Bewildering Stories

Challenge 229

A Funny Thing Happened
on Our Way to Siberia


  1. Slava Yatsko’s letter “Why the U.S. Should Stay in Iraq” is humor based on “the world turned upside down.” Nonetheless, some readers may take it literally. Bill Bowler has some questions:

    1. What is irony? What is satire?
    2. How can a statement mean its opposite?
    3. How can a reader know when an author means the opposite of what he has written?
    4. Why would an author hide his true message by asserting its opposite?
    5. What did Sigmund Freud mean when he wrote of the “non-distinction of opposites” in the “id”?

    Other questions:

    1. What might President Bush think of Professor Yatsko’s article? Might he telephone congratulations or put Slava on a “no-fly” list?
    2. What might President Putin think of Professor Yatsko’s article? Might he also telephone Slava to offer congratulations? Or might two burly gentlemen appear at Slava’s door to make other arrangements? A consideration: Slava can’t be sent to Siberia; he already lives there.
  2. And now for some really difficult questions... Some stories have a quality for which the best word is “charm”:

    1. What makes Walt Trizna’s “Elmo’s Sojourn” charming?
    2. Do the Gylex and their invasion of Roth support or weaken the story’s charm?
    3. What is the role of females in “Elmo’s Sojourn”? Would a more active and less protected role clash with the story’s deliberate old-fashioned flavor?
  3. John W. Steele’s “A Spider’s Dharma” opens with the novitiate Jengbu’s boredom with the Arhat’s lecture:

    I was among a group of about thirty chelas selected to study under the revered master. Though I felt fortunate to be a student of this living Arhat, I’d heard the sermon about ‘original cause’ more times than I cared to remember. I’d grown weary of trying to understand this teaching now being expounded yet again.

    Should we conclude that Jengbu is a bad student and unworthy of the Arhat? What else does Jengbu tell us that might make us think otherwise? What does the Arhat seem to need to make his teaching more effective than it is at the outset?

  4. Does Mary B. McArdle’s “Doorway” overstep Bewildering Stories’ guideline against sentimentality, the story’s inclusion in this issue notwithstanding? Does Joanna really need the reassurance of the mystical vision? Or can faith suffice?

  5. In Donna M. Nowak’s “Barbie for Girls,” Muriel’s parents have been grieving her disappearance for three years, and yet Muriel is alive and well under Fenella Gilheaney’s protection. Do you find convincing Miss Gilheaney’s explanation of her and Muriel’s failure to reassure Muriel’s parents?

  6. Rebecca Latyntseva’s “Desurrection” opens with:

    Fluorescent astroturf unleashes sluicegates of tears,
    artfully concaving into the abyss.

    What is “fluorescent astroturf,” and what might it represent?


Responses welcome!

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