The early years of the so-called atomic age that followed the first test of nuclear weapons soon brought atomic science to the forefront of Bradbury’s prose. The final stories in his 1950 work The Martian Chronicles describe Earth’s destruction as a result of atomic war, and the slim hope of a new start on the Red Planet. The similar war that closes Fahrenheit 451 radiated out into some of his best short stories, such as The Last Night of the World – a chilling portrayal of a couple’s routine behaviour on the day before Earth is set to be destroyed.
Yet Bradbury soon realised that technologies capable of ending life on Earth could also lead to space flight, giving hope to his evolving belief that mankind’s destiny was in the stars. The full flowering of rocketry accompanying the space age led him to embrace a new genre of writing – the scientific essay – to celebrate these milestones.