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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 421

The Raider of the Spanish Main

  1. In Ásgrímur Hartmannsson’s Error:

    1. Jonas goes to look for the original copy of his birth certificate. He does not know in which hospital he was born. What are the odds against his selecting the right hospital on the first try?

    2. In view of Jonas’ official non-existence and his extensive knowledge of automotive style and design, what illicit occupation might he be qualified for?

    3. Jonas’ views on radio, television and music — not to mention food — have firmly established him as a boring personality. What does he say about luxury cars that suggests he is also a rather unpleasant person?
  2. In Berdine Jordan’s “Missing Morgan”:

    1. At what point might the reader be convinced that the boy is not insane but is channeling the ghost of the 17th-century pirate Henry Morgan?
    2. Considering the boy’s age and his mother’s feelings, might the story apply to a parent of a criminal or terrorist?
  3. In Gary Inbinder’s “Deviled Spam”: 

    1. Niemand receives a text message that resembles an oracular pronouncement. Does it affect Niemand’s behavior in any significant way? Does it even indirectly cause Niemand’s eventual fate?

    2. Even though the “Oracle” texts a message that amounts to an astrological forecast, what difference might it have made in what Niemand does? What is Niemand’s tragic flaw?

  4. In Christopher Lee Kneram’s “The Wreck of the Perihelion Siren”:

    1. In what ways does the story parody Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe?
    2. Bonus question: Cyrano de Bergerac’s The Other World has a character who is a native of the Sun. How does he differ from the characters in “Perihelion Siren”? In what ways might the two stories coincide?

  5. Mary B. McArdle’s “Highway Orchestrations” uses synthesthesia as a topic in the mother’s and daughter’s conversation. What “highway orchestration” does the story really describe?

  6. In P. F. White’s “How I Became an Electric Nun”:

    1. When might the reader first suspect that the narrator is unreliable?
    2. “His eyes were merciless, powerful and kind.” How does this sentence show that the “electric Jesus” is a fraud?
    3. The parent’s alleged narrow-mindedness is a stereotype. How does the story make the stereotype ironic?
  7. In Oonah V. Joslin’s “Stick Dressing,” what is a “stick”: a pike, club or cane?

  8. The title of Monica Valentinelli’s “The Message” contravenes Bewildering Stories’ guideline that frowns upon titles consisting of a single common noun.

    1. What warrants our making an exception in this case?
    2. What other appropriate title or titles can you think of that do not give the story away?
  9. In Oonah V. Joslin’s letter “When Poets Meet,” Oonah appears to be fascinated by Napoleon, and John Stocks, by Rasputin. In view of the poets’ works, why might these interests come as a jaw-dropping surprise?

    Editor’s note: relative height has nothing to do with the question. Napoleon was of average height for his place and time. The myth that he was short is due to the English “inch” being a little shorter than the French pouce, and the difference was lost in translation. The question of Napoleon’s stature has been dispelled by the adoption of the French metric system everywhere but in the U.S., which accounts for the loss of a space probe to Mars and confirms one of our mottoes: “There is no story so truly bewildering as reality.”

Responses welcome!

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