Enlighten That Cigarette
In Charles C. Cole’s “Pain Beach,” who has the most pain to shred?
Joseph Waugh’s “The Soon and Ending Nights”:
- In current literature, including cinema and television, smoking is taboo. Any character who smokes is ipso facto identified as a fool or a villain. Is that the case in this story?
- How do we know that neither of the two characters is a chronic smoker?
- How could the same story play out with any other talisman than a cigarette?
In Daniel Waldman’s “The Speechwriter”:
- What elements does the story appear to borrow from George Orwell’s 1984?
- “Mother-given” names are taboo. What does the restriction imply about the status of women in the Speechwriter’s society?
- Does the story satirize any particular government or does it apply to all authoritarian regimes?
- How is the Speechwriter’s conscious use of language reflected in the political discourse of today’s politics?
In Joseph McKinley’s “Perfect Wisdom Berry Blast”:
- Which of the main characters in the story find their hopes fulfilled?
- Which characters are disappointed or settle for less than they might like?
- What is the cultural significance of General Liu’s preference in pipes and tobacco?
- Do the monk’s berries bring rational enlightenment or despair?
In Stephen H. Buhner’s “The Death of Annie One-Horse”:
- Annie’s ethnicity and religion are never named. Why not? How do Annie’s people seem to feel about Apaches?
- What contrasts with Annie’s spirit healing? Why does she reject other ways of healing?
- Camber and Margie set out on a trek of several days across a desert in search of Annie. In what way are they ill-prepared for the journey?
- At the end, Camber takes Annie to her “resting place.” Where is it? How can he do that without abandoning Margie?
- What disillusionment leads Camber to decide to adopt Annie’s traditions?
- Is the contrast between old and new, native and foreign necessarily a choice between good and bad?
What is a Bewildering Stories Challenge?