Study Questions for "Biographical Notes to 'A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-Planes'" by Benjamin Rosenbaum &

"The Ichthyomancer Writes His Friend with an Account of the Yeti's Birthday Party" by David J. Schwatz

For today's readings, we have a story that parodies adventure narratives while including multiple references to adventurer, film protagonists, and comic book heroes, and a second story that poses an alternate history in which East Asian cultures dominate the world, control the American continent, and employ magic as science. Consider some of the following issues as you read the stories and further investigate what makes a story slipstream.

"Biographical Notes to 'A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-Planes'" by Benjamin Rosenbau,; 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 Ichthyomancer Writes His Friend with an Account of the Yeti's Birthday Party" [2003] by David J. Schwartz

  1. Who, specifically, narrates this story? Hint: He is a fictional adventure hero whose first name is "Allan."
  2. Xaya is apparently a god of the mountains for the Yakut/Turkic peoples of Northwestern China and the Republic of Sakha in the Russia Federation. These cultures in their early history were noted for raising reindeer and cattle, as well as for fishing and hunting. Available images show them in fur-linded, hooded coats that resmble those we associate with eskimo culture in North America. Why would Allan be writing to Xaya?
  3. Do you recognize any of the other names and references in the story? Why do you think Schwartz drops so many names and other references? Do they have anything in common?
  4. Ultimately, what is the point of this story? What is supposed to be its appeal?