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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 497

Off the Road

  1. In Jacob Peppers’ “A Rune Scribe’s Past“:

    1. What is the difference between a “Kirakti” and a “Krute”?
    2. The antagonist Osyrd functions as a sociopathic villain. Would further elaboration of his character add to the story or would it risk overshadowing the partnership between Drasayurn and Calek?
  2. In Rebecca Lu Kiernan’s “The Experiment,” who or what is the narrator or poetic voice?

  3. In Johanna Miklós’ “Study from Blue,” the play is ostensibly set in the “present.” What is the effect of the characters’ antiquated social status and manner of speaking? Why might the premise be more plausible than a suburban setting and modern speech?

  4. In Charles C. Cole’s “Symptoms of a New Age”:

    1. What does “symptoms” imply?
    2. Is the guru lying about his relationship with the narrator’s ex-wife? Does it matter?
  5. In Elana Gomel’s “Jonathan”:

    1. Jonathan is the name of three different persons in the Hebrew Scriptures. Is the name chosen for the boy in “Jonathan” only a coincidence or is does it point to a hidden allegory?
    2. Is “Jonathan” a story about autism as such or is it about — not to exclude anything else, of course — linguistic dépaysement?
    3. What do you think of Kathy and Murray as parents? What more can they do for Jonathan? How does Jonathan expect them to speak to him? Would it help if they spoke to him in a language other than English?
    4. Val says first that Jonathan spoke “gibberish” at the dinner table but later reveals he was actually speaking Russian with adult proficiency. Why did she ignore him?
    5. What paranormal abilities does Jonathan seem to have? What does he lack?
  6. In Ward Webb’s “A Visitor in Valhalla”:

    1. “A Visitor in Valhalla” does a riff on an old premise: “The last man in the world sat alone in a room. Suddenly he heard someone knocking at the door.” Is William hallucinating or is “Plato” real? In the end, does it matter?

    2. After six years alone, is it plausible that William would react as he does to someone who asks him politely for a drink of water? Does William ever give “Plato” any water? Does “Plato” really need it? How does Robinson Crusoe react to the discovery of “Friday”?

    3. William calls his retreat “Valhalla.” At what point is the name first mentioned? Does the mythical Valhalla have anything to do with “Plato’s” visit?

    4. The Count of Monte Cristo is mentioned twice. What might the novel have to do with the plot?

    5. Why is “Plato” going to New York? Might he have a reason other than that New York is a big city and everybody goes there? “Plato” mentions three times that he’s been traveling eastwards. Why east rather than west?

    6. Why is William visited by Plato rather than some other philosopher or religious figure?

    7. What causes the double apocalypse in William’s world? Could “Plato” or any of his colleagues, whom William sees in a vision, do anything about it?

    8. How does “A Visitor to Valhalla” resemble and differ from Catfish Russ’s “Super Yamato”?

    9. In what way does “A Visitor in Valhalla” violate Bewildering Stories’ rule prohibiting a dead narrator, i.e. it’s a story that leaves no one alive to tell the tale?

Responses welcome!

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