NYRB has really found a lost gem in this one! Obscure even in their time (1960s/70s) and long out-of-print, David Bunch's interlinked Moderan stories present a startling, grim, bordering on absurdist future world of hyper-gendered society, fields paved in plastic, bodies merged with metal, and endless pointless warfare, all written in a gnarly poetic language that immerses the reader in the mind of a "Moderan man". This is Literary science fiction of the highest order, for readers that appreciate Stanislaw Lem, Jeff Vandermeer, LeGuin, Sam Delaney, Calvino & Kafka.— From Jonathan's Picks
A collection of chilling and prescient stories about ecological apocalypse and the merging of human and machine.
Welcome to Moderan, world of the future. Here perpetual war is waged by furious masters fighting from Strongholds well stocked with “arsenals of fear” and everyone is enamored with hate. The devastated earth is coated by vast sheets of gray plastic, while humans vie to replace more and more of their own “soft parts” with steel. What need is there for nature when trees and flowers can be pushed up through holes in the plastic? Who requires human companionship when new-metal mistresses are waiting? But even a Stronghold master can doubt the catechism of Moderan. Wanderers, poets, and his own children pay visits, proving that another world is possible.
“As if Whitman and Nietzsche had collaborated,” wrote Brian Aldiss of David R. Bunch’s work. Originally published in science-fiction magazines in the 1960s and ’70s, these mordant stories, though passionately sought by collectors, have been unavailable in a single volume for close to half a century. Like Anthony Burgess in A Clockwork Orange, Bunch coined a mind-bending new vocabulary. He sought not to divert readers from the horror of modernity but to make us face it squarely.
This volume includes eleven previously uncollected Moderan stories.
About the Author
David Roosevelt Bunch (1920–2000) was born in rural western Missouri. After serving as an army corporal during World War II, he worked toward a PhD in English literature at Washington University in St. Louis and then transferred to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he studied for two years before dropping out. He married Phyllis Flette in 1951 and they had two daughters, Phyllis and Velma. While working as a cartographer for the Defense Mapping Agency in St. Louis, he began publishing stories in sciencefiction magazines, two of which were included in Harlan Ellison’s landmark 1967 sci-fi anthology, Dangerous Visions. In 1971, Bunch published Moderan, a collection of stories set on a future earth devastated by war and environmental exploitation. In 1973, he retired from cartography to pursue writing full-time. A poetry chapbook, We Have a Nervous Job, followed in 1983, and Bunch! (1993), another book of short stories, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award. Bunch’s last book, the poetry collection The Heartacher and the Warehouseman, came out in April 2000. He died of a heart attack the following month. In 1965 he told Amazing Stories, “I’m not in this business primarily to describe or explain or entertain. I’m here to make the reader think, even if I have to bash his teeth out, break his legs, grind him up, beat him down, and totally chastise him for the terrible and tinsel and almost wholly bad world we allow.”
Jeff Vandermeer is the author of the Southern Reach trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance) and, most recently, of the novel Borne, which was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke award. His nonfiction has appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, The Guardian, and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife, the editor Ann VanderMeer.
“Great writers do two things at one and the same time: they bring us more fully into the world around us and they open worlds behind that visible, everyday one. They make us profoundly uncomfortable. I still approach these stories with a singular mix of anticipation and apprehension. No writer has ever made me more uncomfortable than David R. Bunch.” —James Sallis
“A mean treat. I’ve long felt [Bunch] was one of the most undersung and ill-known landmarks in sf...oh what intensity at the focus, what idiosyncrasy, what a one roaring diamond glimpse.” —James Tiptree, Jr., Letter to Ursula K. Le Guin
"This collection gives Bunch's cybernetic vision of the future new life for a new generation of science-fiction readers. Almost a half-century after these stories were originally released, the thematic power of Bunch's vision still resonates, the narrative equivalent of a new-metal alloy punch to the gut. A disturbing, stark, and deeply thought-provoking collection of stories chronicling humankind's demise into heartless automatons. " —Kirkus
“[Bunch’s] lasting influence stems in part from his grandiloquent and oft-absurd narratives, but more directly from his playful and impressionistic language…. A fascinating amalgam of existential reflection, social critique, and a boundless wonder at the foolish extremes to which men will turn in their quest for macho certainty.” —A.V. Club
"Jeff VanderMeer’s perceptive introduction, couched in Bunchian idiom, offers valuable insights. This is a steely view of a robot-dominated future." —Publishers Weekly
"Bunch is possibly the most dangerous visionary of all those assembled here." —Conceptual Fiction
"A writer whose work I admire vastly. And a writer who has, oddly enough, barely received the acclaim due to him." —Harlan Ellison