The Martian Chronicles: Chapter Nineteen

Usher II (April 2005/2036) first published as Carnival of Madness in Thrilling Wonder Stories, April 1950. “Usher II” tells of Bradbury’s and other writers’ fear of censorship.

A literary expert named William Stendahl retreats to Mars and builds his image of the perfect haunted mansion, complete with mechanical creatures, creepy soundtracks and the application of many tons of poison to kill every living thing in the surrounding area. He is assisted by Pikes, a film aficionado and former actor whose collection was confiscated and destroyed by the government and was subsequently banned from performing. When the Moral Climate Monitors come to visit, Stendahl and Pikes arrange to kill each of them in a manner reminiscent of a different horror masterpiece, culminating in the murder of Inspector Garrett in a sequence reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado”. When Stendahl’s persecutors are dead, the house sinks into the lake as in Poe’s short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher”.

Bradbury hints at past events on Earth, set in 1975 – 30 years prior to the events in “Usher II.” A government-sponsored ‘Great Burning’ of books is described, followed by the emergence of an underground society of citizens possessing small hoardings of books, the ownership of which had been declared illegal. Those found to possess books had them seized and burned by fire crews. Mars apparently emerged as a refuge from the fascist censorship laws of Earth, until the arrival of a government organization referred to only as “Moral Climates” and their enforcement divisions, the “Dismantlers” and “Burning Crew”. Bradbury would reuse the concept of massive government censorship (to the point of abolishing all literature) in his book Fahrenheit 451.

In 2010 Los Angeles artist Allois, in collaboration with Bradbury, released an illustrated copy of Usher and Usher 2 double feature.

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