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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 163

Thermostats, Dogs and Flowers

Both Jon Bishop’s “A Draft of Cold Air” and ‘QBall’ Quilter’s “The Happening” are based on the same premise: the main character is afflicted by cold air. And that’s where the resemblance ends: “Cold Air” edges off towards potentially tragic horror fantasy, while “The Happening” is practically slapstick comedy. And the disparity raises some questions:

  1. What makes the difference between the serious story and the comedy in this case?
  2. Assume that “The Happening” were rewritten as mainstream fantasy: how might it and “Cold Air” be turned into tragedies?
  3. How could “Cold Air” be turned into a comedy?

The first question has a “right” answer:

“Cold Air” is potentially horror because Robert MacFarland has no control over what happens to him; he acts as a foil of the demon. “The Happening” is entirely rational: everthing spooky takes place in the husband’s besotted mind; all he has to do is close the freezer door.

* * *

In “Can Even the Dead See This,” the pain of the woman as a bereaved widow and mother is likened to that of a beaten dog. The image is central to the power of the story. However, dogs do not play the same role in the culture of North America as they do in that of China. If an Occidental wrote a similar story, what image might the writer choose?

* * *

Mary King’s “Springtime in Siberia,” in issue 162, contains two similes: “like roses through a barbed wire fence” and “like flowers wilted in the snow.” What does each symbolize?

In the refrain, what does “it” refer to in the line “remember how it used to be”? The implied reference is not just “life”: what part?

In the conclusion “but it’s not so bad here” what does “here” refer to?

Responses welcome!

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