Bewildering Stories

Challenge 384

To the Tracks and Back Again

page index
Hesitation
Miranda
My Second Death
Rusted Chrome
Timeshare Vacation
Where I Hide the Djinn
  1. In Bill Bowler’s “Hesitation,” Flea is reluctant to escort Honey home from school. He makes feeble excuses and looks desperately for a distraction. In view of chapter 16, is Flea being callous? Or, in view of chapter 18, is he feeling something he may not yet even be entirely aware of?

  2. In Farida Samerkhanova’s “My Second Death,” the past forms an overlay to the present, and the narrative is completely at odds with the historical sequence of events. Could the story even be told with the events in chronological order?

  3. In Karlos Allen’s Rusted Chrome:

    1. O’Leary speculates that he might be “broke in a week” if he had to pay Margie in 1940’s-era dollars. But after about a hundred years of inflation, wouldn’t a 1940’s pay scale be laughably small?

    2. Margie tells O’Leary: “Yes. I have your data for you, but I couldn’t get to the office; the roads were closed.” Why would roads affect an artificial intelligence? If Margie means she could not contact O’Leary’s office, would that not qualify as a first-class emergency?

  4. In Daniel Shebses’ “Miranda,” does the apparition of Miranda as a woman transgress Bewildering Stories’ restriction on stories that end “But it was all a dream” or the equivalent?

  5. In John Ritchie’s “Where I Hide the Djinn”:

    1. The bauble is a succubus surrogate. How might the woman avoid suspicion of being a serial killer?
    2. Taking at face value that the bauble had belonged to the woman’s grandmother, how might that relationship be developed?
  6. Rick Borger’s “Timeshare Vacation” sets a well-known stage: the time-travel vacation.

    1. Phyllis knows about potentially “disastrous” time paradoxes. Are they a practical consideration or a narrative device? Judging by Time Trek’s careless security, do forays into the past not have very loose limits? In any event, how can anyone tell what the limits are? How could anyone know the past had been changed?

    2. What is the center of the story: Phyllis’ reckless rebellion? Her meeting William? Or her future avatar’s intervention in the past?

    3. Does the young Phyllis have any reason to disbelieve her future self? Suppose she chooses to disregard the warning: could she bring charges against her future self for time-tampering without incriminating herself in the present?

    4. Suppose the young Phyllis heeds her older self’s warning. Her future self would have no reason to return to the past and deliver a warning. Would the young Phyllis then marry William and reinitate the causal loop? Or might she be eaten by the allosaur?

    5. Bonus question: Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” (1952) is, according to Wm. G. Contento, “the most republished science fiction story of all time.” Its setting is based on the same general premise as “Timeshare Vacation” and is one of the first examples of what would later come to be known as “the butterfly effect.” How does Bradbury’s story run afoul of paradoxes similar to “Timeshare Vacation”? How does symbolism trump paradox in Bradbury’s story?


Responses welcome!

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