Bewildering Stories

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Subversive 59

by Don Webb

This issue is another one that features variety, and it’s especially strong in life-and-death stories. Rick Combs’ “The Leader” gives us a fine narrative adventure about a prehistoric leader who is forced into a trap. Surprise: we, the readers, are the ones who are trapped ! Rick carefully herds us into experiencing life and hunting from a new and unexpected point of view. Welcome to Bewildering Stories, Rick!

Alex Shternshain returns to our screens with “Who Wants to Live Forever?” His story is a combination of Horror and swords-and-sorcery. It gives new meaning to Woody Allen’s quip: “I’m not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Seriously, it raises a question: Just how happy can Dilvish be after he’s resuscitated? Keep those stories coming, Alex!

Michael J A Tyzuk’s serial “The Dilemma” continues with the hero having to worry not only about dying but also about the definition of life. We can hardly wait to see how this one will be resolved. Just a little hint: it won’t be easy!

Eric S. Brown’s “The Metal Man” is something of a departure from the Horror genre in which he has made a distinguished writing career. There are echoes of Horror in his story, but it is a cautionary tale about technology, progress and tradition. Welcome back, Eric.

Thomas R.’s “Steps and Remembrances” is a short short story on somewhat the same theme as Eric Brown’s; only, the characters seek accommodation rather than come into conflict, and the tone is in a minor key suffused with melancholy nostalgia. The dramatic tension operates at two levels: between the historian and the cinema manager, and the historian’s quest to understand the past versus a technocratic society’s mistaken view of old technology as being vaguely threatening. The story leaves me, at least, with a nagging question: How much are we like the historian in the story? A movie theater is much more than its films; a culture is much more than its artifacts.

Deep Bora’s “Neptune Spies” concludes in this issue with a combat scene somewhat reminiscent of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon but recounted almost entirely from an interior perspective. It’s a novel approach to narration in science fiction. Congratulations, Deep.

John Hancock, better known as “Lerk” on the Asimov’s forum, ties language in comic knots in his “Slush-o-Matic” (the actual title is too long for me to remember). Lerk’s comedy does not depend on word-play; it operates at the level of the sentence. The idea behind the story seems like one that every writer must have at one time or another, perhaps in a fit of desperation or irony, a nightmare, or at Callahan’s Bar. It was just waiting for the right expression. Lerk, it’s not only right, it’s a classic.

Finally, Shawn Madison’s “The Bridge to Eternity” challenge brings us back to an idea that was central to the original inception of Bewildering Stories, an idea that is unorthodox in North American culture: literature as an endeavor where writers and even readers can learn from each other. The serial “Round Robin” (issues 53-56), a collaborative effort by three authors, was a step in that direction, but collaboration is a time-honored tradition in literature and can take different forms.

Rather, what can different authors do with the same idea? There are honorable precedents: Chrétien de Troyes and Wolfram von Eschenbach with the story of Percival, as well as all the Arthurian tales that followed Chrétien’s. Not to mention the most primordial example of all: the Gospels. The idea presumes that we approach literature as art; it will not find favor with those who see literature in terms of competition, as though it were a sport or a business. Thanks, Shawn, and thanks to our other authors as well: Bewildering Stories is now officially a culturally subversive webzine!

Copyright © 2003 by Bewildering Stories

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