Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bowling for Your Life

Last week, I wrote about an old Amazing Stories tale that (in my mind) failed to completely suspend disbelief on at least one of its plot points. This week, we're looking at a story that's even more bizarre and unlikely than "Galaxy Raiders" and overall probably isn't quite as well-constructed in terms of story structure. But all the same, I have no problem at all accepting every thing in it as real.

"Castle of Terror,' By E.J. Liston, appeared in the November 1948 issue of Amazing Stories. It starts out as a tough-guy crime story, with a cop named Jenkins taking a crook named Griffin to prison. Griffith tries to make a break for it; the two are locked in a life-or-death struggle; and then the two of them are suddenly... somewhere else.

Jenkins, for one, is somewhat confused. He's suddenly in a medieval fantasy setting, where he encounters some dwarfs and gets into a fight with some giants. Then he's arrested by guards led by Lucretia Borgia, who takes him to her castle. Griffin is there, along with a lot of other thuggish men.

Despite the weirdness of it all, Jenkins is still determined to take in his prisoner. This gets him tossed into the dungeon.

More weird stuff happens. It turns out that Jenkins can help overthrow the despotic rule of Lucretia. But to do so, he has act as champion for the dwarfs and win a contest against Griffin. It's not the first time the dwarfs had tried this--a few centuries earlier, they recruited a guy named Rip Van Winkle. The contest Jenkins has to win is a bowling match.

Gee whiz, this story is silly. But I believe it. I believe every word of it. The prose is never tongue-in-cheek, but tells the story in a straightforward and serious manner. Everything that happens in it makes sense in its own bizarre context. Well, except for a few things that aren't explained at all, but what the heck. I believe it all, by golly.

Last week, I believed in the planet Jupiter with a habitable surface, but had a little trouble with alien invaders from another galaxy. This week, I completely and without reservation believe two guys being teleported into a pocket universe to bowl against each other. Suspension of Disbelief is a precarious and unpredictable thing.

You can read "Castle of Terror" online HERE.

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