Early mornings are the best time for Issue 17 contributor Ryan Gossen to write his quirky and observant pieces.

What is your writing process like?

I write what floats to the surface in the mornings, when no one else is awake and coffee makes me optimistic. Later in the day, when I’m more cynical, I edit things I’ve written and refine what seems promising. Once every few months, I put a lot of effort into matching works with publications and submitting. The turn around from first writing to submission seems like around 1-4 years.

Ryan Gossen Writing Process - A Bear's Guide to Humans
Ryan Gossen Writing Process – A Bear’s Guide to Humans

A Bear’s Guide to Humans

Ryan Gossen

As a bear, you have many choices in how to interact with humans and it is your prerogative, at all times, to be unpredictable. It is not my intent to provide you with a formula for what to do, but rather to frankly list my own observations with the intent that your behaviour is truly the product your own nature, rather than of the many cliches which have circulated from our interactions with “man”.


Although compelling, most humans’ feces are the product of unhealthy feed passing through a diseased system. Humans suffer many problems due to their diet, and you may suffer the same should you eat their waste. It is not to every bear’s taste, but it is rich and exotic, and no one could judge you for trying it. Just be prepared for what may follow, and be warned that it is habit forming nevertheless.


As with any animal, the urine is quite revealing, though not specialized for marking as with cats. Many bears are confused by the high volume of urine produced at certain places and times, often in outdoor settings, containing bizzare aldehydes. These are by-products from the consumption of a fermented plant solution which they drink in much larger volumes than needed to satisfy thirst. Have you ever felt euphoric after eating rotted berries? This is that, but taken to absurdity. Commonly encountered around campfires, the more noise they make, the more urine, has been my experience.

Human Food

Is human food edible? Of course, but see my earlier comment regarding its effects on feces. Inadvisable as it may be, its smell often leaves no choice. One must contend with a variety of containers. The good news is that most can be consumed themselves, much as a berry comes with a skin and seeds which are not inherently desirable. Some containers are bear-proof, and these will be obvious, however they are rare, and you should not be discouraged by an impenetrable canister found in one campsite, from thoroughly investigating others. Cars themselves I count as a type of food container, and one that is not necessarily bear proof. Door handles look opaque to the uninitiated, but bears possess all the digits needed to operate them, as many have. If this does not work, the door may be locked, in which case, it is common practice to work one’s way around the car, sniffing and striking it with paws until something breaks or a seam reveals itself to dig into and pry open. If there are humans in the car during this procedure, you are in for one of nature’s great spectacles, as they will display the full range of emotions and behaviours humans are famous for in a confined space right before your eyes. The smells they emit in this scenario are extraordinary.

Humans as Food

This leads to the obvious question of eating humans themselves. Are they edible? Yes. Will they help put on fat? Of course. Are there any surprises, like porcupines? No, usually there are no surprises which cannot be dealt with in a straightforward manner. Some humans are armed, but this is usually apparent before one commits to violence. A basic rule of thumb is that if you are a black bear, they are off the menu, though their food and feces, if that’s your thing, are fair game. If you are a Grizzly, humans are very much consumable and quite defenseless. Occasionally you will come across a gifted runner. If not caught in a sprint, these can run for long distances, and will eventually find a tree to climb, but you know the old saying, you only have to catch the slow one.

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