The Great Fantasy Novel Nomination: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Our next nomination comes from Stina Leicht, author of Of Blood and Honey and its sequel, And Blue Skies from Pain. She is also a nominee for the 2012 and 2013 John Campbell Award.


“Far away, in the meadow, shadows flickered in the Mirror’s Maze, as if parts of someone’s life, yet unborn, were trapped there, waiting to be lived.”

― Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes

Is Something Wicked This Way Comes the Great Fantasy Novel?
Is Something Wicked This Way Comes the Great Fantasy Novel?

My personal recommendation is Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. Published in 1962, it’s a coming-of-age story set in a small midwestern American town attacked by the forces of darkness, terror, and temptation in the form of a traveling carnival. Its poetry of wisdom, love, nostalgia, and dark whimsy has left an indelible stamp upon the American fantasy landscape. It is a masterpiece of horror, longing, and human nature. It is deeply moving in its adoration of the simple things, of youth, friendship, and adventure, and the destruction of innocence that is the price of wisdom and maturity. Its sadness is steeped in the honey-gold of a deep affection for humanity and hope in spite of hopelessness. It’s a novel that never fails to remind us all that humanity’s best weapon against darkness can be a child’s laugh.

The decade in which Something Wicked This Way Comes was published is infamous for its tumultuousness. The title of the novel alone could serve as a herald of what was to be.

The 1960s were filled with souls who broke with the rigid mores of the earlier decade and embraced temptation on a much wider scale than ever before. America’s innocence was openly discarded by its youth culture. It was a time when the Baby Boomer generation—a generational force larger than any before it—came of age. The young out-numbered the old, and they were, like Bradbury’s main characters, splintered. Some, like Will Halloway, would find their way in seeking out the light, while others, like Jim Nightshade, would ever turn to the dark.

Not that Baby Boomers are or were any different than any other generation in that regard. However, due to their numbers, their choices were and are more affecting to the rest of us. Was Bradbury making a commentary about how things were simpler when he was young and coming of age? There’s certainly an aspect of nostalgia in the book. However, the ending is filled with hope for the future, not despair. I don’t think he saw the Baby Boomers as a curse. I think he saw them as the human beings they were—filled with imperfections and beauty and granted a power to make change far earlier than in previous generations and thus, in greater danger. I think he wrote Something Wicked This Way Comes as a message of encouragement. I think he wrote it to let us know that there would always be the power of love—no matter how dark life might become, no matter the mistakes or bad choices, and no matter what horrors might randomly be visited upon them by outside forces. I think that’s a message that all Americans want to believe in. We don’t just want the happy ending, we expect the happy ending.

That makes us unique in the world, I think, and I’d venture to say that this isn’t always a good thing; for, if you expect no other alternative, you’re less likely to consider the consequences of your actions. Nonetheless, I think Bradbury wisely considered that aspect of life and addressed it as well.

“A stranger is shot in the street, you hardly move to help. But if, half an hour before, you spent just ten minutes with the fellow and knew a little about him and his family, you might just jump in front of his killer and try to stop it. Really knowing is good. Not knowing, or refusing to know is bad, or amoral, at least. You can’t act if you don’t know.”
― Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes


This article is part of our search for “The Great Fantasy Novel.” For more information on this project or to nominate your own favorite fantasy novel, please take a look at the introduction articleDo you agree or disagree with this nomination? Let us know in the comments below!

Stina Leicht is a 2011 and 2012 Campbell Award nominee. Her debut novel Of Blood and Honey, a historical Fantasy set in 1970s Northern Ireland, was short-listed for the 2012 Crawford Award. The sequel, And Blue Skies from Pain is in bookstores now. She has a flash fiction piece in Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s surreal anthology Last Drink Bird Head, and a short story in the anthology Rayguns Over Texas which will be available this fall.

About Stephan van Velzen

Stephan van Velzen
A 31 year-old Communications student, Stephan loves publicity and design, particularly web design. When he’s not designing websites, he can be found in a comfy chair reading a fantasy book. In The Ranting Dragon, he has found a way to combine these passions and discover a new love for writing to boot. Stephan lives in a small town in The Netherlands with his wife Rebecca, an editor for The Ranting Dragon, and their two cats.

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