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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 373

Eat First, Ask Questions Later

page index: anchor links
The Crystal Fruit Bowl
Inside Darryl’s Bookcase
Stack Goes Walking
The Luck of Mikhail Samsonovich
  1. In Marina J. Neary’s “Inside Darryl’s Bookcase”:

    1. Does anything in the poem hint that the scene depicted may not be quite contemporary with the present day?

    2. Reverse the colors. If Darryl were white and had traveled to New Orleans to give a guest lecture on the history of jazz, would his birthday presents be similar to the ones described or would they be more personal?

    3. Again, reverse the colors. If Darryl were white, would the words “average ... genius” carry the same weight of irony?

  2. In C. L. Kelley’s “Glyphs.”

    1. Why does the narrator seem to suspect from the beginning that he is hallucinating? What might he do if he thought the writings and drawings were real?

    2. What indicates that he may actually be haunted? Does the conclusion transgress Bewildering Stories’ guideline that a story may not end with “but it was all a dream” or the equivalent?

    3. Bonus question: How does “Glyphs” resemble H. P. Lovecraft’s “Whisperer in Darkness”?

  3. In James A. Ford’s “Stack Goes Walking”:

    1. Why does Nement take Stack on a forced march across the desert?

    2. Is cannibalism indefensible in a “lifeboat scenario”?

    3. What is the difference between “Stack Goes Walking” and Gary Inbinder’s “Good Eating”?

  4. In Victoria Elliott’s “The Luck of Mikhail Samsonovich”:

    1. Does Mikhail Samsonovich know he’s signing a pact with the Devil? Even if he does, why might he sign it anyway?

    2. Some cultural inconsistencies occur in the story, particularly in the names. However:

      Gregor Denisovich? He dreamed of the day his son had died, and it was his fault because he should have taken him to the hospital sooner, but it was so expensive and he’d hoped that the cough would just go away.

      The incident might ring true in the U.S.A. but not in the Soviet Union or Russia. Why not?

    3. What might prevent the story’s having its setting elsewhere, such as on the North Slope of Alaska, or in the Tar Sands of Alberta, or in a diamond mine in Africa?

    4. Hell as a literal underground region is an ancient commonplace, and so is the idea of digging into it. How does “The Luck of Mikhail Samsonovich” differ from an urban legend spun from an actual event? In particular, how does the story tell the reader that it is a fairy tale rather than an “urban legend”?

  5. In Ron Van Sweringen’s “The Crystal Fruit Bowl”:

    1. The story conveys a sentiment but is not an exercise in sentimentality. Why not?

    2. The story’s ending depends a lot on luck. What ending would you have expected if the bowl had been shattered beyond repair?

    3. How do you prefer to read the story: as an advertisement for Wonder Glue or as an upside-down episode of “Lassie”?

  6. In Arnold Hollander’s “Satisfaction”:

    1. How might the poem be written as a country-western ballad?

    2. “Satisfaction” may be appropriate as an ironic title. Is another title possible?

  7. In Robert N. Stephenson’s Uttuku:

    1. What is an “Uttuku”? What is a “Ta’ibah”? What do the “Ta’ibah” interludes add to the story?

    2. Diana claims that she is shunned by the Goth subculture. In view of evidence to the contrary and Diana's erratic emotional state, is she an “unreliable narrator” projecting her own sense of guilt?

    3. Why is it highly unlikely that Diana would need a lawyer to defend her in the case of Steven’s suicide? Does the lawyer do more than state the obvious?

    4. Do Sarina and her memoir give the impression that she is a superficial “groupie” who haunts celebrities, or might there be more to her than that?

Responses welcome!

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