Sunday, January 21, 2007

Fear and Colors

I had to get my oil changed yesterday morning since we were having a brief reprieve from rain and sleet, so I grabbed Ray Bradbury's Long After Midnight collection for the waiting room. Recently, Charles touched off some interesting discussion on the use of color to set tone and mood in fiction, noting Robert E. Howard made good use of the color black, while Stewart had some interesting comments on color in Something Wicked This Way Comes. I allowed how weather can serve in a similar fashion to set mood and tone.

While they replaced oil and wiper blades at the oil exchange, lo and behold I found myself reading a story that juggled all those elements.

The color white is used to make things eerie and ultimately redemptive in The Wish, a bit more upbeat variation of the Monkey's Paw set on a snowy Christmas Eve.

It begins with two writers in a huge, old, creaking house talking over life, death and miracles as they share wine and popcorn while the window is swept by "a whisper of snow."

The imagery continues with many wonderful poetic Bradbury touches:

  • "It was a proper night for ghosts of whiteness to visit windows and wander off."
  • "Is there a language of night and time and snow?"
  • "A gust of snow rattled the window, clung like a shroud, unraveled away."
  • "The graveyard resembled the scattered ruins of an ancient fort, blown up lifetimes ago, its monuments buried deep in some new Ice Age."

Tom, the narrator's Christmas Eve wish is to see his long-dead father again and the story unfolds from there, a story of the undead that's ghostly and touching, creating that magical Bradbury blend.

Variations of snow and white are mentioned repeatedly, like Howard's black--as Charles noted-- there without being noticed unless you're a bit primed for it.

I wish I'd discovered the tale for my pre-Christmas reading, but given the week we've had in Texas, it's nice for general winter reading as well.


Stewart Sternberg said...

You know Sid, in one writer group we discussed seasons in writing. Several horror writers opted for the fall, the idea of dying trees, the grey skies, the coming of Halloween. Me? Winter. Sometimes when working with horror, there is nothing more horrible than a snow covered landscape.

I lived in Port Sanilac for a while, in a rural area. Nothing across the road but corn field. Neighbors gone all winter. Behind the house..lake Huron, gray unending. Desolate. I dreaded winter.

Charles Gramlich said...

Weird, I reread a Bradbury story last night myself, "All Summer in a Day," which is set on Venus where the sun only comes out one hour every seven years. Weather is the primary motif here.

Sidney said...

I had never read "All Summer in a Day" but I looked it up in "The Stories of Ray Bradbury" and checked it out.

The impact of the ending is pretty powerful. It's very human science fiction and the rain is certainly both mood and plot device.

Sidney said...

Stewart, I've thought of you guys in the northern regions of late since we've had sort of winter weather-lite in my region.

It's been cold to us though nothing compared to what you guys probably deal with all winter.

I like autumn but winter, especially bleak winter with dead trees and everything certainly makes for a good horror landscape.

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