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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 284

Forlorn at the Rest Stop

  1. Slawomir Rapala, Three Kings:
    1. “Vahan slid off the horse, approached the aged man, knelt before him and kissed his trembling hands, a gesture that displayed the enormous respect he held for Aaron.”

      Suppose that Vahan’s courtly manners were actually a display of deceptive fawning. How could the scene be written to communicate the fact to the reader without the author’s direct intervention (“a gesture that displayed...”)? How many instances of authorial intervention can you count in chapters 1 and 2 so far?

    2. “Overcome by divine adoration toward his mother, the boy knelt beside his father” (ch. 2, pt. 5). With this sentence, is the rest of the paragraph necessary? With the rest of the paragraph, is this sentence necessary?

      Iskald says he has never seen his mother (ch. 1, pt. 3), and yet he worships her. What might explain the emotion? Is it authentic? Or does it represent Iskald’s sympathy for his father? Or is it something else?

    3. Duke Vahan’s doom is due mostly to treason. Does Vahan himself display uncharacteristic incaution or even recklessness? Is it plausible that Vahan is easily defeated by the Tha-kian? Why does Vahan smile as he falls off the cliff?

  2. Bertil Falk, “Eucharist for a Sinless Mankind”:

    1. Judging by the opening sections, how does the word “mankind” take on an unexpected and possibly ironic meaning?
    2. In the opening scene with Brother Collectus, how does the author provide “backstory” and characterization at the same time as he moves the action forward?
    3. Juding by the celebration of vespers, how does the Catholic church of the far future differ from that of today?
    4. What is striking and unusual in Mother Saulcerite’s facial expressions?
  3. What is the basis of humor in Bob Friedman’s “Graveless in South Cynica”? In what way is the story timely in terms of social and economic policy?

  4. The title of Rachel Parson’s “Lighting the Candle” appears to be a riff on Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind,” about Marilyn Monroe. Is the story comic, tragic, or both at once?

  5. Chris Ward’s “A Thousand Lives of Flies” parodies the idea of reincarnation. What has the human being done to deserve being reincarnated as a fly? To be reincarnated as a human being, what might the fly have to do: be very virtuous — or really rotten?

  6. In Gerry Mandel’s “The Meeting of the Friends of the Forlorn Society”:

    1. What was the original purpose of the Friends of the Forlorn Society? Did it achieve its purpose?
    2. At the beginning of the story do the setting and the conduct of the “meeting” imply that the men are wealthy or poor? When do we first begin to notice discrepancies?
    3. Are the men really very old? How old is Jim?
    4. Jim is referred to as a “pirate.” Why does he sit on a tree stump rather than in a chair? Why is his eye patch described as being “plaid” in color? What might be the irony in JoJo’s retiring to the Caribbean?
    5. How does the “benediction” identify the men as latter-day pirates in a figurative sense?
    6. What ironies can you find in the title of the story?
  7. What is the irony in the title of Walt Trizna’s “And Then He Rested”?

    On the little wall space available hung framed photos taken by famous astronomers. There were pictures taken of distant galaxies using the Hubble telescope and images of the planets taken from some of the most famous observatories on Earth. They were all taken by world-famous astronomers and given to Dr. Springfield. All the photos had been taken by former pupils.

    The word “famous” is repeated three times. What is the effect? What does Dr. Springfield represent for those who believe in the “short creation” theory of cosmic origins?

  8. In Richard H. Fay’s “My Haunted House,” how does the narrator banish his demons?

  9. In Christopher Barnes’ “Pit Stop”:

    1. A Ghazi (Islamic Jihadi) glowering from nave (church) to mosque at the sound of tinkling toe-bells (Western decadence?) may be a powerful image; what might it have to do with the rest of the poem?
    2. Is the drive-in car-hop writing a novel about East-West conflict?
    3. The Malle tree is native to Australia; what is the connection with Morocco?
    4. What does the Venus Fly trap evoke?
    5. Why is the title “Pit Stop”? A pit stop is either a pause for repairs and fuel in an automobile race or a bathroom break on a motor trip. Is the carhop writing in the washroom on his/her break at work?

  10. Responses welcome!

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