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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 204

Fate and Fallacies


  1. Steven C. Levi’s “Poetry With Eight Feet”: What happens to “Eight-Footed Eddy”?

  2. Gloria Watts’ “She” graphically updates the medieval succubus legend. What do you make of the tension between physical beauty and its opposite?

  3. Tim Simmons’ “The Sign of the Cross”: In what ways do both Lottie and the technologically advanced space aliens commit a logical fallacy?

  4. Taylor Collier, “The Pickfords”: Who or what do you think the Pickfords are, and what are they up to?

  5. Lewayne L. White, “Without Understanding”: Is the story fully comprehensible outside of the context of current U.S. politics?

  6. Pete Lee, “Bonsai”: This poem, among other submissions, finally convinced me to create the “Short Poetry” category. How might a separate category affect our reading of “Bonsai” and poems like it in comparison to such as Rebecca Lu Kiernan’s “He Never Spoke”?

  7. Randall Lahrman’s “Janstein’s Subject”:

    1. Steven becomes so engrossed in one of the paintings in Janstein’s hallway gallery that he begins to commune almost telepathically with the picture’s subject:

      Steven’s mind began to spin and his senses were filled with every aspect of the river and just before Janstein rips his attention away, the boy looks at Steven and blinks.

      Do you think the painting’s “coming to life,” as it were, in the last sentence — “the boy looks at Steven and blinks” — adds just the right touch? Or does it add so much that Steven’s subsequent experience in painting becomes an anti-climax?

    2. How is the reader misdirected into expecting a horror story? What is the story really about?

  8. S. Michael Leier’s “Project Gateway”:
    Alternate history is ultimately grounded in history as we know it or think we know it. The entire plot of “Project Gateway” hinges on Walter Branigan’s setting in motion a series of events on the world stage:

    “Bobby [Kennedy] would have never sanctioned relations with China with his strong stance against Communist expansion.

    “We’ve had diplomatic sanctions against them for years and now it seems to be coming to a head. We’ve got twenty ships patrolling the Pacific just off China’s coast blocking their trade routes to the Pacific Rim nations and isolating them from any USSR help.”

    As a rule in alternate history, you can start with history as we know it and change whatever you please — within limits. The limits are that an inherently implausible or impossible alternate history must be symbolic, as in Ward Moore’s classic Bring the Jubilee. And the alternate history must be internally consistent: thus, Vercingetorix can’t oppose Caesar with rocket-propelled grenades; that would be a fantasy, and quite silly, to boot.

    Walter Branigan’s intervention has at least three major effects. There are no assassinations: John F. Kennedy serves as President from 1961-1969 and Robert F. Kennedy, from 1969-1977; and the U.S. does not intervene in Vietnam.

    However, all that takes place in the U.S. In the alternate history of “Project Gateway,” the Berlin Wall did not fall in 1989, and the USSR is not only still alive and presumably well but an ally of China as it was under Stalin. World politics remains frozen in the Cold War years of the 1950’s to the 1970’s; since then, the only significant changes in almost thirty years take place in the USA and nowhere else.

    Whether or not one thinks the story’s alternate history is plausible, does “Project Gateway” have two centers: Walter Branigan’s decision and a political subtext, as well?


Responses welcome!

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