Career Highlights + Reminisce + Review: SF short story author Edward Bryant (1945-2017)

mngthddndt1973

(Gray Morrow’s cover for the 1973 edition of Among the Dead and Other Events Leading Up to the Apocalypse (1973), Edward Bryant)

On February 10th SF author and two-time Nebula Award winner Edward Bryant (1945-2017) passed away after a long illness. As the number of authors from my favorite era of SF is sadly dwindling as the years go by, I decided to briefly highlight his career and the stories of his I’ve read so far (too few!). Although primarily a short story author, Bryant co-wrote Phoenix in Ashes (1975) with Harlan Ellison. For more on his life and genre impact see the write-up posted after his death on Locus and his entry on SF Encyclopedia. I’ve decided to review two stories from his disturbing and powerful collection Among the Dead and Other Events Leading Up to the Apocalypse (1973).

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“The Hanged Man” (1972), short story, 4/5 (Good): “Shrikes were my playmates when I was about ten” (2). Two friends reminisce. But there’s a dark and sinister twist, one named Rockaway dangles, head downward tied by his feet to a tree branch and his friend refuses to cut him down…. Fragments of the world interjects into their unnerving conversion: family members have died, they survived by eating birds. Their conversation reflects the decay of the world, the passing obsessions that cloud the reality swirling about, a microcosm of the fraying relationships and ossifying emotion. “The Hanged Man” is a single interaction before the end.

Discomforting and powerful.

“Adrift on the Freeway” (1970), short story, 3.75/5 (Good): Thematically similar to “The Hand Man” and also reliant on dialogue between friends…. Despite the almost talky feel to these two stories, it is but cover for the inclement end. And not some external apocalypse, but an internally caused cataclysm, generated by our inability to form connections and meaning.

“‘Cars. Abandoned by the road’. . . ‘Like dead animals. Seven since El Paso” (39). Two friends drive out west, observing car after car abandoned by the side of the road, without sign of accident or even flat tires. Harve Gilbert invents a fantastical cause to the phenomenon! But the reality speaks more of our dark interior drives than some external invasion. Soon we discover how trapped Richard Forrester is in his world, and the true meaning behind the cars….

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In Universe 1, ed. Terry Carr (1971) I reviewed two of his short stories “The Human Side of the Village Monster” and “Jade Blue.” I found the former, review reproduced below, superior to the latter.

“The Human Side of the Village Monster,” short story, 3.5/5 (Good):  Far superior to “Jade Blue,” “The Human Side of the Village Monster” takes place in an overpopulated future where food is at a premium.  David and Terri desire a child but Terri is required to take birth control—child sellers loiter around the clinic, “Bet you’d like a kid” (197).  Downstairs lives a supposedly sinister old man named Gregor Jaindl…. who daily brings trash into his apartment.  And David and Terri are invited over for dinner and as Gregor reminisces about the past they dine on a mysterious meat.  As with the Silverberg story, Bryant suggests the transformed world and its problems rather than describes them at length.  The relationship of David and Terri is front and center.  And yes, “Gregor” is a reference to Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis (1924).

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In the coming weeks I plan on providing a full review of his first collection Among the Dead and Other Events Leading Up to the Apocalypse (1973). Let me know your favorite Edward Bryant story or if you plan on reading his work to honor his contribution to SF.

Note: I am the proud owner of a signed copy of Cinnabar (1976) with a note to a certain Michelle. The used bookstore I purchased it from seemed unaware that it was signed…

cinnabar-signed

A few career SF highlights

(link for bibliography)

His first published short SF story “Sending the Very Best” (1970) appeared in New Worlds, January 1970, ed. Charles Platt.

“The 10:00 Report is Brought to You By…” appeared in Again, Dangerous Visions (1972), ed. Harlan Ellison

“Shark” (1973) was nominated for the 1974 Nebula for Best Short Story.

Publication of his collection Among the Dead and Other Events Leading Up to the Apocalypse (1973)

Publication of his collection Cinnabar (1976)

“Particle Theory” (1977) was nominated for the 1978 Nebula for Best Novelette. “The Hibakusha Gallery” (1977) was nominated for the 1978 Nebula for Best Short Story.

“Stone”(1978) won the 1979 Nebula and was nominated for the Hugo for Best Short Story.

“giANTS” (1979) won the 1980 Nebula and was nominated for the 1080 Hugo for Best Short Story.

“Strata” (1980) was nominated for the 1981 Nebula for Best Novelette.

Publication of his short story collection Particle Theory (1981)

“The Thermals of August” (1981) was nominated for both the 1982 Hugo and Nebula for Best Novelette.

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(Peter Goodfellow’s cover for the 1978 edition of Cinnabar (1976), Edward Bryant)

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(Lou Feck’s cover for the 1977 edition of Cinnabar (1976), Edward Bryant)

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(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1981 edition of Particle Theory (1981), Edward Bryant)

For more reviews consult the INDEX

For more articles consult the INDEX

33 thoughts on “Career Highlights + Reminisce + Review: SF short story author Edward Bryant (1945-2017)”

  1. I do know of Ed Bryant and have read about him,but haven’t read anything by him.It’s not surprising really,largely since I’ve never seen anything of his anywhere.It was interesting therefore,to see that there was a book printed by him from a British publisher,Fontana,in 1978.I suppose it was never reprinted by them.

    1. His SF appeared in many of the major magazines (New Worlds, Fantastic, The Magazine of Fantasy and SF, Analog, etc), the Clarion anthologies, Again Dangerous Visions, Orbit anthologies, Universe, etc. But yes, that edition of Cinnabar was the only UK republication of one of his collections — to my knowledge.

      1. I’ve never really read that many SF magazines,and haven’t seen anything by him in any of the anthologies I’ve read.If I was to see anything in at least an anthology anywhere that contained something by him,I’d be quite pleased to read it at present,since I don’t intend to rush after his stuff so soon after his death.He was obviously a select choice of author though,who enjoyed critical acclaim by a small fan base.

        1. I think that’s the fate of a lot of authors who wrote primarily short science fiction… other than Ellison — haha

          I guess you have to look through his short fiction to see if any appeared in an anthology you own. I linked his bibliography in the post.

          1. Well,other authors who were successful mostly in that form come to mind,such as Bradbury,Sheckley,Ballard,Varley,but that is but a few.Philip K.Dick wasn’t all that successful in that form until he turned to novels,and he’d wrote literally volumes,assuming he was even after that.

            Bryant will be an author to watch out for though.

            1. Yes, but they wrote novels as well which they are known for (or published fix-ups of short stories as novels — Wilhelm comes to mind). Bryant and Ellison as a general rule did not.

              You’re missing my point — which was meant more as a joke in regards to Ellison….. hence the “haha.”

    1. Maybe I’m in the unusual situation of having 400 + unread SF novels and anthologies laying around my house. If I want to read the short fiction of an author, I always browse through the unread volumes in a great SF hunt! haha

      1. Yes,I’ve only read the famous original anthology.There’s some really good stuff there,with three no less by Gene Wolfe.At 760 pages plus introductory parts,that’s a really big anthology though,with many short pieces,to buy at present just for one short story by Ed Bryant and
        probably just some or a few others I might like.I know how difficult I am to please.

        Thanks anyway.

        1. Then don’t, I don’t know what to say Richard. Explore new authors, or don’t, it’s up to you….

          And, it would hardly be for one story. I bet you there are at least 6 or 7 authors (at least!) in there you haven’t read…. And, it’s a mere £0.01 on Amazon UK (you have to add shipping of course).

          I’m not trying to force you to buy something. It’s more along the lines that I throw up my hands at this conversation — “I haven’t read him. I don’t have anything by him. He seems interesting. I don’t want to find a story. I am content reading what I have.”

          This website is really about the act of “exploration.” And all the fascinating directions it takes me both good and bad… And I hope to convey that to my readers. That is why I have these posts. This is why I review anthologies so often.

          1. Well,I’m still interested in your posts,perhaps even more so if they’re about authors I haven’t read.That means I am interested in reading them,but I can’t always just rush out fast and read them,especially when it’s an author like Ed Bryant who I had a chance to read years ago when he was alive.It does take time.

            I read your posts about Barry Malzberg for several months before I decided to read “Beyond Apollo”.Also “Ice” soon afterwards following your recent post,but I’d had it in mind many years before that to read it if I could have found it,so when you reviewed it,I had to go for it if it was available.However,I don’t suppose I’d have read them today if not for your posts.Nor Michael Bishop’s “Transfigurations” and “Stolen Faces”,by an author I’d read quite a bit about.This time last year,I read Craig Strete’s “If All Else Fails”,an author I’d never heard of before your recent review.

            All I’m trying to say Joachim is,I just have to go at my own pace.I have some new books coming up.

  2. I do not know Bryant, but that cover with the city made of spheres and tubes connected together and shiny makes me want to read the book. The only way to better that would be to make it a sphere-and-tube city in a giant glass dome.

    1. Yes, it’s a fantastic cityscape. A city abstracted as pure “FUTURISM.” Love it.

      I read one story (“Jade Blue”) in the Cinnabar collection which didn’t sit well with me — I linked the Universe 1 review above. It’s a decadent cityscape themed collection filled with unusual characters, odd decayed landscapes, and strange perverse displays.

      I’ve enjoyed his non-Cinnabar stories far more (the three reviewed above).

      My friend over at MPorcius Fiction Log has read a variety of Bryant short fic (including others in the Cinnabar sequence).

      http://mporcius.blogspot.com/2015/02/three-stories-by-edward-bryant-road-to.html

    1. If I remember correctly, it was in a clearance section of the store and cost me $1. I highly doubt they even checked if it was signed — same thing with my signed editions of Spinrad’s Bug Jack Barron + Karen Joy Fowler’s Artificial Things….

  3. Hi

    I did read Among the Dead and Other Events Leading Up to the Apocalypse, my thoughts are here

    http://ajaggedorbit.blogspot.ca/search/label/Edward%20Bryant

    I have to say even if we do sometimes seem to diverge on how much we like certain works or authors I do enjoy your posts. Your recommendations take me out of my comfort zone, and I do have a lot of authors and anthologies in my collection that you have featured. It does round it out and keep me from getting too space opera focused. Also adding Orbit, New World etc. anthologies has been great using the ISFDB I can find lots of great stuff at a moments notice.

    My favourite Bryant has to be Shark a really dark take on the kind of oceanic SF that you find in the work of Zelazny and Clarke.

    Happy Reading
    Guy

    1. Dear Guy, I remember reading your review with great interest. Bryant seems to be a polarizing figure — as with many of the New Wave authors as you know. Some of his stories do not resonate with me (“Jade Blue” for example) but others, especially the ones I reviewed here are solid but not spectacular ruminations on fragmentation and decay (themes I enjoy obviously).

      I look forward to reading and writing about “Shark” when I decide to crack down and review the entire collection.

      Thank you for the kind words.

  4. Thanks for bringing Edward Bryant to my attention. I haven’t yet come across his work, but I’ll be looking for him in the future.

    “The Human Side of the Village Monster” sounds interesting and brings to mind Tiptree’s “Mystery Meat,” probably only because you mentioned “mystery meat,” overpopulation, and adoption. It would be interesting to compare the two stories.

    1. It’s pretty creepy story for sure — all of the ones I’ve read so far (other than “Jade Blue”) could be single incidents building towards the end of the world, caused by our own internal issues. Terrifying really.

      Are you referring to Tiptree’s “Morality Meat” (1985) ? I haven’t read any of her stuff from the 80s yet.

  5. I’m old enough to have read Bryant’s fiction as it was coming out in the sf magazines and anthologies of the seventies and thinking them pretty good. Been a while since I’ve read him tho’, sorry to hear about his death. We live in a world of the death of the cheap paperback, and as such, the easily accessibility of authors. Especially if you don’t like reading stuff online. I’m willing to bet that most modern readers wouldn’t know who Ellison is either, or have read much by him. We live in a niche society.

    I’m glad you liked Again, Dangerous Visions, however, having read it when it was first published I’d still have to rate it two stars, although I did like the first one. On-the-other-hand, maybe a re-reading is warranted. Take a look at ISFDB to see the contents of the Last Dangerous Visions and maybe you can do a short article on what that anthology would have been like.

    1. I’ve not read Again, Dangerous Visions cover to cover — same thing with the original collection, around 2/3rd of the stories stretched over the two in various anthologies, single author collections, etc.

      As for Last Dangerous Visions, it’s well trod enough ground (the arguments between Priest and Ellison) etc for me to mostly avoid writing about other than in passing. I have definitely looked through the listing for it. And I have thankfully been able to read some stories that were stuck in limbo — like Langdon Jones’ “To Have and To Hold”, among others.

  6. Gunn had “Particle Theory” in The Road to Science Fiction #4.

    The apocalyptic theme of the stories you reviewed is interesting. I recall reading some interview with Bryant where he said that post-apocalypse stories were of an interest to him because of his rural Wyoming childhood.

    This is how he described it in an interview in Platt’s Dream Makers: “My father had a romantic idea bout our family being cattle ranchers. So we went to southern Wyoming when I was six months old and did it without benefit of electricity or other civilized amenities; it was very much an Abraham Lincoln cliché. I walked half a mile to a one-room school, for the first three three-and-a-half grades.”

    1. I need to acquire Platt’s collection of interviews. A friend sent me the Malzberg one — he’s exactly how I thought he’d be….

      I recommend the Among the Dead and Other Events Leading Up to the Apocalypse! It’s relentlessly dark, for sure.

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