Bewildering Stories

Challenge 108 responses

You may want to read the three alternate conclusions to “The Bridge” first.

“Bridge” Open

A Challenge response can take any number of forms, from casual ideas or even questions to informal essays or full-fledged stories. We realize that responses take time and effort, and we’re happy to receive them.

Challenge 108, “Endings, Beginnings and Kinds,” asked for alternate endings to euhal allen’s “The Bridge” in option number 1. Euhal allen writes about the outcome:

Well, the challenge was told to Katherine and she did write an ending that she thought should have happened. Naturally, I could not let her do that without a counter challenge — Do you get the thought that we often challenge each other in things like this? — so I wrote an ending different from hers, one I felt more likely to happen in the real world.

And Karlos Allen has weighed in with a third alternative ending to “The Bridge.”

Just to reassure our readers: these alternate endings do not have to be exclusively an Allen family affair; the Challenge is open to everyone. Just compare the three versions we have in this issue: they’re radically different. While mindful of the French proverb that cautions against putting one’s finger between the tree and its bark (don’t intervene in other families’ business), let’s consider them.

  1. Is Katherine Allen’s version less likely than her father’s to happen in the real world? Or is euhal pulling our leg just a little? Okay, let’s take realism literally. Of the three endings, Katherine’s is the only one that does not add any science-fictional elements to those already present in the story. She deals with what’s there, and the characters’ feelings play the most important role.

    “The Bridge” is full of politics; in fact, one might say it paints political attitudes in rather stark colors. But only Katherine’s conclusion suggests an allegory: the people’s last-minute decision to “vote with their feet” in favor of the Bridge is arguably a realistic portrayal of many elections, which are frequently decided in their last days. The U.S. presidential election of 1948 comes to mind.

    That leaves only one point to argue: is Katherine’s optimism realistic? Or can the Authorities fool most of the people all the time? The answer will probably depend on our mood even more than on our point of view.

  2. The second version — euhal’s — is pessimistic. The dissidents are transported to another planet, leaving the remainder on Earth to pursue their evil ways. Doesn’t this interstellar “Rapture” state bluntly that the vast majority of Earthlings prefer tribalism of the lowest common denominator even when its misuse is obviously a curse? And that there’s no place on earth for the elect few who transcend it?

  3. Karlos’ conclusion temporizes by removing the Bridge and returning to the status quo ante minus casualties. Man’s destiny is once again in his own hands alone. Doesn’t the Galactic Council’s retreat amount to an admission that it has made — with the best of intentions — a colossal blunder? However, the Bridge’s visit serves as a warning: mankind’s survival is a long shot, because man is smart but not wise. And without wisdom, technology — like tribalism itself — will be a curse more than a blessing.

At this point it seems... wise... to emphasize that we can talk about stories or authors but not both at once: we’re dealing with fiction, not editorials. Between them, Katherine, euhal and Karlos could hardly have explored a range of viewpoints more thoroughly if they’d planned it. And who can say, maybe they did.

Meanwhile, though, pages like this one tell you that our contributors’ stories do “get noticed,” to coin a phrase. Thanks, Allens; you’ve helped make Bewildering Stories a meeting place in action.

Copyright © 2004 by Don Webb and Bewildering Stories
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