Moderan by David R. Bunch / ISBN 9781681372549 / 352 page paperback from NYRB Classics
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.
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.”