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The Martian Chronicles is a series of short stories by Ray Bradbury collected into a single book, describing episodes from a future history in which Earth sends several manned expeditions to, and eventually colonizes, the planet Mars. (The stories, written in the 1940s and 1950s, depict the planet as habitable and -- initially -- inhabited.)

As originally written, the sequence begins with the first manned expedition to Mars in the distant future year of 1999. The stories were revised in 1997 to push it back to 2030.

"There Will Come Soft Rains", though set on Earth, is part of the same future history, and is included in some versions of the book.

Tropes used in The Martian Chronicles include:


  • Abnormal Ammo: see Bee Bee Gun
  • Adam and Eve Plot: Subverted in "The Silent Towns". A man wakes up to find that he's been left on Mars by accident after most of the Martian colony has gone back to Earth. He begins dialing phone numbers in a desperate attempt for human contact and manages get in touch with a woman, who he begins to fall in love with (based on their brief phone conversation). When they finally meet, he finds her obnoxious and decides he'd prefer a life of isolation.
  • Anyone Can Die: The series has characters dying left and right from the beginning. Then the nuclear war begins, and the previous death counts get put in perspective.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 2/3 for the native Martians and Class 4-6 for Earth.
  • Becoming the Mask: "The Martian" is about one of the natives trying to do this.
  • Bee-Bee Gun: The Martians use a gun that shoots live bees, the idea being that the moral responsibility for the actual killing is laid on the head of the living projectile, and the gun-wielder's role is mitigated to that of an accomplice. Proves every bit as effective as earthly firearms, which is lampshaded in the TV series by the turned human who states "...then I offered him my weapon, but he said he already had one..."
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The praying mantis machine in "Night Meeting".
  • Broad Strokes: Not all of the stories were originally intended to be in the same continuity, so this is applied. The native Martians are described very differently in some of the earlier stories than they are later on.
  • Buried Alive: William Stendhal reenacts "The Cask of Amontillado".
  • But What About the Astronauts?: The population of Earth is wiped out by a nuclear war, but the people on Mars survive.
  • Cassandra Truth: Nobody ever believes the captain of the second expedition when he says he is from Earth.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: The Martians' civilization. Most of the elements seem like a fantastic version of Egypt, with books written in hieroglyphs that sing when you touch them, houses built of crystal pillars and traveling using flocks of birds, all in the middle of a great desert.
  • Cultural Posturing: Spender believes the aliens developed their society far better than we did; he's not afraid to explain how to Captain Wilder. Oddly enough, the actual Martians never do this.
  • Earth-That-Was: The population of Earth is wiped out by a nuclear war, but the people on Mars survive.
  • Ghost Planet: Mars after the native Martians die out.
  • Ghost Town: In "The Silent Towns", Gripp walks around one and samples the abandoned services.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: Yll calls the human in Ylla's dream "a misshapen giant"; both characters are confused by the strange appearance of the Earth man.
  • I Want My Jetpack: See above, about the first manned expedition to Mars in the distant future year of 1999.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifter: In "The Martian", the titular character shifts between forms depending on which character looks at it. The other Martians seemed to have more self-control.
  • It Got Worse: Near the end of the short stories, there are only a few more than a hundred Martians left, the majority of humans abandoned Mars, and Earth is at war. Then Earth goes boom.
  • Kill'Em All: Near the end of the stories, almost every major character meets this fate.
  • Kicked Upstairs: One character starts to have qualms about colonizing Mars and leaving no traces of the native culture. In a later story in the collection, it's revealed he was stationed on a farther away planet in the solar system and thus literally "kicked upstairs".
  • Literary Allusion Title: "And the Moon Be Still as Bright", a quotation from Lord Byron's "So We'll Go No More A-Roving".
  • Lotus Eater Machine: The Martians are able to use their mental powers to create illusions based off of memory.
  • Mars Needs Women: A very literal inversion. The first human to land on Mars is shot dead because a native Martian foresaw that his wife was going to run away with the man.
  • Master of Illusion: Some of the Martians, particularly in "The Third Expedition".
  • Nuke'Em: The war on Earth has a lot of poorly thought-out nuke use.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Cross-species disease is a major plot point in "And the Moon Be Still as Bright".
  • Only Sane Man: Subverted in "The Earth Men." While the Martians seem insane in how they ignore the significance of the astronauts being explorers from a different world, it's revealed they think the astronauts are just insane Martians projecting illusions with telepathy.
  • Patchwork Story
  • Reality Bleed: "Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed"
  • The Red Planet
  • Replacement Goldfish / Ridiculously-Human Robots: Mr. Hathaways's family.
  • Sand Is Water: The Martians had sand ships.
  • Send in the Search Team
  • Shapeshifter Swan Song: The title character of "The Martian" appears to whoever sees him as a lost loved one. When he's surrounded by a crowd of people, who all need to see somebody different, the results are not pleasant.
  • Ted Baxter: Sam Parkhill is a violent example.
  • Throwaway Country / Shiny New Australia: Nuclear war on Earth begins with Australia accidentally being atomized. As in the entire landmass. The event is so energetic that it casts shadows on Mars. It's not entirely clear why there was anything left to fight over on Earth, or how anyone (or even a microbe) was still alive to fight after that, this might be a case of Science Fiction Writers Have No Sense of Scale.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: One early story, set in the segregated South, is about all the blacks in the area (or the country? it's been a while) pooling their resources to make/buy a rocket to get to Mars. They're never mentioned again through the entire rest of the book.
    • Then later, in The Illustrated Man, it is revealed that they go back to help the survivors of the nuclear war.
  • The Unpronounceable: The alien last names are pretty much impossible to pronounce in "The Earth Men", being three letters (Consonant or vowel) in a row.
  • Zeerust: Typewriters are still in use. Most of this is due to the time the stories were written.
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