Escape – “The Earthmen” by Ray Bradbury

Note: This post was imported from an old content-management system, so please excuse any inconsistencies in formatting.

Escape (1947-54) aired Ray Bradbury’s “The Earthmen” on July 25, 1951. The story first saw print in the August 1948 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories (though it failed to make the cover). It is one of the stories comprising Bradbury’s 1950 “novel” The Martian Chronicles, the table of contents giving the title as “August 1999: The Earth Men.” We’ve previously showcased a number of Bradbury (1920-2012) stories adapted for radio, either from The Illustrated Man or The Martian Chronicles, and as is the case with this one, they are of uniformly high quality.

“The Earthmen” finds a crew of four Earthmen making their first landing on Mars, where unbelievably to them, the Martians look human, dress in ordinary clothing, speak English, and on the surface hardly seem a threat, if a tad unfriendly. It is soon apparent that all is not as it seems as the crew is quickly diagnosed as certifiably insane by the Martians. The Martians believe the crew are hallucinating their spaceship, and don’t believe their story of coming from another planet. How the Earthmen react, trying to convince the Martians they are sane, and how the Martians deal with potentially dangerous members of their own society (as they believe) informs this tale of delusional madness. But just who is sane, and who are the ones willing to commit murder in the throes of their madness? This is one of the most chilling tales of several in Ray Bradbury’s classic The Martian Chronicles, and it makes a great bit of suspenseful radio.

1951 was a terrific year for short fiction as the following stories attest: Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Sentinel” (Ten Story Fantasy, Spring–the story upon which the film 2001: A Space Odyssey was based); Ray Bradbury’s “The Fire Balloons” (Imagination, April); C. M. Kornbluth’s “The Marching Morons” (Galaxy, April); Anthony Boucher’s “The Quest for St. Aquin” (New Tales of Space and Time, November); and Fritz Leiber’s “A Pail of Air” (Galaxy, December).

Authors making their genre debut in 1951 were Charles Beaumont, Walter M. Miller, Jr., Harry Harrison, Alan E. Nourse, E. C. Tubb, and Zenna Henderson.

In 1951 Algernon Blackwood died, while Orson Scott Card was born.

Play Time: 30:54

{Momentarily stunned by the ending of this episode, our young neighborhood hooligans regrouped quickly and met at the corner durgstore for another fix of their favorite reading. Among the many magazine covers spread before their eager eyes in July of 1951 are the ones displayed below. Astounding SF was still a monthly, F&SF went bi-monthly in 1951 from its quarterly 1950 schedule, and Other Worlds Science Stories’ erratic schedule would produce seven issues in 1951.}

[Left: Astounding, July 1951 – Center: F&SF, June 1951 – Right: Other Worlds, June/July 1951]


To view the entire list of weekly Old Time Radio episodes at Tangent Online, click here.