Flipping through my books this weekend it came to my attention that I own at least four short stories by Ed Bryant. I knew nothing about Ed Bryant, and figured I might as well learn something.
This story first appeared in New Worlds in January 1970, which at that time was edited by Charles Platt. I read it in my copy of Clarion. The little intro from Robin Scott Wilson includes the phrase "Right on" and asserts that "Sending the Very Best" is both a love letter and an example of nonobjective art.
This is a two page (joke?) story. A man in the future buys a Hallmark card. In the future Hallmark cards project a holographic film, and we get a description of the film, which reads like a parody of a student film or some kind of art house short. Sample lines:
"She'll not be back?"Not good.
"No, not unless we try to prevent her returning."
"The Soft Blue Bunny Rabbit Story" (1971)
This 9 page story, also in Clarion, feels like 90 pages. Bryant tells us in the intro that it reflects his impressions of California in 1970.
The story takes place on a college campus in the grim but groovy future of 1981. Violent revolution is taking place all over the world, and our narrator, a Vietnam vet, has drug experiences, gets hassled by the Man, witnesses student unrest, has sex with "Shana, slim black fox from my romantic poetry seminar." Maybe it is supposed to be funny? It is surreal, that is for sure. Sample lines:
"The language of the dialectic has become so fucking confused, man."Not good.
FLASHflashFLASHflash--the strobe-light and strobe-sound of machinegun fire.
"Shark" appears in Orbit 12. I purchased a hardcover copy of this anthology of all new stories, edited by Damon Knight and published in 1973, at an antique mall while driving back to Iowa from New Jersey after a visit with my family and the Greek vases at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. My copy is from the collection of Chester Grabowski. Mr. Grabowski not only stamped his name on the first page, but left his business card in the book, which I think is adorable. Mr. Grabowski kept the book in very good condition, for which I thank him.
By 1973 Bryant was using "Edward" instead of "Ed," creating extra work for the people who run isfdb.
Unlike the two Clarion stories, "Shark" has characters, a plot, good pacing, and a degree of tension and suspense, all the things we squares like to see in stories. "Shark" still may count as a "literary" or "New Wave" story because it is anti-war, anti-establishment and is told largely out of chronological order through flashbacks and italicized paragraphs, but these attitudes and techniques don't get in the way of the tale.
In a future war control of the ocean depths is deemed essential, and so the military figures out how to implant the brains of human beings in the bodies of sharks and dolphins. An oceanographer's girlfriend loves sharks, wants to be a shark, and so volunteers to have her brain implanted into a Great White! Once she has achieved her dream of becoming a shark she ignores her orders and goes AWOL. The oceanographer, our main character, pursues her, but when he finds her she bites his arm off!
Years later, the war long over, the oceanographer is approached by government agents. They want to silence him, because the whole brain transplant story is coming to light and is bad PR for the current government. Luckily the oceanographer's former girlfriend comes on the scene to help him out.
Thumbs up for this quite good story; I enjoyed it a lot.
This one also first appeared in Orbit 12. It is a horror story, I guess, maybe a feminist story. It is only four pages.
An assistant editor at Playboy is accosted on the street by a beautiful blue-eyed blonde. She convinces him to accompany her to her apartment, taking a confusing and roundabout route. There she imprisons him in a room full of posters of the kind of celebrities sophisticated people are expected to admire, like Bob Dylan, Greta Garbo, the Kennedys. She applies plaster to his genitals, perhaps making a cast, and for a period shackles him to the ceiling, from which he hangs helplessly and painfully. It is not clear what she is ultimately going to do to him, and why she is doing what she is doing. Repeated references to eyes suggest she is doing to him what some would say pornography does to women, reducing him to a helpless sexualized object that exists merely to be viewed. Her name, Lucia, and references to Saint Lucia, perhaps provide another clue to the point of the story. The martyr Saint Lucia had her eyes gouged out, while the island of Saint Lucia, sometimes called "The Helen of the West Indies," changed hands over a dozen times during the many Anglo-French wars that took place from 1664 to 1815.
This story is marginally, maybe moderately, good. Perhaps it is remarkable for being a story by a male author which addresses the issue of "the male gaze."
The Clarion stories are the kind of stories I find pointless and irritating, but the Orbit 12 stories are the kind of stories I like: both are well-written and include physical and emotional drama and some kind of philosophical/intellectual content. I should root around in my anthologies and see if I can dig up any more Bryant stories.
If my little descriptions here have generated interest in these stories or Bryant's wider body of work, you will be pleased to learn that all four tales appear in the collection Among the Dead and Other Events Leading to the Apocalypse published last year by ReAnimus Press, and that ReAnimus Press has made available about a dozen volumes of his work, including his collaboration with Harlan Ellison.