I read this short story in an old Science Fiction anthology I checked out from a library. It's bugging me that I can't seem to recall the author or title.

The story is narrated by a Native American person, possibly a wise-man or shaman of some sort, as if relating the story to someone, with the occasional excerpt from Shakespeare's diary.

The plot was that Shakespeare, back when he was a no-name playwright, had ended up stowing away on a ship bound to America. Somehow he ends up with the natives, where he manages to communicate his name by shaking a spear. He manages to teach the natives English, where the narrator remarks something to the effect of how it's weird that English isn't tonal. The narrator also expresses a superstitious aversion to having his name written down, and has a dismissive attitude towards the concept of writing things down at all.

Despite this attitude, Shakespeare manages to write and produce Hamlet. To his chagrin he ends up having to recruit women to act the female parts. When the play premiers, the natives regard this play as a comedy.

I remember there was an author's afterword about the historical basis for this, ending with a comment addressed to people who think Shakespeare's plays were written by (I believe the wording was) "the Earl of Stratford, Queen Elizabeth or Elvis Presley": "Hah, hah and once again hah!"

I think the anthology also contained the story "Even the Queen", where medicine has learned how to stop the menstrual cycle, and there's a movement called "cyclists" that feel this is a tool of patriarchal oppression. Then there was "Wang's Carpets", where the titular otherwise uninteresting sea creatures turn out to be molecular computers simulating life in multi-dimensional frequency space. Yet another possibly included story had people sending out clones of themselves to explore the galaxy so they could absorb the clones' memories in a sort of tourism-by-proxy setup.

  • 4
    This anthology appears to be the only one that collects both "Even the Queen" and "Wang's Carpet";
    – Valorum
    Oct 13, 2017 at 21:02
  • @Valorum That seems to be it. The Undiscovered is the story I was looking for.
    – HAEM
    Oct 13, 2017 at 21:07
  • That story can be read online here
    – Valorum
    Oct 13, 2017 at 21:10

1 Answer 1


The story is The Undiscovered by William Sanders and can be read online here. The anthology is The Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year's Best Science fiction.

The story is narrated by a Cherokee man in the late 16th century. An English immigrant called the Spear-Shaker has been captured by the narrator's tribe, and is essentially adopted by them. The Spear-Shaker tries to introduce the concept of stage play to the tribe by producing a version of Hamlet for them, but mutual cultural misunderstandings make this very difficult.

Thanks to Valorum for pointing the anthology out in comments.

  • "Read it here" link is now 404. :(
    – FreeMan
    Mar 12 at 17:52
  • Substituted an Internet Archive link
    – FuzzyBoots
    Mar 12 at 18:43

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