A Very Private Tour of a Very Public Museum

You can thank Farah Mendlesohn for the creation of this story, though this she didn’t know it at the time. Farah had announced her intentions to put together an anthology titled Glorifying Terrorism, meant to protest a law proposed by British Government which would outlaw anything which might be read or interpreted as doing just that. Potentially, that could outlaw Macbeth.

So when I came up with a story idea about Earth robots, alien robots, and how they battled over the nature of our perception of art, I began writing this story with the intention of submitting it there. I didn’t expect any problems with its creation, because I’ve always seen myself as in complete control of my characters, plots and themes. Once I sketch out a story’s arc, I’m in charge, and my characters do not get to take control. I’m a puppeteer, and the puppets don’t get to choose their destinies.

As I wrote this particular story, though, my characters took over in an extremely unsettling manner, refusing to enact the planned ending which would have made the story right for Farah’s book. I could not force them to do what I’d originally thought I wanted them to do, which meant that the finished story was completely off-topic for the anthology that had originally sparked the concept.

Luckily, there was another editor for whom it did seem right. Pete Crowther has been very, very good to me. I’ve sold him many stories over the years, of which this was the fifth, and it appeared in Postscripts 15, which debuted in August 2008 at the Denver Worldcon.

“A Very Private Tour of a Very Public Museum” was reprinted in my SF collection What We Still Talk About.