Sunday marked my fiftieth birthday, and I thought I’d celebrate by telling you all about my latest Curious Fictions story, “A Slow Day at the Gallery.” Like “Ruby, in the Storm,” this short story is one of the Slow Invasion series, a collection of snapshots depicting humankind’s effort to join a wider community of spacegoing races. It’s about trade-offs and difficulties involved in being, in each of these relationships, the lesser among very unequal partners.
Colonialism and imperialism are themes I’ve been returning to, lately, in my work. It has been nice to revisit these earlier efforts in that direction.
In “A Slow Day at the Gallery,” an old man travels vast distances to visit his favorite Monet painting, one of the Waterlily Pond series, at the Tsebra art gallery where it now resides. Humanity thought they were lending the painting to the offworlders; there was a disagreement about the exact meaning of ‘loan’, and now things bid fair for the Monet to remain offworld for decades, centuries… or possibly forever.
Here’s a snippet:
Outside the authentic human museum with its authentic humidity-controlled air, he felt himself reviving. They passed into an ornately carved walkway, lined with windows and meant to communicate with the sensitive feet of the Tsebs, a lumpy obstacle course of knobs and gaps. Christopher’s ankles ached as he struggled to traverse it without falling. Just another hurdle, he told himself, like ducking the police or smuggling his false ident out of humanspace.
The story appeared in Asimov’s SF and was picked up by David Hartwell for his Year’s Best SF series. It was very much inspired by my first trip to the Art Institute of Chicago, in 1997, where I saw my first Monet painting and realized something a print will never tell you–just what all the fuss was about.
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My previous Curious Fictions offerings are a time travel story, “Three Times over the Falls” and another Slow Invasion story, “Ruby, in the Storm.”