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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 575

Penal Colonies

  1. Sometimes we receive submissions that amount to “stories about stories,” where a character recounts another story. Now, “frame” stories have a time-honored place in literature, where an embedded story affects in some way the story in the opening and closing frames. Otherwise we recommend simplicity: letting an omniscient narrator give the readers as much of a first-hand experience as possible.

    All the prose fiction and, arguably, the poetry in this issue strongly imply or even refer to “larger stories,” namely action that does or might take place out of sight, beyond what we’re shown. What “larger stories” do the stories and poems in this issue imply? In what way are the works complete in themselves and do not overstep our guideline?

  2. In Morris Marshall’s “Liverwurst and Corn Chips”:

    1. What is the irony of “corn chips”?
    2. Is Chris a coward? To what extent do he and Laura plan to expiate unearned guilt?
  3. In Ron Van Sweringen’s “Leaving Desire Street”:

    1. What might be the significance of the washed dishes?
    2. Is Dora a “passive heroine”?
    3. What “larger stories” are implied by Agnes and the “john”?
  4. In Danielle L. Parker’s “The Deathless Hand”: a Review Editor notes, “The 11th-century Werewolf Prince of Polatsk appears as a character in the Prince Igor saga. The werewolf tale was apparently imported by the Scandinavians who settled in what is now Belarus, providing some mythological cross-pollination among the Vikings and the Kievan Rus.”

    1. To what extent would a knowledge of medieval Russian and Scandinavian literature help the reader in understanding the plot of the story?
    2. Koschey’s affirmation that he seeks to “protect Mother Russia” is almost disingenuous as an explanation of his motives. What kind of Russia does Koschey seem to have in mind?

  5. In Edward H. Garcia’s “The Right Hand”:

    1. What might the reader suspect that Dr. Dietrich has done to justify the sacrifice he makes at the end of the story?
    2. Which is more important in the story: his transgressions or the nature of his conscience?

    3. Dr. Dietrich may not have explicitly in mind the injunction in Mark 9:43, but if he did, in what way would he be misinterpreting it and failing to observe it?
  6. In J. Daniel Batt’s “Run Like You’re on Fire”:

    1. Why does the character “you” feel threatened? Is “you” a pyromaniac or a pyrokinetic?
    2. The second-person point of view is extremely rare in fiction. Why? What would be the effect of a first- or third-person point of view in this scenario?

    3. All the main verbs in the story are in which mood: declarative, interrogative or imperative?

    4. “Run...” is arguably an anecdote. What more might be needed to make it a story?

    5. Why should the title be taken figuratively? What should you do if you were literally on fire?

    6. The use of “like” as a conjunction is also ungrammatical. What other title and conclusion might be possible?

Responses welcome!

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