I am looking for a story that I remember from ages ago.

I want to point to a similar query here:

Story about person assigned by test to be a miner when he wants to be an artist

Mark, the original poster and I had an almost identical memory of this story. However, the query was closed. The story(s) identified were not the one that both he and I remembered.

The concept, as I remember it was this:

Everyone was required to take an aptitude test to determine their career. The main character had always wanted to be an artist. However, the tests determined he was supposed to be a miner. There was no questioning the test.

So, he went on to be a miner. Using special saws, or something akin to a plasma cutter, the mines where he worked were beautiful. They had curved sides and he would work around formations, find the shapes in them, etc.

Years later after a life in the mines, the government reached out because there had been a mistake. He HAD been meant to be an artist. However, when he tried art, his hands were too rough and he no longer had the fine motor skills to do the fine work of an artist.

I can't remember how it ended. Whether he returned to the mines, or just had a sad ending.

Here is my thought. I 'think' that the original story was in an anthology. However, there is a possibility that the story was part of an Junior High English textbook.

I'd love help from the hivemind. I checked out both of the stories referenced in the post I indicated and they are nowhere close to the story we were thinking of.

  • 1
    This sounds very similar to the story referenced in the duplicate; The monkeys thought 'twas all in fun by Orson Scott Card - i.sstatic.net/g0rk9xIz.png
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 8 at 22:47

1 Answer 1


Okay, first of all threads are closed when the work has already been identified in an earlier thread. That's why the linked thread was closed. This thread will also be closed, probably. Don't think it's any kind of criticism against you, it's just how things work here.

Secondly, the identification of the story as The Monkeys Thought Twas All In Fun by Orson Scott Card is almost certainly right. I will repeat the information from the earlier thread.

The main plot of Monkeys concerns space explorers who discover a huge thing in space. They think it might support a human colony.

The thing is actually a sentient creature, though they don't know it. The thing tells a story to its children. And the story he tells is the one you remember.

Here is a link to a preview of the story. You will see it tells of a young man who wants to be a carpenter, but is assigned to be a miner. The tunnels he carves are beautiful and admired by other miners.

Years later they discover that they made a mistake and reassigned him as an artist.

He discovers that his muscles are no longer suited for carpentry. And he doesn't like the food or the people he now lives with.

  • There is if you read the whole story. I'll add a few more bits.
    – Pete
    Commented Jul 9 at 6:56
  • 1
    The OP said specifically that wasn't what they were looking for - "story(s) identified were not the one"
    – fez
    Commented Jul 9 at 7:00
  • @Pete - Ah, I stand corrected.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 9 at 7:17
  • 1
    Yep. This is it. Thank you so much for pointing out it was a story within a story. However, I'm pretty certain that when I read it (and the original poster did, too) it was a stand-alone story. My suspicion is it was excerpted for a junior high textbook (and likely edited to remove the death at the end). But, yes, this is the story in question. Thanks! Commented Jul 9 at 13:40
  • 1
    Glad to help. You can accept my answer (mark it as correct) by clicking on the tick mark.
    – Pete
    Commented Jul 9 at 17:25

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