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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 451

Say Who?

page index
Bertil Falk, Those Who Sleep
Russell Helms, What Glenda Wanted
Mary B. McArdle, Give Them Wine
Steven P. Servis, As the Spider Patiently Waits
Thomas L. J. Smith, The Night of the Living Grandpas
Ron Van Sweringen, An Added Bonus
  1. In Russell Helms’ “What Glenda Wanted”:

    1. This symbolic fiction tells two stories at once. What are they? How might they offend bourgeois sensitivities?
    2. What is the significance of the years in which the action takes place?
    3. What is the function of the color imagery? Of the tactile imagery?
    4. In what ways is Rev. Squint’s radio interview with Frank comical? What do we learn about Frank?
    5. What does it mean that Glenda survives the storm naked, smiling, and wearing one black shoe on her left foot?
    6. What is the symbolic significance of the storm’s conclusion? What is the meaning of the objects it leaves on the “grassy fields”? The story opens with a quotation from Rev. Squint as an epigraph. In what way is the Reverend’s observation justified?
  2. In Mary B. McArdle’s Give Them Wine:

    1. The old lady says that Nakoma is her daughter and that Sebastian is the father. Why might the name of Nakoma’s mother not be mentioned?

    2. Nakoma’s mother says she conceived her daughter in a moment of grief at her husband’s death, when she was “not herself.” Do you find the explanation plausible? What is Sebastian’s excuse?

    3. Nakoma knowingly flouts her people’s intermarriage taboo by pursuing her half-brother Lionel. Does her characterization to date support her action? Does she have a reason to force her mother to make a public confession?

    4. Nakoma’s mother tells Donas “There is only one liar among us.” Who is it?

    5. Does Nakoma’s mother’s story account for what Nakoma has told Donas about the use of wine and the relationship between Barrett and Sebastian?

    6. Does Nakoma really deserve to be punished?

  3. In Bertil Falk’s “Those Who Sleep”:

    1. In what way is the story a parody or a satire of the character James Bond, “007”? Must the reader be familiar with Ian Fleming’s books or the films in order to appreciate the story?

    2. Mary is evidently a mole, a “sleeper” agent. But is she ever proved to be one?

    3. If Mary is a mole, is it ever made clear what kind she is? Is she consciously awaiting orders from her handlers? Or is she subject to post-hypnotic suggestion?

    4. When Mary says at night, “I am not a sleeper,” does the narrator mishear her? Might she be saying “I am not asleep”? If so, what might that imply in view of the couple’s prodigious production of progeny?

    5. Is it likely that the narrator could have such a long and apparently happy marriage — let alone produce so many children — without ever having a frank discussion with his wife about her role? After all, he is “terror-stricken,” and he does have the unfortunate example of Mrs. Klint, who shoots her husband.

  4. In Steven P. Servis’ “As the Spider Patiently Waits”:

    1. Mansur is an ill-mannered drunk, but that doesn’t necessarily constitute a tragic flaw. Does he have one?
    2. Does Sandra have a tragic flaw?
    3. Who is the spider and who, the moth: Sandra or Mansur?
    4. At the end, is Sandra portrayed as a succubus or a “succubant”?
  5. In Ron Van Sweringen’s “An Added Bonus”:

    1. The title is redundant.; “added” says nothing that “bonus” doesn’t. What other title would you suggest?
    2. Marley’s unseen father, William Marley Johnson, is arguably the most interesting character in the story. Why?
    3. What might John Folkins think if he knew that Marley is attracted to him at least partly on the basis of Mabel Norris’ superstition?
    4. Is “An Added Bonus” a story or a vignette?
  6. In Thomas Lee Joseph Smith’s “Night of the Living Grandpas”:

    1. Why does the narrator lie about watching Jeopardy with his father-in-law?
    2. The action consists regularly in stretching the truth or play-acting. To what purpose?
    3. Does the story reach a conclusion or does it simply stop? Can you suggest a different ending?

Responses welcome!

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