(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).
“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….
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).
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…
A few career SF highlights
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.
(Peter Goodfellow’s cover for the 1978 edition of Cinnabar (1976), Edward Bryant)
(Lou Feck’s cover for the 1977 edition of Cinnabar (1976), Edward Bryant)
(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1981 edition of Particle Theory (1981), Edward Bryant)
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