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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 458

Gotcha Coming and Going

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Lou Antonelli, Tell Gilgamesh I’m Sorry
Sandra Crook, Faith Stealer
Jewel Beth Davis, Flak
David Harker, Dream Date
Jason P. Reeser, Timeless in Winter
Mariah Sells, A Scavenger Hunt for Omnipotence
Ron Van Sweringen, Parker Jones’ Tree
  1. In Jewel Beth Davis’ “Flak”:

    1. A lot of naughty words can be slipped past readers if the words are suitably encrypted. What are the space aliens saying in an “Earthling” language? Do we really want to know?
    2. Who are the space aliens, and what are they doing?
  2. In Lou Antonelli’s “Tell Gilgamesh I’m Sorry”:

    1. The story falls into the genre of post-apocalypse literature, but it refers to two apocalypses. What are their causes?
    2. What traits make Omar Peshtigo — or Utnapishtim — a human figure rather than a demigod? In what way is the cause of his immortality ironic, even humorous?

    3. Omar agrees to stay and help the Wrightsons rebuild their community. What reasons does he have to do so?

    4. Omar is technically immortal, but he says he might be killed by drastic measures such as an atomic bomb or, we may presume, decapitation. Suppose Omar has — for the sake of argument — a one percent chance of suffering a fatal accident in any given year. How long would he live before his death would be a statistical certainty? But actuaries are notorious killjoys: for the purposes of the story, why is it important that Omar be immortal?

  3. In Jason Reeser”s “Timeless in Winter”:

    1. Why are the soldiers in suspended animation called the “Living”?
    2. Why is Dezhnev finally caught in the field of suspended action along with the soldiers in the house?
    3. One of the German soldiers is found to be weeping. How can his suspended animation be reconciled with Dezhnev’s?
  4. In Mariah Sells’ “A Scavenger Hunt for Omnipotence”:

    1. Can the poem be read as a hymn to secular humanism, or is it something else? What kinds of “past” knowledge are dismissed as “nothing”? Why?
    2. The last two lines of the poem end by affirming that there is “no nonfiction, only nonreality.” Analyze the assertion in terms of logic. What does it mean?
  5. In Sandra Crook’s “Faith Stealer”:

    1. Is the thief a clairvoyant or is he a mind-reader?
    2. In view of the thief’s paranormal ability, what occupations — legitimate or otherwise — might he pursue other than that of a pickpocket?
    3. The title “Faith Stealer” is ambiguous. In what way?
    4. Is the thief really a thief? In what way does he resemble a packrat?
  6. In Ron Van Sweringen’s “Parker Jones’ Tree”:

    1. Does the story overstep Bewildering Stories’ restriction on sentimentality, namely unearned emotion?
    2. Is the story really about a Christmas tree?
    3. Considered from a particular point of view, why might “Parker Jones’ Tree” qualify as a “Christmas story” even if the season were different and the tree were something else?
  7. In David Harker’s “Dream Date”:

    1. What is a “South Carolina purr”? Does it differ from that of neighouring states? Is is likely that the character in the story would understand any of it?
    2. What does Tallulah’s appearance imply about Keith and his life?
    3. Does “Dream Date” overstep Bewildering Stories’ restriction on stories that end “But it was all a dream” or the equivalent?

Responses welcome!

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