Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bears Discover Fire - Terry Bisson

1993; 250 pages.  Genre : Anthology; Short Stories; Fantasy.  New Author? : No.  Overall Rating : 7½*/10.

    19 short stories from the imaginative mind of Terry Bisson, and published in various Sci Fi magazines in 1990-93.  They vary in length from 3 to 45 pages.

    The title story, Bears Discover Fire, is the best known, and won all sorts of awards : the Nebula, the Hugo, and the Sturgeon.  They're Made Out Of Meat is also famous, and was a Hugo nominee.

The Best of the Lot...
    Over Flat Mountain.  A gigantic upheaval raises the Appalachian Mountains 100,000 feet.  Yeah, the wear and twear on a semi trying to get over that hump is staggering  But it's all worth it when the driver picks up a young boy hitchhiking. 

    Press Ann. ATM options like you've never dreamed of.  Two Guys From The Future.  The good news for a struggling painter is that she's going to become famous.  The guys from the future say so.  The bad news is they're here to collect/preserve some of her works that she hasn't even painted yet.

    The Shadow Knows.  The last, and the longest of the stories.  SETI worked!  We've heard back from beyond the Solar System.   But not in the way we expected.

Kewlest New Word...
Importunate : persistent to the point of being annoying and/or intrusive.

Excerpts...
   "It all boils down to this," I said.  "Why did God give George wings only to have them cut off?"
    The minister told me that the ways of God were strange.  "Why does He give man life," he said, "only to take it away again?  Why did He create the sky and not allow the fish to see it?"  He continued in this vein for several minutes, and then concluded, "You know in your heart that the doctor and I are right - the child's wings must be removed."  (pgs. 74-75)

    "But we were trying to obey the law!"
    "That makes it even worse.  The law is a just master, but it can be harsh with those who try to sabotage its spirit by hypocritically observing its letter.  However, I'm going to delay sentencing on Conspiracy and Hoarding because we have an even more serious charge to deal with here."
    "Sentencing?  We haven't even been convicted yet."
    "Young lady, are you splitting hairs with me?"  (pg. 85)

If a lion could talk, we couldn't understand it  (Wittgenstein)  (pg. 206)
    The stories have different themes and settings; but each has a Bisson-trademarked "twist" in them.  This is Fantasy, and there is a lot of Surrealism, and very little Terror.

    The story Bears Discover Fire is a wonderful example of this, and a microcosm of Bisson's full-length novels.  It's set in Appalachia (Bisson's home ground), but then tickles your mind with a bunch of bears making bonfires, holding torches, and sitting around campfires eating newberries.

   But that isn't the story's focus; it's just the backdrop.  The main emphasis is a warm, interrelationship of a backwoods family.  And like them, you the reader are expected to just accept the ursine unnaturalness.  Weird, eh?  That's a typical Bisson technique, and he excels at it.

    Only a few of the stories seemed so-so, and your opinion of which ones are "meh" and which are "teh" won't match up with mine.  My generic advice re reading Anthologies applies here : read a couple per session; if you try to finish it in one sitting, it dulls the enjoyment.  7½ Stars, but only because there's a limit to how high I can rate any Anthology.  If you've never read any Bisson before, BDF is a nice way to get acquainted.

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