Challenge 589 Response
What Is the Inquisitor’s Inquest?
Bewildering Stories discussion
Part 1 appears in this issue.
“The Inquisitor’s Children” appears in issue 589.
Challenge 589: What does it mean that Pleiade “clipped her mother’s wings”?
[Heather J. Frederick] Her mother hated motherhood.
[Don Webb] “Clipped her mother’s wings” appears to sum up a previous story. Because of Pleiade, Arielle was unable to continue her career as a circus performer, and she blamed Hassan for it.
Ibrahim lapsed from adherence to the “Myth” and became “dissipated,” but why did Hassan become estranged from his daughter? What “sin” or “sins” are the Inquisitor, Hassan and Ibrahim guilty of?
[Heather] The sins in this case are in the eye of the beholder, and I was happy to let them be. The important thing was that in the Inquisitor’s world, once you have entered the Myth you cannot leave — a chilling concept. No matter what your sin is after that, you will be hunted, as will your offspring. Ibrahim was painted as a suitably evil man: he lay with whores, he beat his son. I didn’t need any more justification, for this story.
As for Hassan, he left his daughter not because he became estranged from her, but from her mother. It was a weakness he regretted for the rest of his life.
[Don] Ibrahim is going to get reactions that vary all over the place, depending on the readers’ cultural values. Some will say, “The rotter deserves to die.” I see him, rather, as a sad and lonely person looking for help in all the wrong places. Does that justify murder? The Inquisitor has a lot of explaining to do — to the police.
By what reasoning does the Inquisitor transfer his sin to Hassan? Is Hassan’s sacrifice voluntary?
[Heather] The twisted logic of religious fanatacism. I’m not sure his sacrifice was voluntary, but he was talked into it, and he did cooperate.
[Don] Hassan’s fate similar to Ibrahim’s. One might say, “Hassan abandoned his wife and child. Blind the rotter and shove him out the airlock.” Granted, Hassan is lonely; but that is not a sin. And he’s regretful, but of what? The Inquisitor seems to think that others’ shortcomings justify his own crimes. But what are the facts in the case? I don’t feel I know.
What happened to Arielle? What does the Inquisitor do with Hassan after blinding him?
[Heather] Strangely, the Inquisitor showed a kindness by using a sedative and not killing Hassan. I assume Hassan was fine after that.
I expected Hassan to have to kill the Inquisitor, and was surprised at the price he had to pay. I found it strangely fitting, and macabre. This Inquisitor is relentless and a fanatic. He might demand that his own sins be paid for, but never at the expense of his own life, and if you are summoned to sacrifice on their behalf, they’ll use anesthesia. This is a truly whacko religion, yet with its own moral code.
This is a sci-fi horror story that is truly horrific: all you need to do to get this guy to come after you is to pick up his religion’s pamphlet. You can never escape.
[Don] Now that is spooky: “Pick up a pamphlet, get maimed or murdered.” What is the difference between the Inquisitor and today’s pseudo-religious terrorists? As far as I can see, the terrorists in the headlines butcher people not for what they do but for who they are. The Inquisitor performs lynchings in order to mete out a kind of poetic justice that isn’t one.
Does the Inquisitor kidnap or rescue Yusuf and Pleiade? Is he the children’s benefactor or is he a religious fanatic who commits murder, mayhem and abduction?
[Heather] Yes, yes, yes. In his mind, he is probably rescuing the children. But yes, he’s a religious fanatic who commits murder and mayhem in the name of his religion across the galaxy.
[Don] Agreed. Interestingly, he tells Pleiade to go to sleep and look forward to meeting her “new brother.” But Yusuf is drugged. How is he going to feel about it? The only relationship between Pleiade and Yusuf is that Pleiade is Hassan’s daughter while Yusuf is his foster son. The Inquisitor may feel he is rescuing the two chlidren, but what is he rescuing them from, and where is he taking them?
Might the story be a concluding chapter in a larger story or might it be a summary of a larger story?
[Heather] I see it more as a concluding chapter rather than a summary, but the Inquisitor’s story isn’t over. He’s still out there.
While you’re right that this story could have been fleshed out, I don’t think I needed more; it was creepy enough as it was. I think the author probably had more to say, though, you’re right about that. What came across to me was a warning about religious extremism. I wonder if that is where the author was going with this story, or just where I took it?
[(new contributor) Michael McNichols] I agree that “Eyes for the Inquisitor’s Children” should appear as a much larger story. I want to know if the players share a common if not nominal faith tradition that would allow for the appearance of an inquisitor for the work of redemption.
I was also intrigued that the Inquisitor shifted in his role from bloody, heartless avenger to a warm, compassionate father figure at the end. There is obviously much more to be learned about him and much still more regarding Hassan, who may have lost his sight but not his life.
[Don] Thank you, Heather and Michael. I think you’ve both summed up the problem nicely, though from different viewpoints. I, too, feel — perhaps even suspect — that the story is an excerpt, a concluding chapter in a larger story. But even if it is, it leaves a lot of questions hanging in the air.
One of our mottoes says, “Tell the readers what they need to know, but do not do the reading for them.” I need to know more about Ibrahim and Hassan in order to form an opinion. And I find the Inquisitor’s motives enigmatic.
Perhaps the author or other readers can provide a new point of view.
Copyright © 2014 by Heather J. Frederick,
Michael McNichols and Bewildering Stories