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The answer to a recent question of mine was one of the Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. This reminded me of my very first touch with SF.

It had to be in 1962 at the very latest because I remember exactly where I was sitting in my parents' earlier apartment, the one we left on December 31th, 1962. I read it in French (of course at that time I knew no English at all...) in a magazine, but not an SF magazine, rather a kind of "People" magazine, a tabloid, that just happened to have a page devoted to a (very) short story that was SF on this issue. (I assume it had a regular page devoted to a "short story" but I have no idea whether it was always SF or not.)

I don't know whether it was another one of the Martian Chronicles, and at that time I had of course no idea that this series existed. The name of Ray Bradbury was unknown to me so I would not have recognised it either. But now, more than 60 years later, I just made a possible connection. However, it might very well be by a totally different author. I have looked at the list of the Martian Chronicles on Wikipedia, but many are not detailed enough for me to determine if it is this story or not.

I remember very little, except that It did take place on Mars. IIRC, the POV character considered himself as a Martian. He was looking at Earth (just a point in space, but brighter than any star) and remembered the sad story of the Earthlings who had destroyed their own planet. Some of them had come to Mars, but I don't remember precisely what the POV character thought that happened to them.

Maybe I am mistaken, but IIRC the gist of the story seems to be that he himself was in fact a descendent of Earthlings, though he was convinced he was not. Indeed the last few words of the story is that, while looking sadly at Earth, he finds himself repeating a sound that makes no sense to him but he believes to be probably an obsolete very, very old word : "Terre, Terre.." (I assume it was "Earth, Earth..." in the original version)


EDIT

After Occam Shave found the answer, namely the french translation of Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed by Ray Bradbury, which I recognized immediately despite my false memory of the nostalgic scene, a Martian uttering a Terran word he did not understand instead of the actual story, a Terran uttering a Martian word he did not understand, two questions remained.

First, we could not find any reference in ISFDB to a magazine publication, only a paperback collection published in 1961, which perfectly fit my memories as the latest possible year but also the most probable, since I only started Junior High in september 1961. Much earlier I would hardly have had enough maturity to appreciate such a story. Why no trace of this magazine publication about the same time ?

Second, why did I get the nostalgic scene reversed ?

I managed to get the full text of the story (in English). And I immediately understood the common answer. The story was much longer than the one I had read. But Occam Shave was still right, my story was indeed the one he suggested. But not all of it. Only a very abridged form. Two scenes I clearly recognized, the nostalgic one (even when reverse of what I thought I remembered) and the arrival of a rocket from Earth. That the Terrans of the rocket realised that the gentle dark and golden-eyed "natives" were certainly not guilty of destroying the Terran colony definitely struck a chord. Contrary to them, having the advantage of having read the story, I did understand that they were the Terrans having turned Martians.

But the detailed part between these two scenes, describing the steps of the transformation, did not look familiar to me, or at least not so long, and not with so many details. I am convinced it was very shortened in the version I read, and did not imprint in my memory. So after 60 years, I got the false feeling that the nostalgic scene, instead of being in fact one of the first signs of "martianisation" of a Terran, was instead one last remain of "terran-ness" of an almost-Martian, shortly before the transformation was completed.

So what I read was a abridged version, just a teaser for the whole collection (though of course a total spoiler for this particular story). This collection, a translation of A Medicine For Melancholy contains no less than 22 stories, and unless I am mistaken, only this one is a Martian Chronicle. Maybe the magazine even made it clear it was not the full story, I don't remember.

And since it was not the full story, but an abridged one, it makes sense that it was not listed in ISFDB !

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  • Or, possibly, "Terra"
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented May 1 at 17:37
  • You mean, the word in English ? This is not the name of a story, is it ? I'm pretty sure in French is was just "Terre", as at that age, the word "Terra" would have looked strange to me, ant I think I would have remembered it. But of course, I have no idea what it was in the original, in English or any other language.
    – Alfred
    Commented May 1 at 17:41
  • Ah. Yeah, I meant that "Terra" is the Latin word for Earth, and is used semi-commonly, especially in sci-fi. Sorry, didn't mean to suggest that was a title.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented May 1 at 18:13
  • :-P And I completely forgot that "Terre" is French for Earth. Sorry.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented May 1 at 18:14
  • Might be interesting the French on Mars coolfrenchcomics.com/wnu14.htm Commented May 1 at 22:27

1 Answer 1

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Making sure you can rule out (or in, if necessary) "Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed" by Ray Bradbury.

His stories were published in "regular" magazines; this one was first published in 1949; it was published in Argosy (UK) in March 1959 (but that not in French); it was published in the French version of "A Medicine for Melancholy" in 1961.

Not quite an exact match, so much as the closest match I know of so far:

Harry Bittering sees the changes happening to the earth life brought to Mars. He does see Earth and calls out its name -- but in the Martian language. (Which he does not know; it just came out.)

A green star rose in the east. A strange word from Mr.Bittering's lips. "Iorrt. Iorrt." He repeated it. It was a Martian word. He knew no Martian.

In the middle of the night he dialed a call through to Simpson, the archaeologist. "Simpson, what does the word 'Iorrt' mean?" "Why that's the old Martian word for our planet Earth." Why?"

However, you probably would have found this one already. The publications, time frame, printed language, and what the character calls out naming Earth made it a memory-nagging partial match.

I know the story you're searching for is not necessarily by Bradbury; this is to rule it out if not the one.

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  • 2
    This is definitely the one ! My memories were partly wrong, but the lines "A strange word from Mr.Bittering's lips. "Iorrt. Iorrt." He repeated it. It was a Martian word. He knew no Martian." followed by "Simpson, what does the word 'Iorrt' mean?" "Why that's the old Martian word for our planet Earth." Why?" definitely strike a chord. I remembered it reversed, but now that I see it, I'm positive it was so. Thanks a lot !
    – Alfred
    Commented May 2 at 0:41
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    Good call. This is the canonical "Martians used to be Earthlings" story by Bradbury :)
    – Andres F.
    Commented May 2 at 0:41
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    The publication in a collection in a paperback book was in 1961. But I am positive I read it in a "general type" magazine. Possibly it was a teaser, as an add for readers of the magazine to buy the book. A bit strange it would be a full story, but it was really a short one. ISFDB does not list it, but maybe they do not list such teasers/adds. But yes, "Iorrt, Iorrt" "It was a Martian word. He knew no Martian. " though te reverse of what I thought I remembered (a Martian uttering a Terran word when he knew no Terran) is undoubtedly what I really read at that time.
    – Alfred
    Commented May 2 at 0:58
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    Well I did find "Blank?" by Randall Garrett on ISFDB at the same time as "Blank!" by Asimov in 1957. No trace of the publication by Playboy for the former one. Of course it is possible that Playboy completely gave up the idea. But, IIRC it is not what Asimov claimed. His was rejected, others were accepted. Or maybe I got it wrong. I don't remember in which of the many collections containing Blank! Asimov commented on this.
    – Alfred
    Commented May 2 at 8:05
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    @OccamShave I have solved the problem of the non-listing of what I read. I found the full text of "Dark they were.." and it is much longer that what I read in French in 1961. I recognised a few parts, the "Iorrt, Iorrt.." and also the end, when a rocket arrives 5 years later with Terrans on it. But a lot of pieces do not ring any bell, even the very end, about the names. The end I remember is "One of the mysteries you read about". So it was just a few excerpts. Just a teaser/advert for the book just published or to be published soon. Such an incomplete story would not be listed anywhere.
    – Alfred
    Commented May 3 at 9:02

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