Study Questions for "Biographical Notes to 'A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-Planes'" and "The Lions Are Asleep This Night"

For today's readings, we have two stories that pose alternate histories, but stories that also continue some of the emphases that we have seen in the readings for the past two class meetings. Benjamin Rosenbaum, in his more aggressive alternate history, complicates narrative voice and narrator identity just as Jeffrey Ford did in "Bright Morning," while Howard Waldrop inserts excerpts from Robert Oineke's play into the main plot as an apparent commentary on the story's ongoing action, similar to the way that Theodora Goss inserted comments on the city of Sorrow into her "The Rapid Advance of Sorrow." Here are a few issues to consider for each story:

"Biographical Notes to 'A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-Planes'" by Benjamin Rosenbaum; first published in All -Star ZeppelinAdventure Stories [2004]

  1. Participating in a blog on slipstream, Rosenbaum quotes Meghan McCarron to confirm his own attitudes about fiction writing and reader pleasure, which is derived, he writes, from "playing with tropes such that the reader's awareness that you are playing, but playing seriously, is part of the story's joy" (FVS 183). To what extent do you see this idea at work in Rosenbaum's story?
  2. How would you describe the situation of this story? That is, where does the story take place and what are its principal conflicts?
  3. How does Rosenbaum's complication of narrative voice--giving his character his own name, for example--prepare us for the story's final comments on stories and meaning?
  4. How does this story comment on the relation of popular genres to mainstream literature? See 200 and 206, and consider Rosenbaum's blog comment: "I want to be able to write literary-influenced experimentalist fiction and talk about it at cons" (FVS 246).
  5. What is this story, finally, really about? That is, beyond the action plot, what commentary on logic and causality does Rosenbaum make?

"The Lions Are Asleep This Night" by Howard Waldrop; first published in Omni [1986]

  1. What are the time period, situation, and geographical location of this story?
  2. What are the details of this alternate history? That is, what changes does Waldrop make in history as we know it?
  3. Why does Waldrop include the three appearances of the drunken white man in the story? See 250, 266, 271.
  4. How does Robert's fascination with regional folklore and Mr. Yotofeka's disdain for Robert's interest in that folklore and in history helpto establish what is in conflict in the story?
  5. Ultimately, what do you see as Robert's motivation for writing his play about King Motofuko? Does his desire to write the paly have any connection to the loss ofhis father?