September 23, 2004

What's that sound?

The return of Ray Bradbury's "The Sound of Thunder" to the cultural consciousness should spark a revisiting of a classic sci-fi geek debate... at the end of the short story, what is "the sound of thunder?"

The old Ray Bradbury Theater TV show took the minimalist approach, that the sound is the last sound the time traveller who stepped on a Jurassic butterfly hears (aptly spoofed in Simpsons Treehouse of Horror V, btw), as his comrade blows him away for screwing with history.

Me, I always preferred the alternative... apparently taken up in the new movie, that the thunder is something much worse. Bradbury, always careful with these things, has the sentence "There was a sound of thunder" exactly twice in the story... after a second reading I concluded the second sentence was meant to evoke the first, and the time travellers have altered much, much more than a presidential election and some English syntax.

Paul Wells, on the other hand, evidently is old-school about these things.

PS: What is it about butterflies as agents of catastrophic change? Bradbury's story apparently has nothing to do with the coining of the phrase "butterfly effect," at least on any conscious level, but there it is.

Posted by BruceR at 11:10 AM