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Ray Bradbury was a prolific American writer. He wrote several books of short stories, including “The Martian Chronicles.” The stories in The Martian Chronicles tried to imagine the Space Age in the 1950s, when space travel was only a topic of speculation and hope. Bradbury’s work tempers the excitement of traveling through space with a deep worry about humanity’s ability to reach beyond our grasp, and the consequences that can result. Deeply humane in contrast to Borges’s mathematical precision, these are two writers examining the furthest reaches of, at the time, impossible places.
Flannery O’Connor was an American writer best known for her short stories. The stories in her most famous collections, Everything That Rises Must Converge and A Good Man Is Hard to Find are less interested in taking readers to the far reaches of the imagination than they are deep dives into the fragility of the human psyche. O’Connor tells stories that try to figure out why people act the way they do, and considers the forces that the world brings to bear on the decisions they make. Her use of the grotesque allows O’Connor to investigate and indict those who think themselves above the concerns of their humble Southern compatriots, deploying deep irony to expose the thoughtless cruelty people can justify to themselves.
Shirley Jackson was an American writer. Her most famous short story, “The Lottery,” was published in 1948. The reaction to her story and her subsequent work was such that, like Borges, “Jacksonian” is an adjective used to describe literature. A “Jacksonian” short story is suffused with dread. It is often domestic, quiet, and uncanny. Jackson’s stories do not shout their strangeness, but slowly unfold with an accumulation of details that, alone, the reader could ignore. In the aggregate, however, they reveal a world that is very much like that of the reader’s, but somehow undeniably wrong. Jackson’s characters often do not even acknowledge the strangeness of their world, leaving the reader both distressed and off-balance.