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21. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 1 > Issue: 6
Tyler W. Kurt Bunny Racing (Children's Story)
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Are rules written, or cultural? If you are taking the same rule-breaking advantages that everyone else is taking, thus making you equal to everyone else, are you actually cheating? In this work of philosophical short story fiction written for children, the story revolves around two rabbits. The rabbits enter the annual rabbit race as they believe they are the fastest rabbits in the world. They lose the race, only to find out after the race that the winning rabbits are using forbidden, performance enhancing, carrots. The following year one of the two rabbits decides to use the performance enhancing carrots, while his friend refuses. The enhanced rabbit wins the race year after year, becomes famous, and uses his rabbit celebrity to help worthy causes. The non-enhanced friend continues to race, but is never able to win. Finally, out of pride and frustration, he turns on his friend and the entire field of competitors for being in violation of the race rules. This story, like all After Dinner Conversation stories, has suggested discussion questions at the end.
22. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 1 > Issue: 6
David Shultz Rainbow People Of The Glittering Glade
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How do you judge the value of others; does society have the right to judge and exclude community members they feel are not living up to their full potential and/or are not benefiting the community? How do you judge value? In this work of philosophical short fiction, the story is told from the perspective of emissary who is sent by the kingdom to find a community in the middle of a shifting sand desert that is rumored to violate the fundamental laws of slavery, human sacrifice, and to worship false gods. A member of his group is injured while looking for the community. As the get closer to the community they find life-like statues of people in the desert. Some statues are moving, and repeating the same task in a loop, as they get closer to the community. Upon arrival, they are aided by the people and learn that the community has a strange disease that causes them to start turning to stone after puberty. The only cure is to be judged worthy by the community to go before their crystal god, to consume one of the people that has been turned to stone, and thus receive the anecdote to the disease. The traveling party is deemed worthy, and given the chance to take part in the ritual and escape death. One member refuses on religious grounds, and willingly accepts the stone-ification process. The leader of the group “goes native” and opts to live in the community forever. The third member of the group returns the original kingdom with a letter from the leader explaining what has happened. This story, like all After Dinner Conversation stories, has suggested discussion questions at the end.
23. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 1 > Issue: 6
David James Peterson And Joy Shall Overtake Us As A Flood
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Are our choices in life, and throughout all time, predetermined, or is there the ability to make different, and better, choices with additional information? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, the main character is an older man who has been disfigured and has, generally, had a horrible life. He is brought into a government facility because they have discovered that he met his older self when he was younger, thus establishing that he must now be sent back in time to take part in the action he has already experienced as his younger self. The government agency explains that time travel does not create a multi-verse, but rather a single chain of events through infinity that has all already happened. So, you cannot go back in time to save Lincoln, because Lincoln was never saved. The main character lies to the agency and decides, while back in time, he will try to warn his childhood self away from the errors of his life. While talking to his childhood self the narrator makes realizations about the younger version of himself and the differences between memory and truth. He also attempts to warn his younger self, but as the government agency made clear, he is unable to do this because, had he been able to do it, he would have experienced it being done when he was younger. This story, like all After Dinner Conversation stories, has suggested discussion questions at the end.
24. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 1 > Issue: 6
David Rich The Crate
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How is personal pride, the backlash against political correctness, and the desire to be “better” than those around you, helpful or harmful to society? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, the narrator lives in a divided society. She lives in the American Political Union, a community that has worked hard to stamp out all comparisons between its members so that no one will feel bad about their relative attractiveness, or intelligence. In fact, people are required to move about the city in mobile crates, thus hiding their appearance. Furthermore, it is deemed culturally taboo to brag or express higher value in intellectual accomplishments. The main character, an intelligent student, convinces her friend to jump the border into the Old American Republic, a community where people are judged, sorted, compared, and it is almost impossible to interact with those of higher orders than yourself. The girls escape to the Old American Republic only to find that judging takes many different forms, and that happiness for those that view themselves as superior is not as easily found as is always expected. This story, like all After Dinner Conversation stories, has suggested discussion questions at the end.
25. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Shano Naylor Boomchee
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At what point in a date do you owe the other party the duty to inform them you are engaged? Is marriage an exercise in love, or practicality? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, the law school student narrator working at a summer factory job decides to set up her shy female friend, Susie, with her boyfriend’s shy brother, Barry. They go on a double date and everything seems to be going fine. Only later does the narrator and her boyfriend find out that Barry is engaged to a mail-order bride from Southeast Asia that will be arriving shortly. The shy Barry, it turns out, wanted to “practice” going on a date before his new wife arrived. The law student narrator is embarrassed, and struggles with the moral duty both she, and Barry, owe to Susie.
26. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Bryan Starchman His Neighbor's Wife
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What is fair and equitable justice? Is the point of justice to deter crime, to punish those that commit crime, or to educate criminals so they can integrate successfully back into society? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, the country has chosen to adopt the “Law Of Vindication.” If a drunk driver hits and kills someone with their car, their punishment is to be hit and killed with a car. The same reciprocal punishments exist for all serious crimes. Furthermore, it is a crime to not assist the government, when necessary, in providing the reciprocal punishment. The parents of a murdered child MUST murder the child of their killer. In this story, the narrator is in an unhappy marriage and decides his best chance of getting away with killing his wife is to kill his neighbor’s wife and wait for the law of retribution to require that his wife be killed as punishment. Of course, things don’t go quite as planned, and the law is interpreted differently than he expects.
27. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
André Lopes Believing in Ghosts
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What does it mean to be alive? At what point does artificial intelligence know enough to be alive? Does the Turing test even matter? If we want the best government policy possible, does it matter if it comes from a computer? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, Rain is hired to do cyber-security for Presidential candidate Mr. Booker. There is a cyber-attack into Booker’s computer network and Rain is called to answer for the breach. In the process of digging into the data, Rain finds out that Booker is an actor, what is known in society as a “ghost,” and that all of the policy and speeches he has been given are being written by a sophisticated artificial intelligence using polling and other data. He says, literally, the perfect things at the perfect times, to the perfect audience. While artificial people, like news reporters, bloggers, actors, and influencers, are slowly becoming standard in this near future story, the idea of a politician being nothing more but an actor serving as a vessel for AI is unprecedented. Before Rain can decide what to do with her newfound information she is framed and is forced to use all her computer skills just to keep herself out of jail.
28. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Ana Carolina Pereira Monsters
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What does it mean to be a monster? How do you teach people to become accustomed to seeing things they don’t initially like or understand? Whose obligation is it to break through stereotypes and create a deeper understanding, the person who is afraid, or the object of their fear? In this work of philosophical short fiction, a mother takes her child out to the park even though there are ongoing rumors of “monsters” that roam their suburban neighborhood. Those fears seem to be true, and seem to imply this is a unique world, as the driver of an ice-cream truck suffers from severe, and grotesque, physical deformities. He says the reason he works a job and goes out in public is to help others get used to seeing “people” like him. On their walk home the narrator is continually concerned about the monsters that lurk in the neighborhood as she questions if leaving the house was a good idea. She feels she is being stalked by one of the monsters as they rush back to their home. They reach relative safety when her husband sees them and brings them onto their property. That’s when she sees, newly spray painted on the garage door of their suburban house “Whites only, negros get out.” Only then do we realize that the “monsters” are those that live all around them as they are the first to integrate their suburban neighborhood. They are the ones forcing others to get used to seeing “people” like them.
29. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Kate Choi The Waiting Room
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Should you abandon your dream to pursue where you true talents lie? Is a lifetime following your dream to be a painter a successful life if it turns out you simply don’t have an eye for art? Where do our dreams come from? When should they be abandoned? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, a young boy is in the government waiting room waiting to be assigned a new “dream.” He strikes up a conversation with other people in the waiting room. Some of them are anxious to get new dreams implanted into their brain as they have not found success. Others don’t want to let go of the failed dream they were originally assigned because they believe, in their heart-of-hearts, it is what they were born to do. The government is indifferent to the desires of the people. Society has needs, people have innate talents, and the government, as far as they are concerned, should focus on getting people to follow the dreams they are good at, as well as the dreams that are most needed by society. This story was the winner of the Fall 2020 After Dinner Conversation Writing Competition.
30. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Steven Simoncic Teddy and Roosevelt
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What does it mean to be a friend? What role do heroes play in forming our values and ethics? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, Roosevelt is a young black child who is obsessed with the life and philosophies of President “Teddy” Roosevelt. He is new at the school and due to an issue with other students he is forced into the “Friends Group;” a social adjustment group for students the school have deemed at-risk. While in the group he meets Teddy, an overweight boy who has been in the group for years because he pulled an X-ACTO knife in art class on a fellow student who continued to bully him about his weight. The two misfit boys develop a friendship. Roosevelt teaches Teddy how to fight, as well as imparting bits of wit and wisdom from his hero, Teddy Roosevelt. Things go awry when they are caught swimming naked in Teddy’s pool. The school rumor mill spreads that they are gay. This leads to the school forcing the two boys to fight after school. Roosevelt decides that Teddy has more to lose and is less prepared to deal with the consequences of the altercation, so he allows himself to lose the fight. As Teddy Roosevelt said, “No man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his body – to risk his well-being – to risk his life – in a great cause.”
31. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Cory Swanson Simon
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What if the Devil were real and you could, and did, kill him? What, does the Devil stand for in society, and what might change about society in the event of his death? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, Simon is put on trial for having, literally, killed the devil. He did it through trickery, of course. He told the Devil that he (the Devil) was a cheap peddler of a product, fear. But, because he was immortal, he would never truly understand the product he pushed on others. The Devil asserts he fears nothing and, to prove it, removes his immortality from his being. Simon kills him. And now Simon is on trial. It is unethical to kill a purely evil thing? And, if the Devil is dead, why are bad things still happening in the world?
32. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Peter Beaumont Pandora's Dreams
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Should we be held accountable for what we imagine, but choose not to actually do? Does wrong thought always lead to wrong action? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, scientists have discovered a way to record dreams and make them available for playback. This quickly gives rise to the bootleg sale of horrible and wonderful dreams to a general public interested in ever-more spectacle. It also creates a market for buying and watching the dreams of celebrities. Finally, it brings about the government subpoenaing dreams to use as evidence in trials and, later, in helping it discover crimes that have not, but might, happen in the future.
33. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Jared Cappel The Human Experience
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It is moral to take on debts for the benefit of your unborn child that will carry over to your unborn child after you are dead? What if taking on those debts are the best way to ensure your child has the best chance for a successful life? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, a couple looking to have their first child goes to the medical clinic to discuss the cost of DNA selection packages for their yet-to-be-conceived child. How much do they want to fix the genetic lottery to help their child be smart, athletic, or driven? They have the budget to make minor improvements, but if they are willing to take out a loan they can do more. The problem is the unpaid debt carries to their unborn child if they die before it is paid in full. In the end, through the high pressure used-car-salesmanship of the company, they decide to leverage their child’s future and order the “Platinum” package.
34. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Chad Baker People Used To Die Every Day
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If sleep, and the dreams that come with them, were no longer required, would you still do it? Would humanity be different if we didn’t have the time to imagine what might be? Would you break the law to support the dream habits of your partner? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, Peter finds out his partner Samir has been sneaking around behind his back to “try out dreaming.” According to Samir, he likes the way sleeping, and dreaming, makes him feel. And besides, he argues, it doesn’t do any harm; his work will never find out. Peter decides to break the law in support of their relationship and to stop taking the drug that makes sleep and dreams unnecessary, in order to better understand his partner. However, after a nightmare, Peter decides that sleep and dreaming isn’t for him and the government is right.
35. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Zeph Auerbach The Library Of Gromma
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Should the past be forgotten? Does it help society, and the community, to let the past go? How can we learn from the past while simultaneously letting go of it? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, a young boy has been put in charge of the machine that stores the exact collective memories of his grandmother (“Gromma”) and the community at large. His job is made more difficult because the machine is old, falling apartment, and a fire killed the previous caretaker long before his training was complete. As the story closes the boy finds out the previous fire was caused by a community member who believes the community can only move forward by destroying the machine and allowing the memories of the past to naturally fade into obscurity.
36. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Viggy Parr Hampton Father Dale's Drive-Thru Exorcisms
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Is religious-based fear an acceptable way to ensure right behavior? Can moral behavior be created through theatre? At what age should a child be made aware of the Christian ideas of hell? Does the motivation of religious leaders make their lies acceptable? In this work of philosophical short fiction, Tina and Dale live out of their RV, scraping by, and traveling around the United States. Tina was traumatized by being made to attend an evangelical tent revival meeting as child. Now, as adults, they follow these same tent revivals around the United States offering fake exorcisms to anyone willing to pay for their service. In their opinion it doesn’t do any good, or any harm, which is more than can be said for the tent sermons. One day a family pulls up with a child asking for an exorcism. Tina and Dale obligate, however, in the process fail to realize the boy is having a genuine medical emergency. The boy dies during the “exorcism.”
37. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Dean Gessie Community Of Peers
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To what detail do you need to know how the justice system works to support it? Would you be willing to take part in the punishment of a foreign justice system? What morality do we carry with us between cultures, and what morality are we willing to adopt from our host culture? In this work of philosophical short fiction, the narrator wanders into a remote, but seemingly civilized, village about to carry out their most severe punishment, the stoning to death of a convicted criminal. As part of their culture, if there is a stranger among them, they should be the one to cast the first stone. Our narrator only knows that the trial was fair under the laws of the culture, and the criminal was found guilty. However, he is not permitted to know what crime the criminal committed. Regardless of the narrator’s choice, the criminal will die today. The narrator decides to throw the first stone, hits the criminal squarely in the head, killing him instantly. The remaining community members drop their stones and head home, justice served.
38. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 3
Mystee Van Dan Sienna's Monster
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How is a child, growing up, effected by being part of a cycle of abuse? How do you end the cycle? How do you explain to your abuser the effect their words have on you, when they believe their actions are better than their father before them? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, Sienna is living with a “Monster,” in this case, her father. He does not hit her, but he does yell, and rant, and breaks things. Sienna grows up always on edge that the “monster” will lash out at her. Over time, she builds up equally toxic defense mechanisms. She learns to yell back and to be as hate-filled as her father. This all changes when she goes to college and meets her roommate Clara. Clara does not lash out. She does not accuse. She does not go into conversations prepared for battle. She listens, she is empathetic. She does not “keep score” in their friendship. Sienna assumes Clara has an alternative motive, and continues to be skeptical. Eventually, Sienna comes to see Clara for what she is, a decent human being. Armed with her new knowledge, Sienna heads home for Thanksgiving and confronts her father. Her father credits himself with “breaking the cycle” and being a good father by not physically abusing Sierra that way his father was to him. Sienna is frustrated, and resolves to never speak to him again. Over the Christmas holiday, Sienna decides to visit Clara’s family. Sienna’s mother asks if she, and only she, can come visit. Sienna reluctantly agrees. Her mother arrives, father in tow. The story ends with Sienna in jail, having killed her father.
39. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 3
Carl Tait Bill and the Tooth Fairy
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How do you define a rational, versus an irrational act of faith? Why is a faith in God socially acceptable, but not a faith in the Tooth Fairy? Do we have a duty to inform others when we believe their faith is not grounded in our reality? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, Bill believes in the Tooth Fairy. Bill is 28 years old. His girlfriend finds this odd, and sometimes socially awkward, but otherwise harmless. This changes, however, when Bill has his wisdom teeth removed and places them under his pillow with the expectation that the Tooth Fairy will accept his offering and provide him her payment as her showing of appreciation. To appease his belief system, Bill’s girlfriend decides to take the teeth and leave Bill some money, but unknowingly does not leave him payment in the “right” amount. Bill interprets this to mean the Tooth Fairy is unhappy with his offering of teeth. His girlfriend comes home to find that Bill has knocked out his own teeth so as to make a second, and what he sees as proper, offering.
40. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 3
Jenna Glover Echo
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What rights should sentient AI beings be given? What rights to work, technology, or gatherings should AI being be granted? Should AI be allowed the choice to commit suicide? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, Martha dies. She wakes up three years later with her consciousness put into the body of an android. She did not ask for this, it simply happened. She is forced to accept that Martha is dead, and that she must live out her new life as Echo. As an android, she has limited rights. She cannot see her former family or friends. She can only work for minimum wage. She cannot interact with any technology. She cannot go to the same location more than twice in a week. She cannot meet other androids for prolonged periods of time. She is not even allowed to terminate her own existence. Her only friend is a journalist who is trying to get the “android story” out. He does this by using an override switch that paralyzes Echo and allows him to download her complete data set since her inception.