David R. Bunch (Who is Sam Bellotto? What is Perihelion? Part 3)

Very under appreciated in his time, David Roosevelt Bunch (1925-2000) was an American writer of short stories and poetry. He worked mainly in the genres of science fiction, satire, surrealism, and literary fiction, and was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award and Locus Award for Best Collection.

A contemporary of Bradbury, Asminov, and Ellison when they were publishing in the little mags, Bunch was the only writer to have two stories in the same issue of “Dangerous Visions”. He also wrote occasionally as Daryle Groupe.

Startlingly original for its time, Bunch’s “Moderan” and “Little Brother, Little Sister” stories were originally published in 1950s and 60s Sci Fi mags such as “Amazing” and “Fantastic.” His stories centered on a dystopian world dominated by warring cyborgs. Humans were replaced by machines with an organic core. The transformation from human to machine was a painful ritual meant to remind the “machine being” of the disadvantage of the human state.


Some readers felt Bunch”was mocking them and their desire for linear narratives with clear plots and sympathetic characters,” blogs Matthew Cheney. “He was. But he was doing it out of necessity, and somehow he convinced editors to let him get away with it.”


All of Cheney’s blog is worth reading, but I’ll excerpt this much of it:


What readers who decided to hate Bunch, to deliberately Not Get It, missed out on what were, among other things, some of the best first sentences and paragraphs ever published in genre magazines:

At first I was always scared that the policemen would come. And there I’d be up in my poor little room kicking this head. So the extreme pleasure I would be getting would be tinged with fear — not guilt, not at all — but fear that sooner or later those big blue men would come on their leather-cloppy feet — heel plates thundering, thick knuckles pounding, and say, “Who’s that up there making all that noise? Like kicking a head. Who’s it? OPEN UP!!” And there I’d be.
(“Any Heads at Home”)

It was early along in my Stronghold reign, after I had won me a couple of world Max Shoot-Outs and had established myself as the current Greatest Man, that I began to think again of other things; I began to think of … aspects … Purpose … Beauty … Community Interest…
(“The Bird Man of Moderan”)

There wasn’t much we could do about it. Mostly we just did our job, which was to dump the cans and scoop up the sacks and the broken lamps and the pieces of chairs and the old picture walls and the kids and put it all in the back. Where the teeth were.
(“In the Time of Disposal of Infants”)

The wonder of Bunch is that all of those first sentences and paragraphs are followed by equally skilled, surprising, magical sentences and paragraphs. Each story works its way toward endings which are unpredictable, disturbing, darkly funny, and utterly apt.

Reading lots of Bunch is an exhausting experience, but also fulfilling, for the vast majority of his stories are — given close attention — immensely rewarding. You would think that reading such SHORT stories would be easy, quick, light. Not in the least. There are some Bunch stories which I have spent an hour reading, working slowly through the sentences, going back and forth and back and forth, imagining and savoring, constructing and reconstructing the sense and imagery in my mind.


About carolkean

novelist, reviewer, editor, book critic for Liberty Island and Perihelion Science Fiction; native prairie/guerilla gardener; champion of liberty, indie authors & underdogs; one of the top two reviewers in Editors &Preditors Poll 2015; Amazon Vine, NetGalley Top Reviewer
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