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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 563

Special-Ops Librarian

    Bewildering Stories’ issues occasionally have “themes.” If they do, it’s by coincidence. For example, issue 557 has stories about strange apparitions. Issue 561 has stories in which vampires and sensory experience play important roles. Issue 562 raises questions about apperances and reality.

    The theme of issue 563 seems to be guilt. In what way do the following stories deal with the topic: is it explicit or implied, earned, or unearned? If the problem is not resolved, might it be, and if so, how?

  1. In Sherman Smith’s Two Blind Men and a Fool, chapter 30:

    1. From previous chapters, how do we know that the dead man that Officer Newman inspects in the morgue is not Elroy Hawks? Whose body has been substituted for Elroy’s?
    2. From previous chapters, we know that Officer Newman’s first impression of Irene is quite mistaken. And yet it is ironically accurate: his thinking of Irene as a “librarian” is an inadvertent clue. Who has done what in the morgue, and why?

    3. In Chapter 31, what has Brooks done in the past to justify the price of his admission to Gibby’s bar?
    4. Is the tension between Earl and Brooks only about music? What underlying tension does Earl’s metaphor imply?
  2. Is B. Z. Niditch’s “Pasternak’s Legacy” an ekphrastic poem or a panegyric?

  3. In Dimitrije Medenica’s “The Red String,” what is the function of physical infirmity or deformity in the story?

  4. In Charles C. Cole’s “A Cosmic Appeal”:

    1. We’re told that Petulia is Rex’s “girlfriend”; what more can we infer about their relationship?
    2. According to Rex, Heaven and Hell seem to be involved in bean-counting and book-balancing between venial and mortal sins. Does Petulia’s report of the phone call postpone or resolve the problem?

    3. A lack of conscience is typical of a sociopathic personality. What are the consequences of a hypervigilant conscience?
    4. Bonus question: What famous statesman admitted he was haunted by a “black dog”? What was he referring to?
  5. In Sean Gill’s “Gasping for Air”:

    1. The narrator and Jennie are caught in a “scrip” or “truck” system of indentured servitude. Where, especially, did it exist in the U.S.? When and how was it ended?

    2. Bonus questions:
      1. The “truck” system has nothing to do with vehicles. What is the origin of the word?
      2. What famous popular song told of life under this form of industrial peonage?
  6. In Ron Van Sweringen’s “Saying Goodbye to Whiskers,” the story combines comedy and pathos.

    1. Explain the comedy.
    2. If Willie succeeded in digging a grave big enough for Whiskers and his story were only pathetic, should Bewildering Stories have accepted it anyway?  

  7. In C. E. Gee’s “Back to the Garden,” can you suggest a different ending to the story? What else might Aubry and Evelyn do?

Responses welcome!

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