I haven’t read every story by Ray Bradbury, but Graham George Barber may have. Barber contacted me to point out that Ray Bradbury did write at least two more stories with Queer characters, after my writing about Bradbury’s story “The Better Part of Wisdom “ (Boogieman In Lavender, July 11, 2016.) None of the stories are science fiction or fantasy, and they all speak of attitudes toward the LGBT community that a straight writer would have had back in the 1950s, but they are Bradbury. By the very nature of this exposition, this review will contain spoilers.
In “Long After Midnight,” characters investigate a hanging, the suicide of a young woman. In the story’s ending they find that the woman was not female; what we would call transgender today.
Again, there is the mastery of Bradbury’s prose as the story ends:
“Somebody tell me,” said Latting, so quietly they almost could not hear the words. “Do we stop feeling bad now? Or do we feel worse?”
Here, the LGBT character is a figure of tragedy (which was/is a huge stereotype in such fiction) but the reader’s sympathy is still drawn to her.
In “The Cold Wind and the Warm,” the tall, willowy David Snell-Orkney, a sort of Quentin Crisp figure checks into a Dublin hotel along with “five short willowy youths of some twenty years,” an event which causes no end of commotion. Obviously gay though not overtly stated, but “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” is referenced. If Snell-Orkney is a stereotype, so are the townspeople depicted at the local pub. And the similarities are not lost on the pubgoers.
“Are we or are we not great ones for the poem and the song…and aren’t they fond admirers of the song and the writing of same and the dancing out the whole?”
Those stories reflect the attitudes of the time they were written, but the gay characters are treated largely positively which for the time was certainly against the grain. These stories are not “Will and Grace,” but in them a legendary writer pulls back a curtain just a little way to show his straight audience a sympathetic view of the LGBT characters. “Long After Midnight” is the title story in one of Bradbury’s collections, and “The Cold Wind and the Warm” can be found in the collection “I Sing the Body Electric.”
Turning to three Bradbury stories that have become more topical recently, When Ray Bradbury arrived in Dublin to work on the script for Moby Dick he saw a poster advertising Laurel and Hardy who were performing nearby, one of the stops on their tour the current movie “Stan & Ollie” depicts. Bradbury ran to the theater, bought a ticket and saw the show. This led him, decades later, to write three stories. “The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair,” presents an office romance between two fans of the comedy team. “Another Fine Mess,” takes place in L.A. at the site where Laurel and Hardy filmed their Oscar-winning short “The Music Box,” carrying a piano up a long flight of stairs, and reveals that the stairs are haunted. Who is haunting is easy to guess, but why they are haunting the stairs is sweet and touching.
In “The Laurel and Hardy Alpha Centauri Farewell Tour,” Stan and Ollie show up on a space colony in the far future (where they couldn’t possibly be!) to entertain colonists who sorely need it. (The three stories can be found in Bradbury’s collections “One More For the Road,” “The Toynbee Convector” and “Quicker Than The Eye.”)
Lastly, someone very familiar to QSF readers and writers who was definitely in the LGBT spectrum puts in an appearance in Bradbury’s story “Last Rites,” also in “Quicker Than The Eye.” It is in the last word of the story, and there will be no spoiler here.
Jeff Baker blogs about reading and writing sci-fi, fantasy and horror on or about the thirteenth of each month. He has been published in Lambda literary and the Queer SciFi anthologies among other places. He regularly posts fiction on his blog, https://authorjeffbaker.com/ He lives in Wichita, Kansas with his husband Darryl and a ton of books (including Ray Bradbury.)His Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/Jeff-Baker-Author-176267409096907/.