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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 396

Out of the Deeps

  1. In Jack Alcott’s “The Oceanic Express”:

    1. Francis Bacon, the mystery guest at the party, claims to foretell the future. Does Brendan dismiss the predictions as preposterous or insulting? What action does he take?
    2. At what point does Brendan begin to suspect that ‘Sir Francis Bacon’ is sinister rather than merely eccentric?
    3. What might be the significance in the choice of character names?
    4. What is the meaning of the fantastical image of the Oceanic Express?
  2. In Joseph Williams’ “The Old Man and the Cave”:

    1. The account may seem at first to be a reverse allegory of birth. In view of the ending, why might the interpretation be appropriate?
    2. Would Jonah have used the term “atheist”? If not, what other word might he have used?
    3. Rather than concluding in the fashion typical of a joke, how might the story have included a series of clues to the narrator’s identity and the reason for his enduring his captivity in the belly of the whale?
  3. In Mel Waldman’s “The First Death”:

    1. The name of the deity is abbreviated and thereby deliberately made unpronounceable according to a tradition in Hebrew. What adjustment would have to be made in the dialogue if the play were performed rather than read silently?
    2. Why might Morgan, in “Angel in My Coffee Cup,” be stumped by Rose’s question?
    3. How would you answer Rose’s question?
    4. In what way does Rose unknowingly answer her own question?
    5. In light of the author’s previous works, is the play really about the effects of Alzheimer’s dementia on an elderly couple or is it actually a pretext for Rose’s question about the origin of natural evil and an omnipotent deity’s responsibility for it?
  4. In Michael D. Brooks’ “The Final Supper”:

    1. “Merriam Webster” is also the publisher and name of a well-known American dictionary. Why might the author have chosen this name for the story’s only character?
    2. Merriam is described as having a “copper” skin coloring. Bewildering Stories considers skin color and ethnicity as irrelevant to fiction unless it’s integral to the plot, i.e. it can’t be removed without impairing the story’s coherence. Why might the description be relevant in this case?
    3. One of Bewildering Stories’ unofficial mottoes says that any story based on current events is out of date before it’s written. Why does that principle not apply to “The Final Supper”?
  5. In John Grey’s “Woman in Chair,” the narrator seems to have a tenuous grasp on reality. Would you say the narrator is insane if he knows he’s delusional?

  6. In David Brookes’ “Shaking the Tree,” how many examples can you find of people who know everything but understand nothing?

Responses welcome!

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