Sunday, June 27, 2010

Autumn People.

"…Beware the autumn people...
For some, autumn comes early, stays late, through life, where October follows September and November touches October and then instead of December and Christ’s birth there is no Bethlehem Star, no rejoicing, but September comes again and old October and so on down the years, with no winter, spring or revivifying summer.
For these beings, fall is the only normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond.
Where do they come from? The dust. 

Where do they go? The grave. 
Does blood stir their veins? No, the night wind. 
What ticks in their head? The worm. 
What speaks through their mouth? The toad. 
What sees from their eye? The snake. 
What hears with their ear? The abyss between the stars.
They sift the human storm for souls, eat flesh of reason, fill tombs with sinners. They frenzy forth. In gusts they beetle-scurry, creep, thread, filter, motion, make all moons sullen, and surely cloud all clear-run waters. The spider-web hears them, trembles—breaks.
Such are the autumn people. 

Beware of them."
 -- Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962)

I was about to write something like "I dunno about that, Mr. B!" but I then realized I would sound like Shirley Booth.

To be fair, they are Bradbury's creation and he can define them however he pleases. Then again, Gordon Lightfoot created his Rainy Day People and I'm not sure I buy into that whole thing either (high stepping strutters that land in the gutters?).

Still, I've always considered myself an Autumn Person, and I have always devoured Bradbury's October Country creations with insatiable enjoyment. So, how do I reconcile this description of soul-destroying evil the man himself gives Autumn folk?

I don't really know. It is a heck of a concept though.

In the 1950s, comic book legend Al Feldstein illustrated some 27 Ray Bradbury tales for EC Comics titles like Weird Fantasy, The Vault of Horror, and Tales From The Crypt.

In 1965, Ballantine Books got Feldstein and Bradbury together and released this paperback treasury of 8 Bradbury short stories, rendered in Feldstein's iconic black and white comic strip style. They also got the legendary Frank Frazetta to do the cover art:

... and used the main phrase from the above quote to give the whole shebang a ripping title. 

I recall having this paperback when we were kids -- I think it had originally belonged to one of my uncles but made its way down to my cousin Tom and we used to delight over the stark pulp images and the creepy stories.

If we're not all Autumn People who gather here at the pub or there at the graveyard, to sing and dance on a Hallowe'en night, what are we? I mean, we're happy, if dark, revelers. We're not life-killing vampires or joy-devouring dust witches.

I mean, Bradbury is himself an Autumn Person, avowed, enthralled, impassioned since childhood. How could he possibly think that Autumn People -- I mean, autumn -- hey, wait a second...

He never capitalized Autumn. Or People, or even Fall, in that quote up there.

Maybe that's it.

Capitalization gives a word its proper sense... and he didn't want to give the soul-sucking entities in Something Wicked any more power than they had (which, in his own words in the same book, is only the power we give them).

So we Autumn People, who certainly find Fall to be our "only normal season, the only weather", and whose veins are indeed stirred by "the night air", are the blessed and life-giving dwellers of the October Country after all, and those dry, soulless autumn people he warns us to avoid are those who would try to remove from us our passion and joy for life's wonders, using our fears to snatch from us our happiness.

But we are Autumn People. The facing of fear is our life's work! The true Autumn People can't be touched by those twisted others so long as they remain true to their Autumn souls.

autumn people don't get it. Autumn People are it.

It's all in the letters.

You win again Bradbury, you brilliant, brilliant bastard.

Spook on, and DDSP!


  1. Wow, you pulled that apart and put it back together with excellent grace. Simply perfect.

    Thinking of painting some quotes on the walls of my new office. Leaning towards Lovecraft..because I find Bradbury overused (sometimes in the Halloween circles) but you have got me thinking about this differently. Thank you!


  2. Sometimes I get lucky!

    Most of the time when I pull something apart, it needs to be put out of its misery and buried...

  3. LOL! I knew I loved your blog for a reason :)