Bewildering Stories

What is the Bewildering Stories Challenge?

by Don Webb

Readers don’t always understand the purpose of the Challenge that normally appears in each issue of Bewildering Stories. That’s no surprise; the Challenges are unusual for a literary publication.

The Challenges have two sources of inspiration. The title comes from a column of Warren Clements’ in the Toronto Globe and Mail where he invited readers to make humorous twists on book or film titles or well-known sayings. The other source is the questions in French school texts, such as the classiques published by Larousse, Hachette and Bordas.

The result sometimes looks for all the world like essay questions on a final exam in a literature course. Oh the agony. No, that is not the intent; I wouldn’t do that to anybody. Unlike the challenges in the Globe and Mail, our questions are serious. Unlike the questions that intimidate long-suffering French students, ours are not cosmically impossible. Jokes are okay, but we want our readers to send us ideas, not term papers!

Sometimes the Challenges resemble an exercise from a writer’s workshop. That’s closer to the mark. But again, they’re not an assignment. Rather, they’re seeds sown on the wind: you never know when an idea may inspire someone.

The Challenges are ideas that have occurred to your Managing Editor as he read and formatted the texts for publication. The questions are open-ended: they have no “canned” answers, and there is no “right” or “wrong”; we really want to know what you think.

We love to receive responses, and they’re always interesting, because readers often surprise us with new slants on the stories. The Challenges, then, are a way of engaging in a dialogue with the readers. They’re an expression of your editors’ concept of Bewildering Stories : it ought to be not a museum or a monument but a meeting place.

Can readers send in Challenges of their own? Of course! We don’t pretend to have any of “The Answers,” and we don’t claim to have all the questions, either. We’d love to receive them.

Copyright © 2004 by Don Webb for Bewildering Stories