Asking for a friend who is looking for a short story, but cannot remember the title. The friend thinks it is by Le Guin, but the anthologies she had didn’t contain it.

"The story is about a land where people are given some kind of an aptitude test by the government and careers planned for them based on the test results. The main character had always wanted to be an artist, but the test says that he has to be a miner. He rails and rants and appeals, but to no avail. So he ends up in this mining place and just hates it. He keeps appealing, but all this requests are turned down. So he slowly adjusts to the place, its roughness and brutality – and makes a life.

"One day he discovers some strange minerals in the mines, and takes it home to play with. Over time he creates a whole array of artistic creations that others come to like. And so his life goes on. And then one day there is an urgent missive from the ministry/government that they had screwed up – and that his tests had indeed showed that he needed to be an artist. This never happens they said, but we will make it right.

"So he is shipped off to this artists paradise. And once there he realizes he hates these people – they are too airy-fairy and just live in their own heads, and that he wants to go back to his life as a miner and that over time he had come to like its roughness and the space he had built within it."

  • This question has been marked as duplicate, but as far as I can see it's only the story which is duplicate. The questions are entirely different and the answer to the other question gives no evidence at all that it answers the question I posted.
    – Mark Olson
    Aug 17, 2020 at 13:18
  • 1
    We close [story-identification] questions as duplicates when they both have the same confirmed answer. You might want to look at the relevant policy.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Aug 17, 2020 at 13:37
  • @MarkOlson Your question on the surface seems to fit that policy, however am I mistaken in thinking that the actual story you were identifying is Unaccompanied Sonata? If so, maybe the ordering of Pete's answered needs to be rearranged to make it clear that is the work you were identifying and not "The Monkey Though 'Twas All in Fun".
    – Edlothiad
    Aug 17, 2020 at 13:40

1 Answer 1


"The Monkeys Thought Twas All in Fun" by Orson Scott Card.

ISFDB entry.

You can see part of the text as a google books preview. Here.

The story has two threads to it. One is the story you remember. The other is about humans finding a gigantic ... thing in space. They think it might be suitable for a colony that would house many people.

The story you remember has also been described as a precursor to Card's much better story Unaccompanied Sonata.

  • Can you explain why this matches?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Aug 5, 2020 at 17:07
  • I provided a link. If you look at the link you will see within a few lines that it is the right story. Cyril wants to be a carpenter, but is given a job as a miner instead.
    – Pete
    Aug 5, 2020 at 17:25
  • I checked with my friend and she replies is that the 'consensus' is that "Unaccompanied Sonata" is the correct story. Many thanks!
    – Mark Olson
    Aug 6, 2020 at 14:14

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