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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 189

Explain This

  1. In Doug Hiser’s “Shrike,” the “smoking man” occupies a theological niche all his own. He looks for all the world like a folk devil. But is he? Would the Devil give the three boys a hellfire-and-brimstone sermon as part of a grisly object lesson in morality? And what is the significance of his very strange tattoo?

  2. Do you think that Mr. Landis, in Martin Green’s “Temper,” will change his ways? Or does he deserve a visit from Doug Hiser’s smoking man?

  3. Kris Saknussem’s “War Dream” depicts the making of a nightmarish film in which all the scattered parts of a soldier are fully aware of their condition. What is the meaning of this parable? What conclusions do you draw from the ending?

  4. S. Michael Leier and I have gone around and around on the significance of the footprints in the snow, in “’Tis the Season.” I think they’re a loose end in the story, but I take Michael’s point that they provide a mysterious development at a dramatic moment and are worth keeping. Obviously the footprints are Dudley’s; how might they be made to tie in with his subsequent appearance in Rick Vargo’s office?

  5. We know the reason for Lieutenant Gant’s brutal treatment of cadet Edgar Allan Poe in Grim Legion, but doesn’t he overplay his hand in part 15? Is he acting out of character? Or is he just not quick-witted enough to realize he may be making a big mistake?

  6. Gloria Watts’ article “The Art of Flash Fiction” reminds the writer to add conflict. That’s appropriate advice, of course: we regularly return with regrets submissions that are “vignettes,” that is, descriptive passages that have no conflict and are thus pointless. But that raises other questions: How does a writer avoid the opposite pole of irrelevance, namely conflict for its own sake? In that regard, how does the article complement Carmen Ruggero’s “Short Fiction vs. Novel” and my “Writing Action and Plot”?

Responses welcome!

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