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Bewildering Stories discusses some of...

Issue 816

with Balbina Yang

A new reader sends some welcome observations about three titles in issue 816.

[Balbina] Hope you’re having a good weekend! I just finished reading Issue 816, and my favorites were “Grandpa’s Toolbox,” “Wild Demand,” and “Preparing the Apollo Missions.”

Grandpa’s Toolbox” reminded me of Men in Black, what with the sunglasses, mention of aliens, the country setting, and the overall sense of cosmic mystery. I enjoyed how David J. Thayer didn’t go into too much detail about the toolbox or even the two visitors; he gave the readers enough detail to make the conclusions ourselves and in a way that allowed for closure, although, I do hope that the alien fixed its ship and went back home safely...

[BwS] Yes, and we’re left wondering whether the narrator was dreaming, telling the truth, or living up to his family’s reputation as “storytellers.” Maybe the story tells us that some people feel possessive of useless family heirlooms and aren’t curious about space aliens.

[Balbina] For “Wild Demand” I was impressed by how Hayley Reese Chow created such a relatable world — for I, too, am a college student — based on deep-seated societal themes. I felt myself cringing for Allie and Morgan even before the whole mob fiasco; however, I wished that Chow explained more of what Allie and Morgan do, i.e. what their majors are, for the story shifts the focus all onto the boys and pushes the girls into the perpiphery... But maybe that was the point!

[BwS] Neither the boys nor the girls seem to come off very well in this dark farce, do they? But the story must make readers uneasy about gender imbalance in professions and in society as a whole. The ending postulates a troubling extreme: What if sex selection were made easy? A preference for males in many societies would, if enacted, plunge whole continents into wars like those of barbarian times and the Dark Ages. A story from the early years, A. R. Yngve’s “Sins of Our Fathers” also sounds a somber warning on the same topic.

[Balbina] Finally, “Preparing the Apollo Missions” was rather nostalgic. For the majority of middle school, I was a space nut, and just reading Thomas Wm. Hamilton’s experience took me back to when space was all that I would read and watch. Reading from a first-hand astronaut’s experience working on the Apollo missions is not only so damn cool but also humbling, as cheesy as that may sound. As someone who both hates and is horrible at STEM — okay, biology is fine — space is and will always be just a source of magical fascination. It’s through voices like Hamilton’s that I’m able to understand that space is much more than just stars and aliens.

[BwS] Isaac Asimov once remarked of his short story “Trends” (1939), that no one had any idea at the time how difficult manned space flight would be. But his story remains a classic for emphasizing that the historical trend has been favoring science for five centuries and that periodic lapses into obscurantism will be only temporary.

In 2008, the city of Quebec might have celebrated its 400th anniversary by erecting a monument at the Place Royale to Cyrano de Bergerac, who inaugurated the modern space age in literature by launching the first rocket to the Moon. The event is depicted as a comic accident, but how prescient it is! Cyrano invents the multi-stage rocket. It was all a part of his recapitulating the history of flight in the 20th century, 300 years in advance. And that was only one of his “inventions” that have since been realized.

For that reason, Bewildering Stories’ home page has always retained its original astronomical motif; it invites writers and readers alike to look into the past and the future at the same time.

[Balbina] Looking forward to the next issue!

PS. I’ve been a reader of Bewildering Stories for a few weeks now, and I just realized that somehow this is my first time sending out a reaction?!

[BwS] Welcome to Bewildering Stories, Balbina. We want to assure our contributors that real people have read their works and given them serious consideration. Everything is open to discussion, and you’ve set a good example.

Copyright © 2019 by Balbina Yang
and Don Webb for Bewildering Stories

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