Bradbury’s “The Million Year Picnic” (1946) is a somber metaphor about what a picnic is not—a family’s escape from Earth to build a new Eden on Mars. We don’t know how it ends because this is the final story in the collection of The Martian Chronicles.
Sometime around 1999, the Thomas family (Mom, Dad, and three boys) board their “small family rocket” and fly to Mars. Once landed, Dad destroys the rocket, effectively leaving them stranded. On their first Martian evening, Dad burns piles of papers in a picnic campfire until “All the laws and beliefs of Earth were burnt into small hot ashes.”
Riding in a motorboat along in a canal of violet water, Dad tells the children a convenient lie: this trip is a vacation, a picnic. When their son Robert asks, “How far are we going?” Dad says, “A million years.” “Gee,” says Robert.
Passing ruined uninhabited cities of Mars, the children ask when they will see Martians. At this point, they do no comprehend that they are now the Martians. Dad asks to look in the water, “The Martians were there–in the canal–reflected in the water, “ he says. And when the boys look, they see Martians staring back at them.
They have enough provisions for years, but Bradbury is short on the details
See Ray Bradbury. “Million Year Picnic,” (1946), The Martian Chronicles. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co.,1950; Michael Anderson. The Martian Chronicles (1980). Screenplay by Richard Matheson based on Bradbury’s stories.
Featured Image: Illustration by Alexander Leydenfrost for the first publication of the story in Weird Science, Summer,1946