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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 386

Pilgrimage to Enigma

page index
Dark World
High School Honey
Mystery Infinite
Rusted Chrome
That Great Big Ladder in the Sky
The Tomb of Amoratrix
  1. In Bill Bowler’s “High School Honey: Confessions of a Conflicted Author”:

    1. How might the scene quoted from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina be edited to fit a “show, don’t tell” style?

    2. Current literature has arguably been mightily affected by visual media such as film, television and the stage. Turn the “show, don’t tell” dogma upside down: what might writing lose by accepting the limitations of the cinema or stage without having access to its visual component?

    3. What can latter-day authors learn from towering geniuses such as Tolstoy? For example:

      1. Where can one find powerful prose poetry in Émile Zola’s novels?
      2. How does Gustave Flaubert brainwash the reader — sometimes overtly but mostly insidiously — into visualizing and accepting the bitter irony and dark comedy in Madame Bovary?
      3. Why might Balzac and Marcel Proust be credited for reinventing the novel as something more than a story?
  2. In Antonio Bellomi’s “Mystery Infinite”:

    1. Pope Karim II carries the newfound reliquary to a secret vault containing many similar items. Aside from the drama, why might the scene be read as comical?

    2. Pope Karim says, ““And nobody must know of it [...] Such a revelation would lead to catastrophic consequences for all of us. [...] The very cornerstone of our religion would be undermined!”

      Oh, really? Suppose, impossibly, that some remains could be definitely proven to be those of Jesus. Would such a discovery make any difference? And if so, to whom?

    3. Bonus question: In the Latin title, mysterium is not a Latin word; it is French: Lat. ministerium > Old Fr. mystere (y = ii), which gives mystère and “mystery” in modern French and English, respectively. Granting that the original word ministerium seems appropriate, in a sense, how might the idea of “mystery” been expressed in Classical Latin?

  3. In Z. T. Burian’s “That Great Big Ladder in the Sky”:

    1. Numbers occur with noticeable frequency in the story. Do they form a systematic numerology? That is, do the numbers seem to symbolize anything?

    2. The street address cited by “Lou” is real. Assuming the author has secured the property owner’s permission for its use, do you feel the permission should be acknowledged in a footnote?

    3. Why does the builder of model airplanes seem sympathetic to Henri’s plight?

    4. Is Henri really in Purgatory? Or does Purgatory actually consist of a test, namely choosing between slaving for a cynical bureaucracy or leaping into the unknown?

      1. In either case, has Henri done anything to deserve Purgatory? Or does it allow Henri to make decisions he never had a chance to make while alive?
      2. If so, and since Henri’s decision is motivated by mercy, is “Lou” really the Devil and will Henri really go to Hell?
  4. In James A. Ford’s “The Tomb of Amoratrix”:

    1. Amoratrix is not a space alien, but what kind of invader does the demon represent according to the taxonomy in “Space Aliens as Metaphor”?

    2. The tomb is eighty feet below ground (or round off to 25 meters). Assume a trench is dug at a 20° slope:

      1. Assuming the ground surface is flat, how far away from the entrance will the trench have to start?
      2. Assume the trench is 5 feet or about 1.5 meters in width: what volume of earth will have to be excavated?
      3. Assuming — for the sake of a minimal estimate — that the soil is all sand, how many tons will have to be removed?
      4. Assume, rather, that a vertical shaft is dug to the entance. The shaft measures about 8 feet (or round off to 2.5 meters) square. How many board feet of timber will be required to shore up the sides?
    3. Bonus question: The name “Amoratrix” is a combination of Latin and Celtic. What might it suggest to a French reader?

  5. In Karlos Allen’s Rusted Chrome:

    1. Does O’Leary take an uncharacteristically foolish chance in going on line? How does he escape?
    2. Bill seems to have made a remarkable recovery from his previous incapacity. Is it unexpected?
  6. In Resha Caner’s “Dark World,” at what point does the reader realize that is not a fable and that the characters are actually people living like ants?

Responses welcome!

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