Mr. Bear

By: Joe R. Lansdale

Star Rating:

Sensuality Rating:



Spoiler Disclaimer


Jim is on an airplane, heading home, when he meets a talking bear who he immediately recognizes as a celebrity spokesperson. Although Jim is a bit reluctant, the bear strikes up a conversation, so when their connecting flight is delayed due to bad weather, they meet up in the airport bar. Jim gets blackout drunk and awakens next to a prostitute, only to discover that Bear has done the same but has killed his woman. Jim is disturbed, but feeling threatened by Bear, he goes along for the ride when Bear suggests they go to his home in the woods, where Jim discovers that Bear is actually a psychotic serial killer.


"Mr. Bear" is a very strange little story about a guy named Jim who meets a talking bear on an airplane. When their connecting flight is delayed by bad weather, they get wasted at a bar and sleep with prostitutes who Bear kills, then Bear essentially kidnaps Jim, taking him to his home in the woods, ostensibly because he wants a friend. But Jim quickly discovers that Bear is a psychotic serial killer.

Reading this bizarre story weirded me out and made me feel like I needed a shower afterwards. While the bear doesn't have an official name, it's obvious from his celebrity status and backstory that he's supposed to be Smoky the Bear, and this story has now kind of ruined Smoky for me. This is one of those rare stories that I wish I could unread, because I found it to be offensive, not just for despoiling a beloved icon, but in other ways as well. Bear clearly has sex with a prostitute and brags about having had numerous other women, which in my opinion amounts to nothing less than bestiality. Sure Bear is a sentient being who can talk, but he's not a shapeshifter who has a human form. Also I felt that Bear and Jim were disrespectful of women in general, only really talking about them in either sexual or derogatory terms. Jim, who is a married man, ogles a woman on the plane, hoping that she'll sit by him and that she's single, then later sleeps with a prostitute as well. I really don't care that he was drunk and doesn't remember it. As far as I'm concerned, that's simply not OK and there's no excuse. As you can probably tell, I didn't really find much redeeming value in this story. I suppose Bear met a suitable end, but I certainly wasn't very enamored of Jim either, so I can't say that I cared much regardless. I'm giving it 1.5 stars because it was an easy enough read that I zipped right through, and aside from an odd cadence in the dialogue, the writing itself was reasonably sound. But after being so thoroughly squicked out, I definitely would not read anything else by this author in the future. "Mr. Bear" can be found in the anthology Blood Lite.

Note: I struggled with how to rate the sensuality in this story. I gave it a 2 because there's no explicitly detailed sex, but please keep in mind that sex between a bear and a human is overtly implied.


Joe R. Lansdale