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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Heroics by James Patrick Kelly -- Reader’s Guide

Asimov’s November, 1987

With a title like “Heroics,” what might you expect the story to go into?

What do you think of a hero who takes off his new Nikes first?

Three hours pass before commenting that Mike was going to get up. What might Mike have been thinking about?

What does it mean that Mike reminds himself of the price of his Nikes? List at least two. $39.95 in 1987 probably would have been a good shoe, especially considering that Mike is a runner.

Considering Peg’s interest in astrology and palm-reading, explain her blaming Mike’s sleeplessness on spices in the chili.

When Mike tells himself he’s given up secret ambitions, has he? What in the text says why or why not?

In terms of heroics, discuss why Mike reminds himself of his state record in high school running, and how Duffy can swell up his friend’s pride after recounting Mike getting up after falling and winning the race, even twenty years later. Yet Mike says he isn’t ashamed of not fighting in Vietnam.

While we don’t know how Mike acted earlier, in terms of what we do know, why might Peg’s superstition make Mike so angry? Incorporate his reaction to the foretelling of Peg’s second happy marriage.

What about Jamie’s talk of superheroes? Why might Mike note the son’s eating GI Joe Action Star?

Each time the dream appears, the readers aren’t sure if it’s a dream. How does that make us feel when the real thing occurs? What might the author be trying to evoke in the reader?

In the dreams, Mike hesitates in his heroism. Does Mike make any mistakes in his acts of heroism at the end? What does it mean that the “big kid” dies?

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