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Bunch, David R

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1925-2000) US poet and author, whose longest paid employment was as a civilian cartographer for the US Air Force 1954-1973. It has been estimated – or claimed, apparently first by Judith Merril – that he published as many as 200 short stories before beginning to publish work of genre interest professionally with "Routine Emergency" for If in December 1957, though an earlier involvement with Fandom seems to have led to the publication of a yet-undetermined number of sf stories in such Fanzines as Science Fiction Advertiser (see Riverside Quarterly), including "Manunkind: A Story Sequence" (June 1956 Science Fiction Advertiser). Much of this early work may have appeared under pseudonyms which have not yet been uncovered.

Bunch's first book remains his best-known (though it has never been reprinted): Moderan (coll of linked stories 1971; exp 2018), is a series of short, narratively deranged, fable-like tales which describe in satirical terms (see Satire) a radically technologized future world where, after a nuclear Holocaust, humans have been transformed into Cyborgs, the surface of the Post-Holocaust world is plastic, and thought and action are both solipsistic and deeply melancholy. The book's portrait of a manufactured humanity works as an arraignment of the late-twentieth-century slide into speed-lined rootlessness, and demonstrates his heterodoxy in the world of sf. Of the many non-Moderan stories, "That High-Up Blue Day that Saw the Black Sky-Train Come Spinning" (March 1968 F&SF) is an outstanding conflation of moral seriousness and Grand Guignol, in which children – who often appear in Bunch's tales just as they become monsters or are destroyed (see Children in SF) – are given an unusual chance to escape. Bunch's style at its best conveys resembles R A Lafferty's at his best, though it is far more exclamatory, and rhetorically pixilated, than Lafferty's work. At its most intense, Bunch resembles a diced, gonzo Walt Whitman, sampling (in a frenzy) the body electric. The relentlessness of his vision and the "zany" extremity of his rendering of it ensured Bunch's continuing unpopularity, which was not much lessened by the release of Bunch! (coll 1993), for the contents of that book are if anything more extreme than those of Moderan. His oeuvre is a marker of the wide range of modern sf, but his career marks the reluctance of most readers to explore that range.

Some of Bunch's poetry was assembled in We Have a Nervous Job (coll 1983 chap) and The Heartacher and the Warehouseman (coll 2000 chap). [JC]

see also: Absurdist SF; Amazing Stories; Cybernetics.

David Roosevelt Bunch

born Lowry City, Missouri: 7 August 1925

died St Louis, Missouri: 29 May 2000




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