[50/50] Short Story #5: “Frost and Fire” — Ray Bradbury (1946)
Ray Bradbury wrote a great many important, poetic and influential stories. But none have bowled me (and many others) over as much as one of his early short pulp pieces, “Frost and Fire,” a horrific and wildly imaginative allegory for the human condition. Set on a hyper-accelerated world where humans live their entire lives in eight days — from birth to old age in just over a week — “Frost and Fire” is a maddening rollercoaster ride of emotions as the protagonist rails against the unfairness of their existence, and bets his life on a discovery that could rescue mankind from their cruel fate. In an ultimate race against time, the elements, and the superstitions of his own people, he and his mate set out for a shining beacon on a distant mountain peak.
While Bradbury had a number of his works turned into movies and TV shows — though strangely enough without the same success as his contemporary, Phillip K. Dick — “Frost and Fire” is something of a Holy Grail among Bradbury fans. Saul Bass made a short, odd film based on the story in the early ’80s (see below), and it has been adapted for radio, comic book and, um, dance. It’s tight plot and pressing action are tailor made for a high-concept movie — and modern CGI could finally handle the constant aging the characters go through as they run for their lives. Whether a film ever gets made or not, the story (collected in Bradbury’s “R is for Rocket“) is well worth hunting down. You know, before time runs out.