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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 375

Down the Streets of Broken Dreams

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Echoes of Deception
Experimental Writing
Flight of Starlings
In the Valley of Hermits
Mustardseed’s Ambush
Tuesday Night at the Rainbow Club
Wicker Unicorns
Adrift on the Street Formerly Known as Buendia

  1. At the end of Colin Heintze’s “In the Valley of Hermits,” what do we learn that The People must suppress in order to live with their telepathic powers: conscience or compassion, or both?

  2. Does John Stocks’ “Plath” require a knowledge of the career and fate of the poet Sylvia Plath? Does Marina J. Neary’s “Mustardseed’s Ambush” require a knowledge of the plot and casting of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

  3. In Nikki Alfar’s “Adrift on the Street Formerly Known as Buendia” and Sarah Ann Watts’ “Wicker Unicorns”:

    1. Why is the street no longer called “Buendia”?
    2. What does it mean that the unicorns are made of wicker?
    3. The two stories differ markedly in style; what do they have in common?
  4. In Ron Van Sweringen’s “Tuesday Night at the Rainbow Club”:

    1. How does Robert a.k.a. Billie Dawn feel about him/herself? Do we really know?

    2. Is “Tuesday Night...” a complete story? Do we need to know more about Charles and Billie? If so, what might be added?

  5. In Oonah V. Joslin’s “Flight of Starlings”:

    1. Can the sun cast shadows?

    2. What might the “lost cousins” be? What is “in mourning for the lost cousins”: the birds or the tree leaves?

    3. Why are the birds described as “metalled”?

    4. “Two separate clouds ... slick back down onto another tree.” Readers might expect “slink”; what image might “slick” evoke?

    5. How does the poem establish a tension between determinism and uncertainty?

  6. In Jannette Johnson’s “Echoes of Deception”:

    1. The Grobian warships have sustained heavy damage, and yet the Grobians pursue the Reekian ship even though they know it is stronger than theirs. The Grobians may not be “cunning,” but are they foolhardy? Why do the Reekians not press their advantage?

    2. Do the Reekians “play possum” with the intent of luring Floorg’s ship into the battle? Do the Reekians need to do that? Couldn’t they even the odds by finishing off the Grobians first and then ambushing Floorg’s ship when it arrives too late to intervene?

    3. Does Floorg manage to send his message to the Archive and register the Reekians as “Hostile”? It would appear that he does, and the Reekians must know the message will be sent. Which strategy, then, might the Reekians adopt to assure their best long-term advantage: destroy the Grobian ships first or Floorg’s ship first?

    4. What would have happened if Floorg had overcome his sexism and heeded Kell’s caution? What does the story say about peacekeeping where there is no peace to keep? And about sending out scout ships under the leadership of someone unfit to command?

  7. In Tantra Bensko’s “Experimental Writing”:

    1. The article lists some advice frequently given to beginning writers and then says: “Some of these principles are stale by now, having been said so often, and others are only formulaic for traditional, mainstream, conservative fiction, or genre fiction.” — The principles have all been cited equally often. Which do you think are “stale” and no longer worth observing?

    2. “The world is being perceived as so shattered and irrational now that literary writers can feel it inaccurate to portray it as being unified, going along in a reliable, cohesive manner full of meaning.”

      Is a unified portrayal the same thing as a portrayal of something unified? Is “shattered and irrational” a purely esthetic view? Or is it a psychological condition? To what extent is the view shared or not shared in philosophy, theology and science?

    3. “Some narratives can portray the unknowableness of our world by being impossible to understand.”
      1. Bewildering Stories has been there, but we don’t do that any more. Does Kenji Siratori’s “AcidHumanix” qualify as “experimental writing”? Since it is almost entirely a computer-generated text and thereby guaranteed to be incomprehensible, does it qualify as writing at all?

      2. “Something that can mean anything means nothing” — a Bewildering Stories motto. Can radical nihilism — i.e. chaos — qualify as literature? If so, who would read it? Might “uncertainty” be a more appropriate word than “unknowableness”?

      3. If the world were unknowable, impossible to understand and thereby unpredictable, could any living creature exist in it?

Responses welcome!

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