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Alien visitors to Earth kill, not for any of the usual human motives, but as an art form. When they make friends with a human and show him the "art" they earlier created by killing -- I think it was his cat -- he surprises them by not giving it the due appreciation they expected. The story is told from the aliens' POV so it's not immediately apparent what their "art" consists of, and I may have even misinterpreted the clues.

I read the story in a library book around 1980, but it may have been published long before then. (It's not A Kind of Artistry.)

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    I think I've read this, did the aliens resemble giant cockroaches and were horrified to see an advert in an earth magazine for a bug spray? I think it showed a boot crunching down on a roach – Danny Mc G Nov 27 '19 at 15:50
  • @DannyMcG: Unfortunately I remember little about the story other than what I've written here. Do you have a reference for that story? – Lee C. Nov 27 '19 at 15:59
  • Sorry I don't, just faint memories like yourself – Danny Mc G Nov 27 '19 at 16:06
  • @DannyMcG The accepted answer talks about there being big bugs. Is it the same story you were talking about too by any chance? – user13267 Nov 28 '19 at 0:18
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    I note that in Spain, bullfighting is seen as ab art form. Other people don't see it that way. – Walter Mitty Nov 28 '19 at 1:17
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"Expedition", a short story by Anthony Boucher, first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1943, available at the Internet Archive. Does any of these covers ring a bell?

Editorial blurb:

The Martian Creatures Made an Art of Killing — but
They Suddenly Found Out that Art Can Boomerang!

Excerpt:

YOU WOULDN’T ANY OF YOU BIG BUGS KNOW WHAT THE DEVIL’S BECOME OF THAT KITTEN, WOULD YOU?

Thereupon Lilil arose in his full creative pride and led the man to the place where we had met the kitten. The corpse was by now withered in the desert sun, and I admit that it was difficult to gather from such a spectacle the greatness of Lilil’s art, but we were not prepared for the man’s reaction.

His face grew exceedingly red and a fluid formed in his eyes. He clenched his digits and made curious gestures with them. His words were uttered brokenly and exceedingly difficult to transcribe. Trubz has not yet conjectured their meaning, but the transcription reads:

YOU DID THAT? TO A POOR HARMLESS LITTLE KITTEN? WHY, YOU———*

His attitude has not been the same toward us since. Trubz is working on the psychology of it.

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  • Arrgh! you beat me by one minute! Anyway, Lee C should be glad to get two answers that agree within about an hour. – M. A. Golding Nov 27 '19 at 17:24
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    Yes! It was "Mars, We Love You", the cover with the lips. I looked at a few synopses of the other stories in this collection and I remember them too. – Lee C. Nov 27 '19 at 21:22
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The story is probably "Expedition" by Anthony Boucher.

Spoilers follow, don't read if you can access the story in the link in user14111's answer and read the story.

.......................................................................

I remember this story. The Insect like aliens were Martian scouts, and the story is told in various messages they send. The human character tricks them into thinking Earth is too dangerous to invade, but their superiors see through the trick, and the aliens decide to build a base on the far side of the moon while they plan their invasion of Earth.

The human character is a man, and the Martians observe that according to the photos he shows, Earth females never wear any clothing. When the human character learns they were Martians he exclaims "Orson Welles!", so the story was written after the War of the Worlds Martian invasion broadcast on October 30, 1938. The first Earth images of the far side of the Moon were obtained in 1959, so the story should have been written between 1938 and 1959.

I think that the story is "Expedition" by Anthony Boucher, first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories August 1943.

Here is a link to a list of places where "Expedition" was published:

I probably read "Expedition" in a paperback version of The Best of Science Fiction, ed. by Groff Conklin, 1946.

http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?567071

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  • I first read it in the paperback anthology Invasion from Mars ostensibly edited by Orson Welles. – user14111 Nov 27 '19 at 17:55
  • @user14111 I stand corrected! Thank you – Arcanist Lupus Nov 28 '19 at 1:01
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    Minor nitpick: Just because we got pictures from the far side of the moon in 1959 wouldn't rule out a story being written about a secret base there... ;-) – DevSolar Nov 29 '19 at 10:04
  • @DevSolar In "Expedition" the Martian planning the secret Moon base is certain the Earthlings cannot possibly know what is on the far side of the Moon. By 1959 and the start of the space race a writer would assume that it was just a matter of time before a secret moon base would have to hidden just as well on the far side as on the near side. – M. A. Golding Dec 3 '19 at 18:03

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