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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 325

The Rite of Passage

  1. Jonathan Pinnock’s “Desert Culture”:

    1. Does the story end “but it was all a dream” or is it a story a kind of dream sequence in the form of a hallucination?
    2. Is it a story or a vignette?
    3. Does the story replace one set of stereotypes with another?
  2. In Elliot R. Dorfman’s “Crossover,” what is the function of the dog in the story?

    1. What would Barry think of Reeva if she did not go back for the dog?
    2. Remove the dog from the plot entirely. What might happen if Reeva could stay in 1971?
  3. Dwight O. Krauss’s “The Last Man on Earth Explains All”:

    1. Is the story a variation on the theme “It was all a dream,” namely “This is all a dream”? Or is the theme “We’re property” or “atomic doom,” both of which are well-known in science fiction?
    2. Is the story an alternate history in which our history is the alternate one?
    3. Do Cleveland, Marebeth and Dante know what Jerry is trying to do?
    4. Why might it not be necessary to predetermine future events explicitly in the computer program once the parameters are in place?
    5. How long will the computer simulation of existence last?
    6. What might be the moral of the story, aside from “double check your arithmetic”?
  4. In Julie Wornan’s “The Rebel,” a little of the dialogue is direct quotation but most of it is semi-indirect, a style Flaubert originated in Madame Bovary. What advantage does indirect dialogue have over direct dialogue in this story? What effect does it have on the direct dialogue at the end?

  5. Is the epigraph to John Stocks’ “George” necessary to understand the poem? If so, does it detract from the poem? If so, must all poems stand outside of any cultural context? If so, is that even possible?

  6. In Henry F. Tonn’s “Always and Forever”:

    1. Why might we not be told the girl’s name?
    2. How might the scene play out if Robert spoke his lines rather than thought them?
    3. What do you think of Robert? What do you think of the girl?
    4. “Men have died [...] and worms have eaten them, but not for love” — As You Like It (IV, 1). Can the story have any other conclusion than Robert’s despair?
    5. How is this story similar to Graham Storrs’ “Skyball,” in issue 324?
  7. In Dudgeon’s “Tripping on the Street”:

    1. What hints does the story give about its social and historical setting? Why might the setting be deliberately left somewhat vague?
    2. Does Carmen’s experience “on the street” make it more or less plausible that she can debate with the proselytizing clergyman on his own terms? What else justifies her insight?
    3. Carmen’s counter-argument is basically “It’s your word against theirs.” Once the argument from authority is refuted, what remains as the basis for a decision?
    4. At the end, what decision does Carmen make about her own life? How does the story parallel Luke 2:42-49?
  8. In Bertil Falk’s “More than an Urban Legend”:

    1. In literature generally, including film, why are almost all bathroom fixtures — including mirrors — haunted? Why are wash basins not haunted? Is the haunting an effect of Original Sin?
    2. The story is partly ironic, partly farcical, and partly tragic. How could it be made entirely comic?
    3. Might the story be titled “The Secret of Terror Toilet”?

Responses welcome!

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