Back when I did the Clarion writers workshop, we had a different instructor for each week. Ed Bryant was the first one. With his dry wit and wry attitude and no-nonsense ways, he broke the ice and got us into critiquing, in a gentle way.
Ed had been one of Harlan Ellison’s prodigies and typical of Ed, he can get along with a lot of people, even those as temperamental as Harlan. But that doesn’t mean Ed didn’t have anything interesting, witty or even sarcastic to say.
Somehow after Clarion, I either bumped into Ed at a few conventions or contacted him or both (more likely the former as Ed has always been notoriously a bad correspondent) we developed a slow friendship. One which often existed of us only seeing each other at conventions.
At one convention, I was walking through the art show with a friend. We stopped in front of an honest-to-god velvet painting. Yes, those cheap and tacky remnants of the 70s. Or was it 60s?
This was shortly after the Star Trek movie The Voyage Home and featured a couple of humpback whales in it as well as the Enterprise returning to Earth to save the day and the planet. So here we are staring at this painting, our mouths dropping open at the horribleness of it. I can’t remember it exactly but it had fat Elvis in his bright white suit spread across its velvet expanse and Spock and the Enterprise I believe over some skyline.
It was dreadful and Kij and I laughed at it. It was so bad I couldn’t believe anyone in their right mind would paint it. Then I noticed that it was not for sale and had the title of “Save the Whales.” And it had been commissioned by Ed Bryant which is when it all came clear. It was such a perfect piece of tongue-in-cheek kitsch.
Ed has always had long hair and worn T-shirts and jeans. Except for when he dresses up and puts on a button shirt so that he can wear a special tie. Whereas David Hartwell is known for his god-awful ugliest ties since creation (and the eye-jarring contrasting stripe and check suits and shirts that don’t go with them) Ed is somehow subtler. His shirts aren’t too wild but his tie might be shaped like a fish or be plastic with a bunch of plastic bugs in it.
And Ed is of course, a writer. I read his collection of short stories Cinnabar a long time ago and, where his penchant for creepy shone through. Ed has never written a novel, which may be why the greater fan community does not know of him as well as the writing community does. He has written reviews for Locus for many years. He has also worked on screenplays, nonfiction and other forms of writing.
I consider Ed a good friend, even though I don’t know him super well or all of his problems. He once told me that in that land of the free but highly impoverished he paid $800 a month in medical insurance because of his diabetes. A month! I was aghast. How could anyone have a decent life like that?
Ed has had complications along the way, including not being able to get out of bed once because he had suffered hairline fractures through a bunch of his bones, which had immobilized his arms. I started calling him Tyrannosaurus Ed at that point.
I haven’t talked to Ed for a few years, though I tried but no answers to emails, which was kind of typical. Still I worried because Ed has had some major health issues. At the World Fantasy convention this last fall I asked another friend if he’d seen Ed and that I worried about him. It seems I had a right to.
Because the US has such a crippling, and I do mean crippling, health system, people must have a good job that has an insurance plan. This doesn’t always mean it’s a completely comprehensive plan and may have all sorts of restrictions on it. I know a couple that even though working, can only afford to put their two children on health insurance. Another person, an epileptic, could only afford to have her medication covered because she once worked as a coast guard. I have other American friends who suffer in pain because they cannot afford their health care.
Canada’s may not be perfect but at least everyone can get help. It may just take longer. We get the basics without being impoverished and on the street. It would never cost hundreds per month, and medications after a certain amount (less than a thousand but varies by income) are paid for or subsidized.
Now Ed seems to need some help as the health bills have become astronomical. Friends and associates have set up a website where donations can be made. Ed has always been involved in the SF community, from writing and doing panels to writing reviews and being a mentor to others. In Colorado he started a writers’ group and I consider Ed to be one of my mentors.
I’m not rich but I’ll be sending some money to Ed because he has given to the greater writing community in many ways. If you’re at all influenced by writers and SF, check out Ed’s Wiki page above and the link below for more information on Ed Bryant and where to donate.