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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 327

Things Would Be a Lot Simpler…

“Things would be a lot simpler if they weren’t so complicated.”
— one of Bewildering Stories’ unofficial mottoes

  1. Is Yelena Dubrovin’s “The Black Moon” a vignette, a prose poem or possibly an introduction to a larger story?

  2. Is Walt Trizna’s “Fiction Seeking Truth” about precognition or is it an “Aladdin’s Lamp” story? In what way can the story be read as a commentary on the nature of fiction?

  3. What makes Julie Wornan’s “The Angel of Life” perhaps inadvertently comic? How might the humor be changed to pathos?

  4. Robert N. Stephenson’s “The Hole” is an “invaders from outer space” story. Into what category does it fall: war, disease, environmental catastrophe, or death? Is “The Hole” a complete story or is it the beginning of a story?

  5. In Brent Powers’ “Non”:

    1. Why is the story set in France? Does the setting have any material effect?
    2. What might indicate that the man is aware of his wife’s unspoken rage?
  6. In Sarah-Jane Lehoux’s “Socks and Brains,” the girl may be having hallucinations or merely fantasies; regardless, what psychological problems does she seem to have? How does the author gradually lead the reader to understand the girl?

  7. In Norman A. Rubin’s “Unburied Legs”:

    1. Shamus starts out in County Kerry and starts walking toward a church near Shannon. Why is Shamus’ trek geographically improbable?
    2. What is the real title of the song “Irish Eyes”?
    3. How might the story of Shamus Finnegan be combined with the legend of the unburied legs? What effect is created by keeping the two stories separate? At the end, do we miss Shamus or have we forgotten about him?
  8. In Thomas Willits’ “The Basement Dwellers”:

    1. How does the author gradually add details suggesting that the house is actually deserted?
    2. What do the basement dwellers appear to be talking about?
    3. The phrase Atrum Erus may be an obscure joke referring to role-playing games. Literally it means ‘lord of darkness’ or, at a stretch, ‘master of the potato blight’. Does it mean that the dark corner of the basement is Hell? If so, why should Ralph or Margaret go there?
    4. What indicates that Ralph’s and Margaret’s marriage was less than happy?
    5. Does Ralph Dempsey realize in a dream state that he is dead? Or is the story basically a joke: does Ralph wake up to find that he’s dead?
  9. In Bertil Falk’s “Pragmatism with a Human Face”:

    1. The title is a souvenir of the Prague Spring of 1968, which had as its byword “Socialism with a Human Face.” What do the title and essay imply about economic sectarian dogmas?
    2. Does Bertil Falk’s essay support or contradict Gabriel Timar’s?
    3. Both communism and “free-market” capitalism are utopian ideals. The Soviet utopia collapsed in 1989; the U.S. utopia, twenty years later. Are either Bertil Falk’s or Gabriel Timar’s proposed solutions to the current crisis in any way similar? Does either propose a solution that is not utopian?
  10. In Gabriel Timar’s “Gabriel’s Tsunami”:

    1. What kind(s) of government would be needed to control technology and the economy as the essay recommends?
    2. The author supports his arguments with several examples from real life. Some of them raise disturbing questions:
      1. The two boys engaged in text messaging while walking side by side may have appeared to be engaging in an “abuse of technology,” but is it fair to make that assumption? Were the boys ipso facto devoid of common sense? Might they have had a rational explanation?
      2. The well in the African village ran afoul of the law of unintended consequences. Even the villagers did not foresee that a convenient source of water would upset their social structure. Are they benighted because they exchanged a technological advance for some peace and quiet? Did the new well not contradict the author’s injunction that new technology be compatible with all earlier versions?
      3. The air hijacking scenario suggested by the author’s father has the virtue of summary justice. What practical and legal problems might it raise? How do the circumstances of air hijacking differ from those of piracy on the high seas in the 16th to 18th centuries?
      4. The author recommends that Israel respond in kind and in equal measure to rocket attacks from Gaza. In fact, Israel has done far more than that. What are the advantages, if any, of a stalemated conflict, such as WW1? What are the disadvantages?
      5. The author advocates abandoning the Geneva Convention and “adopting the terrorists’ own rules of engagement.” Take the renunciation to its logical conclusion: for example, may the reader not infer that the Allies should have tortured and killed Japanese prisoners in WW2?
    3. In what ways does “Gabriel’s Tsunami” contradict Bertil Falk’s “Pragmatism with a Human Face”? In what ways might they agree?

Responses welcome!

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