It’s already June and that means I’m half-way through “Bradbury of the Month”, my first Annual Featured Author. For this month, I picked Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Flying Machine”. A title like this won’t come as a surprise for anyone who has read much of Bradbury’s short stories and novels. For me, what did come as a surprise is that it’s a well-crafted Chinese fairly tale.
A Chinese emperor in A.D.400 becomes aware, by way of a servant, that one of his subjects can fly. As the emperor watches the man flying he understands the beauty of it. At the same time, something about this beauty threatens him. The reasons that power tends to stamp out beauty becomes the themes of the story and raises great questions about art and government. I feel like I say this every month, but I think “The Flying Machine” could be my favorite Bradbury story that I’ve read this year. And one of his best all around.
Of course, as usual, I had to think about which passage from the story I should post here. There are so many to choose from but I finally decided on this one:
And in the sky, laughing so high that you could hardly hear him laugh, was a man; and the man was clothed in bright papers and reeds to make wings and a beautiful yellow tail, and he was soaring all about like the largest bird in a universe of birds, like a new dragon in a land of ancient dragons.