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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 424

Tasting Time

  1. At least five of the stories complete in this issue are — perhaps at a stretch — fairy tales in some form:

    What do they have in common? How do they differ?

  2. In Rebecca Lu Kiernan’s “Dogbye”:

    1. What symbols does the poem employ? What do they mean?

    2. Visual illustrations are normally ancillary to works of literature. What do the photos add to the poem?

    3. As a matter of policy, Bewildering Stories frowns upon “dear diary” literature, which is typified by abstractions and a first-person audience, namely vague generalities that have meaning only for the author. How does “Dogbye” transcend that limitation? In what way does it exemplify the principles discussed in “Writing as Discovery”?

  3. Sherman Smith’s “Mr. Nibs” is a wine connaisseur’s romp.

    1. The story has a somewhat sprawling, fantastical plot. What does it tell us about the importance of atmosphere in the enjoyment of fine wines?
    2. What might be the function of the reappearance of Mr. Nibs and Josephine Baker at the end?
  4. Richard Ong’s “On Broken Wings” is an “android” story of a type made classic by such authors as Isaac Asimov.

    1. How do Asimov’s robots and Ariel differ? What does “On Broken Wings” make explicit that Asimov takes for granted?
    2. Why is Ariel portrayed as having the classic form of an angel? Could the character have taken some other form? What might the symbolism mean?
    3. Is the ending self-contradictory?
  5. Ron Van Sweringen’s “In the Eye of the Beholder” employs a classic Twilight Zone scenario, namely a supernatural vision experienced aboard an airplane:

    1. Does the ending make the story a kind of dark joke?
    2. Does the physician raise the old science vs. faith conundrum? Why might his “take your pick” attitude be justified?
    3. Is a choice implied by the action in the story, specifically the halos? Does Mark Phillips not deserve a halo for some reason, or does he simply not happen to get one?
    4. Which fate would you prefer?
  6. In Donna Hole’s “Two Minutes in Tomorrow”:

    1. Tommy experiences a series of time jumps that anyone might normally find scary, let alone perplexing; and yet Tommy adapts well to them, almost with equanimity. How does the story prepare the reader to accept Tommy’s presence of mind?

    2. Tommy’s uncle borrows the old dueling pistol. The action is unaccounted for, but it does accomplish two purposes: it spares Tommy having to hide the pistol from Peter, and it allows him to explain the problem to his father. And yet the uncle returns the pistol in time for Peter to find it and take it to school.

      The plot reversal depends first on a coincidence, i.e. the uncle’s returning the pistol, and then on an implausibility, namely that both Tommy and his father fail to be alarmed when the pistol is suddenly brought within Peter’s reach again. Could the plot be developed in another way?

    3. Would you prefer a resolution rather than the “open” ending? What kind would you prefer: tragic or comic?
  7. How does Ásgrímur Hartmannsson’s Error, chapter 12, recapitulate the eleven previous chapters?

Responses welcome!

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