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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 447

And They Are Us

page index
James Bright, Building the Bronze Wall
James Graham, Li Qingzhao’s Ornaments
Maxwell Jameson, The Man With a City in His Head
Rebecca Lu Kiernan, 00111111
Harry Lang, The Sun Men
Mary B. McArdle, Give Them Wine
Richard Ong, Found in Action
Thomas Willits, Heart of Truth
  1. In Harry Lang’s “The Sun Men”:

    1. In what way might the title be construed as ambiguous?
    2. With what techniques does the author suggest succinctly a fantastical and yet coherent “universe”?
    3. Moments of panic and frantic action are overheard, not narrated. What do they add to the story?
    4. What is the narrator’s tragic flaw?
    5. How might the moral of the story apply to politics as well as to science?
  2. In James Bright’s “Building the Bronze Wall”:

    1. What is Adrastos’ attitude toward the gods: reverential? respectful? skeptical? cynical?
    2. What touches give Adrastos an air of modern realism?
    3. What can be learned from the story about infantry tactics in Antiquity?
    4. In our timeline and in the alternate one of the story, the Persians learn from a local how to outflank King Leonidas’ army. Does the story say whether the information was offered voluntarily or not?
    5. The story ends with a touch of realism. Would you prefer another ending? If so, what would it be?
  3. In Richard Ong’s “Found in Action,” what important historical event is alluded to in Anne Lundy’s name?

  4. In James Graham’s “Li Qingzhao’s Ornaments,” the author chooses as examples of “universal” poetry brief lyric poems that are certainly far removed from today’s audience in time although not necessarily in space. And the author emphasizes that cultural obstacles need not impede a latter-day audience’s appreciation.

    1. Does the author implicitly agree or disagree with the essay “A Space Without Borders”?
    2. In light of the poetic genres chosen, could The Song of Roland have any kind of universal quality? (See “Mary’s Report” in “Taking Notice”)

  5. In Thomas Willits’ “Heart of Truth”:

    1. Teeth — especially discolored or malformed teeth — are a literary convention designating a folk devil. What does Todd notice that indicates he is not dealing with something so commonplace?
    2. Does Todd pay Frank for the necklace?

  6. In Mary B. McArdle’s Give Them Wine, Donas plans to escape from the “City” and knows how much she will miss Lionel.

    1. Why does Donas not take Lionel into her confidence? Does she have any reason to distrust him?
    2. Since Lionel is directly affected by Nakoma’s story about the women’s cabal and the drugged wine, won’t Donas’ failure to tell him of what she’s heard constitute a betrayal?

    3. The only verifiable evidence Nakoma has offered for her story is quite flimsy: her biased account of Barrett’s and Sebastian’s relationship. Isn’t Nakoma taking a big and unnecessary risk by counting on Donas’ succumbing to paranoia and not disclosing the conspiracy to Lionel? Donas’ reaction may be somewhat consistent with her experience, but is it consistent with her character?

  7. In Rebecca Lu Kiernan’s “00111111,” the title is a question mark in binary code. It goes against our advice about titles containing long numbers, although it does not, strictly speaking, go against our advice about one-word titles. Is there any clue in the poem why the title should be simply a question mark, and in binary code, to boot?

  8. In Maxwell Jameson’s “The Man With a City in His Head”:

    1. Who are the “Takers,” exactly? How did they come by their name? What does it mean?
    2. What does “Sharing” consist of?
    3. Does the narrator have a name?
    4. Are characters such as the Writer, the Historian, the Leader, and the Statesman real characters or are they allegorical figures representing various points of view?
    5. Do the ideas and scenarios in “City” correspond to anything in your, the reader’s experience? In any identifiable historical reality? If so, what is it?

Responses welcome!

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