I seem to be encountering a lot of bears lately. A couple friends of mine are working on stories about bears. I am discovering that I like stories by Elizabeth Bear. And recently I heard a delightful reading on Escape Pod of “Edward Bear and The Very Long Walk,” by Ken Scholes. It begins when A Bear of Little Brain awakens on a dying starship.
Though Edward Bear is just a nursery toy, Something Very Bad has happened. He is the last real thing on the ship that is still working and is therefore charged with a task:
“You are going to go on a very long walk to climb a very tall mountain.”
“Yes. I need you to be a Very Brave Bear. Can you do that?”
So he goes on an Expotition. While maintaining the cheerful tone of the original Pooh stories, this story taps into the dark core of old folk tales. The opening scene is filled with the smell of death. The scene where he meets the manifestation of the ship’s AI is wonderfully creepy. As he leaves the ship he must walk away from desolation. Soon, Edward enters a dark forest that is “the Wrong Sort of forest for Small Animals Entirely On Their Own.”
On his quest, this bear turns out to have some pretty fierce stuffing in him. I love how he is sweet and yet unflinching in the face of dire situations. And of course, he never loses his devotion to pomes and honey. Like Edward, I feel I should be able to sum it all up with something witty and pithy, but all I can think of is this:
For the bears.