Moderan Essay - Critical Essays

David R. Bunch


The Moderan stories span many of science fiction’s subgenres, including military and anthropological science fiction. It is their overriding “humanist” perspective that keeps them vital and interesting. Bunch’s all-too-infrequent, eccentric stories have garnered for him a loyal, if relatively small, following.

The key to the Moderan stories is the reader’s own awareness of the vacillation that permeates the tales. The narrator’s seemingly perpetual attempts to assert his control seem disingenuous at best taken individually. The reader who approaches them collectively will apprehend quickly the trick of the tale and be able to read both the text on the page and the verities behind it. The ambient qualities of the narration serve to both reveal and disguise the interesting elements of Moderan.

Bunch makes this clear with constant reminders that there is a war going on. This is asserted often, but there are no casualty counts, no reports of losses, and no bemoaning that any of the eleven walls of the Stronghold need to be repaired. The matter that supposedly sustains the warp and woof of Moderan society is virtually never mentioned, except in other contexts. This is particularly evident in “Incident in Moderan” and “Penance Day in Moderan.”

The necessity of the subtext for these stories and the author’s lack of prolificacy have kept Bunch from achieving a large audience. His only other story collection as of the mid-1990’s, Bunch!, was published by Broken Mirrors Press in 1993.

Many of Bunch’s stories, both set in Moderan and not, share the conviction that love is a force that can overcome anything. Even being more than 90 percent steel does not keep one from succumbing to it. Love in Bunch’s work is hardly all hearts and flowers. The loss of love leads, at best, to a lack of discipline and, at worst, to rampant, willful destruction. This theme runs throughout Bunch’s work, and the genre is much improved for his willingness to explore it in a starkly realistic, but often convivial, manner.