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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 232

California, Here I Comma

  1. In Bill Bowler’s “Zero Ping” and B. J. Bourg’s “Blood Pursuit,” the first-person narrator dies at the end. Gary Inbinder recalls that the classic film Sunset Boulevard ends in exactly the same way. In your estimation is the death of the narrator an affront to realism or is it nothing to worry about?

    In “Zero Ping,” the main character, Walter, is a computer-game addict. By what stages does he become progressively more alienated from the world around him?

  2. The ending of P. S. Gifford’s “Unwitting Soothsayer” resembles J. G. Ballard’s short story “Now: Zero,” in Billennium. What is the difference between the two stories in general, as well as in their endings?

    Bewildering Stories often receives submissions punctuated in non-standard ways. Two main variations:

    • The “California comma” is seen most frequently in submissions from the U.S. west coast. The rule: put a comma after every coordinating conjunction (e.g. “and,” “but,” “or”) even when no parenthetical clause follows. (“When are you leaving?” “Now. But, I don’t know where I’m going.”).

      Standard rule: the only coordinating conjunction that is regularly followed by a comma is “however,” to distinguish it from the adverb.
      However great kings may be, they are what we are.”
      However, great kings have a habit of eavesdropping on remarks like that one.”

    • The “British comma” is often but by no means always found in submissions from Great Britain.
      General rule: “I have to stop here and think what to say next. Don’t mind me.”
      Particular rule: Put a comma before every coordinating conjunction even in a compound clause. “Jack fell down, and broke his crown.”

      Standard: “Jack fell down and broke his crown.”

    In “The Unwitting Soothsayer” does P. S. Gifford use the “California comma,” the “British comma,” or both?

  3. In what ways is Brian C. Petroziello’s “The House” a farce, a comedy, and a tragedy all at the same time?

    In the opening scenes of the story, the character Officer Minelli makes a crude ethnic joke. Is the joke relevant to anything else in the story?

    Suppose the author’s name were ‘Brian C. Yellowstone’ or his name were unknown: would Bewildering Stories be justified in requiring that the joke be deleted? Should we have objected anyway on the grounds that Bewildering Stories frowns upon ethnic jokes and stereotypes?

  4. For what age of reader would you recommend John W. Steele’s “The Journey”?

    What experience would you add, if any, for Eric in this philosophical story?

  5. Mel Waldman’s “Anonymous” depicts a state of mind at various symbolic levels. Do you think the story is culturally encrypted; that is, is it an interior case history more accessible to psychologists and psychiatrists than to the general public? Or do you think most readers will find it easy enough to understand?

  6. Nigel Bruton’s “Northern Light” often uses assonance rather than rhyme, and the verse form can be associated with comic poetry. But the poem presents an elegant image associating a woman with the aurora borealis. Do you think objections to the verse form are valid or just an irrelevant quibble?

  7. Duane Locke’s “Zinc Oxide” uses the word “aleatorily,” which means “at random” and is normally used only in the field of mathematics. Does the word enhance or spoil the poem?

  8. João Ventura’s “Passing Away” contains many elements of mystery. The inhabitants of the “pre-life” are not seeds; they appear to be people. Nor do the trees sprout from seeds; they are transformed as though ready-made.

    • What are the spiritual implications? Feel free to discuss transmigration and metempsychosis.
    • What are the philosophical implications in terms of humanity and the environment?

  9. Responses welcome!

    Copyright © 2007 by Bewildering Stories
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