giant revolver large enough to have been lifted straight out of Dirty Harry’s personal arsenal. He points the behemoth at the rich man and shoots him in the head.
Hence the title, “A Sound Of Thunder,” that being the last thing the rich man heard before his scrambled brain flew out the back of his ruptured skull. Because the rich man killed that butterfly 65 million years ago, the history of the world changed.
You would never guess it from doing an online search, but this was the origin of the term, “the butterfly effect.”
I’m retelling this because of the obvious similarities between the election depicted in the story and our own presidential election in November 2016. Ray Bradbury died in 2012, but I can’t help but wonder, if he had lived just a few years longer, what would he have had to say about the similarities?
Did someone out there travel into the past and step on a butterfly?
If you would like to watch the episode discussed, you can find it on YouTube at here.
If you would rather read the actual short story, go here for a .PDF you may download.
I freely admit that my synopsis of the story left out a lot. If I told you everything, it would no longer be a synopsis. It would be plagiarism.
Thanks for reading this.
Wood Village, Oregon
(Revised & spelling corrected 7-6-2018)