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Bears Discover Fire and Other Stories Paperback – November 15, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Bisson ( Voyage to the Red Planet ) began to publish short fiction a few years ago, his flair and sharp but homey good humor brought him instant celebrity and won him a Nebula Award for the title story in this, his first collection. Immediately clear from this array of stories is the astonishing range of Bisson's talent. Readers turn from "Bears Discover Fire," a meditative tale that blends the irreconcilable sadness of the loss of a loved one with the weirdness of the very literal title, to the delightfully silly "They're Made Out of Meat," a dialogue between two odd aliens about the nature of life on Earth, to the elegaic "England Underway," in which a bookish Englishman confronts the New World, bringing all of England with him. Leavening even his most serious tales with humor, Bisson can deal with issues frequently blighted by stridency: three stories address environmental concerns with a black humor that enhances rather than mitigates their impact. Bisson's prose is a wonder of seemingly effortless control and precision; he is one of science fiction's most promising short story practitioners, proving that in the genre, the short story remains a powerful, viable and evocative form.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Whether narrating a parable of Earth's dying ("Carl's Lawn and Garden"), exploring the afterlife ("Necronauts"), or chronicling the relocation of a country ("England Underway"), Bisson continues to surprise his readers with his startling vision and iconoclastic imagination. These 19 stories (most published only in magazines) showcase the varied talents of a skilled and as yet unjaded writer. A good choice for sf and short story collections.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Orb Books; Reprint edition (November 15, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312890354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312890353
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,049,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Formerly ('75-'02) a Kentuckian living in New York,
currently a New Yorker living in California.

Known mostly for SF short stories (Hugo, Nebula awards),
also writes novels, screenplays, comics and non-fiction.
Biographer of Mumia Abu Jamal. Former automechanic,
wrote CAR TALK with 'Click and Clack'. Produced and
edited NO FRILLS Books back in '80s. Completed ST
LEIBOWITZ AND THE WILD HORSE WOMAN for Walter M Miller
estate. Lives in Oakland. Rides a KLR650.

Hosts monthly author reading series in San Francisco (SFinSF).
Edits 'Outspoken Author' series for PM Books.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on April 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
The title of this review is Terry's Bisson's own description of his short stories (as found in this collection's Afterword). Many reviews of Bisson's works contend that he has a unique and unconventional outlook. While reviewers are hard-pressed to define such terms, it is certainly true that Bisson's stories are just a little off-kilter and intriguingly semi-surreal. But in the end, his strange settings and plot developments are all in service to solid stories of human relationships and universal struggles. A few of the stories in this collection stick with the unexpected simply for comic relief, most notably "The Coon Suit." But otherwise we get non-linear looks at social problems that Bisson sets up with bizarre near-future dystopias, taking on racism in "Next" and pollution in "By Permit Only" and "The Toxic Donut." In fact, Bisson tackles environmentalism in several tales here, with the most interesting being "Carl's Lawn and Garden" in which people somehow increase pollution, and its human costs, while surreally trying to save the natural world.

Meanwhile, Bisson uses weird sci-fi mishaps to study how very human characters would cope. For instance, in "England Underway" the absurd happenstance of England floating across the sea and crashing into America allows a separated family to reunite; while the spooky "Over Flat Mountain" does nearly the opposite as a severe environmental disaster tears human communities apart. To top off the collection we get the extended sci-fi novellas "Necronauts" and "The Shadow Knows" in which Bisson explores how people would really deal with contacting worlds beyond our own. It's true that Bisson has a unique and unconventional vision, and you can dispense with trying to figure out what exactly that means by experiencing this unique and unconventional collection for yourself. [~doomsdayer520~]
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jon G. on March 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a collection of short (often very) stories. Many, like the title story are based on a single conceit -- everything else is the same, except, well, bears discover fire. And instead of hibernating, they're camping out in the medians of interstates. Or in "England Underway," England starts moving around Ireland, swings past Bermuda and comes to rest off the East Coast of the U.S. The best comparison I can make is to Steven Wright jokes. "Press Ann" can't really be described here, but is now one of my all-time favorites. Bisson admits he sometimes writes "odd mainstream works" that get passed of as fantasy and SF. While only a handful of his works "count" as true fantasy or SF, they are no less enjoyable.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
I'm surprised there are so few reviews here. This book deserves to be wider read.
I first read a Bisson story ten years ago in Omni -- "They're Made of Meat." I loved it. Very short, all dialogue, a great ending line... It's still one of my favorites of all time.
To be honest, all of these stories are not fantastic. Some kind of leave you rubbing your head, like "The Coon Suit." What the heck was that?! But there are about ten very good stories in here that are worth the price of the book. Bisson writes in a way that is easy to read, even if the ideas don't always grab you. His snappier, dialogue-heavy stories are my favorite.
Give this one a try.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 17, 1997
Format: Paperback
Terry Bisson became one of my favorite fantasy authors from the first time I read "Bears Discover Fire" in Asimov's -- before it won the Hugo and Nebula. Many of the other stories in this collection I consider to be classics ... though others I never want to read again! The themes Bisson explores in these short stories are the same ones that emerge in greater detail in his novels, so this is an ideal primer to his work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rod Bell on November 29, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I like short stories. Especially, I like the classical form that ends with a meaning or outcome we didn't see coming, usually a kind of revelation. And I like science fiction: When it works, we're carried along in a fun but out-of-normality experience, seeing mundane reality in a different light. Again, a kind of revelation.

This collection does those things pretty successfully, although a couple of the stories left me feeling like I must have missed something. I'll have to reread and/or think more about them. But I might not get to it, because the stories didn't lay quite such a strong claim on my attention that I feel challenged to figure them out. I'm kind of on the cusp.

That said, these stories are really something. They're not on the level of, say, a John Updike collection of stories, but they do stay with you. And "They're Made out of Meat," short-short though it is, is worth buying the book just for itself!
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By C.M. on December 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
Bisson's imagination is truly on a slant with the real world, but he's even on a slant with the world of sci fi and fantasy. Not really sci fi, not really fantasy, not really mainstream. What kind of writer is this guy? Really, really good. That's what kind.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Krash on October 29, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
It's a pity Terry Bisson has never written that one seminal, popular book that would propel him into the stratosphere with authors like Orson Scott Card or Ray Bradbury, because his short stories are certainly that good. "They're Made of Meat" and "Bears Discover Fire" fully live up to the promise he showed with his early stories.
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