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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 260

Did You Hear That?

  1. Some of the technological forecasts in Claës Lundin’s Oxygen and Aromasia may strike us as quaint. But considering that he was writing in the late 19th century, other innovations seem prescient.

    1. In “An Evening Party,” which technological advances, in particular, are quite recognizable today, more than 130 years later? Which seem more to reflect the practices of Lundin’s own time?

    2. The status of women in 19th-century Europe was not very advanced even in comparison with some eras of the Middle Ages. What, then, makes Aromasia’s discovery of an anti-feminist tract unusually effective plot strategy?

  2. In Gary Inbinder’s “The Mysterion”:

    1. What is the function of the references to Adam and Eve?

    2. What is the implication of naming two characters after the companion heroes in The Song of Roland, namely Roland and Olivier? A recurrent motif in the epic: “Roland is brave, but Olivier is wise.”

    3. “The Mysterion” is a double story. Olivier’s story stands in tension with his account of the mirror’s effect on the ill-fated lovers. What is the implied moral?

    4. At the end of the story, the magic mirror is shot to pieces, apparently by an enraged lover. Especially since the mirror’s fate is quite understandable, one wonders how the mirror could have remained intact for centuries. Is there any plausible way to report second-hand that the mirror had magically survived being hit by a bullet? After all, the police investigators would see no reason to take note of an unbroken mirror.

    5. The risk in such a double story is that the secondary story, that of the mirror, is liable to be more interesting than the primary story, namely Olivier’s. Does “The Mysterion” succeed in that regard?

  3. In Bill Bowler’s “Ayla”:

    1. The aliens have names that are sometimes quite funny. What constitutes the linguistic comedy? What is the effect of comic names in a tragedy?

    2. What is the function of the arrival of humans in “Ayla”?

    3. What is the function of Ayla herself in the story? Does she emerge as a full character in her own right or is she a dramatic foil for Gaag’s internal conflicts?

    4. The review board generally frowns upon narrators’ telling stories after they’re dead. Do you think Gaag’s last gasp gets his story in under the wire, so to speak?

  4. In Lynn Mann’s “Tommy,” Sam Blair’s magic letter apparently promises Tommy a late growth spurt. What might the magician offer to children who have no ambition to become basketball stars?

    Is the magician’s conclusion realistic or is it wishful thinking: Will the magical growth spurt necessarily lead Tommy to the same conclusion as the magician? Or is it more likely to push Tommy toward a sports career that he might find less fulfilling than something else?

    Sam Blair keeps an apparently safe distance and reassures Tommy that he’s both literally and figuratively “on the level.” And yet Sam Blair assumes a complete disguise, including a wheelchair, and he comes when Tommy’s parents are absent.

    1. Do you think Tommy is justified in trusting Sam Blair in this day and age?

    2. Is the reader justified in finding Sam Blair’s approach plausible, let alone trustworthy? For a comparable episode see Donald Schneider’s “Pride’s Prison,” parts 1-2; parts 3-4.

  5. In Dan Murphy’s “Kynia’s Funeral,” the narrator can’t simply nudge a fellow mourner and ask, “Hey, did you hear that?” What other situations might create a similar dilemma?

  6. In what way are the bioengineered children in David Redd’s “Adult” adults? In reality, is Homo sapiens a neotenous ape or a branch of primates that evolved in another, perhaps semi-aquatic environment?

  7. Is there poetic justice in the ending of John W. Steele’s “The Golden Thing”?

  8. What is the effect of “Sir Winston Churchill” in Michael Lee Johnson’s “Casket of Love”? Is the poem an “anti-war” poem or the story of a love doomed by history?

    Note: for examples of true “anti-war” poetry, see the series by Michael Murry.

Responses welcome!

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