title:The Portrait of the Ordinary Artist ver.1.0e
by Taro Kimura

Taro knew that some like to make their Submissions in the privacy of their
own living quarters. Other fragile souls, who had to work themselves up to
such an important act, made theirs on the spur of the moment by making use of
a foneport they encountered while away from home. Taro, however, had decided
to do it the traditional way, the right way, as he thought of it, or
perhaps, he had admitted to himself, it was just that he found such
older forms comforting. At any rate, Taro had risen early, bathed, put on his
best outfit, treated himself to an elegant breakfast at Rive Gauche, the
restaurant frequented by would-be's, and then made his way to the Agency of
Culture, outside of whose main portal he now stood.
Taking several deep, careful breaths to remain calm, Taro entered the
forbidding building and sought the elevator that would take his to the
eighty-ninth floor of the west tower. Taro found himself alone in the
elevator for the last half of his ascent, and superstitiously taking anything
he encountered as an omen, he wondered if that meant that he was to
be one of the lucky ones who would rise fast and alone, one of those few who
would make it. As the elevator eased to a halt and its bronze-colored doors
slid back, Taro automatically stepped out of the elevator; but before
proceeding down the long corridor, he carefully checked the number of the
floor, though, like any other Apprentice Artist, he had recognized it
immediately. Smiling wryly at the way his nervous hesitation masked itself
as a traveler's caution, he began an inner harangue that he sometimes
carried on for hours at a time. "Come on, you know this is the right floor,
and you recognized it immediately. Taro, you can recite the names of the
worthies whose portraits line the halls, since they haven't changed in a
hundred years. They certainly haven't since your disastrous last visit.
There's Shakespeare, Homer, Dante, the first three on the left, and Woolf,
Dickinson, Johnnes, and all the rest on the right."
Arriving at the end of the corridor, Taro paused, took a deep breath, and
opened the door marked "Submissions." Now that he was here, he began to
worry that perhaps he had been too hasty. Perhaps his story was not quite
ready. Maybe he had better go home and let it sit for a few days or maybe a
week. Taro's mouth was dry, so dry he licked his lips several times without
much effect. "Relax," Taro told himself. "There's no sense in waiting any
longer. You know it's the best thing you've ever done; you can feel it in
your bones, and you knew this was the one as soon as it began to take shape
last week. Besides," Taro added, "it's only your second Submission. If
something crazy happens and it is not accepted, you still have one more."
Deciding that this was no time to hesitate, Taro stepped firmly up to
the central console, pressed his palm against the recognition pad, plugged
in his Authorpad, and said in a voice that was slightly deeper and more
hoarse than usual, "I, Taro Kimura, Apprentice Artist, would like to make a
"Thank you, Mr. Kimura," a rich alto voice answered. "This is your second
Submission. Are you fully aware that if this one is not accepted, you have
only a single opportunity remaining?"
"I am."
"Please press the white button to make your Submission."
Taro had promised himself that, win or lose, he would make his Submission
like a true Artist. He would not close his eyes, take a deep breath, or
mumble any prayers. He would just press the white button that had been
pressed by so many thousands of fingers before him and would be pressed by so
many thousands after.
Taro tried to summon courage by recalling how full of confidence and how
eager to complete his Submission draft he had been yesterday. In fact, when
the clerk at the writing bureau, a man in his sixties who always wore an old-
fashioned ill-fitting suit, had looked in Taro's direction, Taro had left his
chair in the waiting room and headed directly toward the door even before a
man called Taro's name. "Fourteen, Mr. Kimura" a man said in his sad, thin
voice, when Taro looked back at a man before opening the door to the workrooms.
Silently counting the rooms on his right-"one, two, three, four"-Taro made
his way to number fourteen, which he recognized immediately as one of the
newly reconditioned units. Pressing his hand against the recognition pad that
would charge his time in the workroom to his personal account at CenterBank,
Taro waited until the door opened and then, full of barely repressed
excitement, entered the little chamber that would be his working
place for the next four hours, unslung the case containing his Authorpad, and
proceeded to open its battered light blue case. Glancing at the portable
writer that had been Taro's since the Agency of Culture had assigned it to
his six years ago when his declared for art as a career, Taro plugged
it into the narrow shelf before him and seated himself in the art
chair, which immediately shaped itself to his back and sides.
"Welcome, Mr. Kimura," Taro heard slightly behind him and to his left-that's
where the sound always seemed to emanate from in this unit, the machine
recalled. "Today we can offer you a fine selection of environment suitable
for inspiration or editorial activities. First, we have Off Puerto Rico, 25
June, a calm seascape whose quiet waves many have found most suitable, and
which Andros van Hulen, the recent winner of the Prix de Rome, used while
composing the crucial third chapter of his brilliant prose epic. Second, you
might like to work within Far Himalayas, 1 August, a bare, chilling setting
far from human and other distractions. The third environment that is new
since your last session is entitled Jungle Vista, Amazon Basin, 3 February,
which, in contrast to the other new offerings, seethes with energy and
strange life forms and is well worth the supplementary fee. Several of our
young artists," the huckstering machine continued, "have already worked with
it and claim that the reluctant work produced within this surround is simply
"Thank you, Surround, but today I think I need something better known, more
familiar. Please let me have Browning's study, personalized version no.32-
345B." Immediately, the narrow confines of his cramped workunit appeared to
shift until Taro found himself seated at a large oak work table covered with
manuscript and leather-covered rectangular solids in a walnut-paneled room
the likes of which had not existed for several hundred years. Taro had no
idea who this Robert Browning had been or even what kind of work he had
created-whether it was, say, adventure tales or erotic epics-but Taro had
felt at home in Browning's workroom since Taro first came upon it while idly
browsing through infrequently used scenarios. Taro felt the temperature of
the air around him drop slightly as Surround changed it to match the
qualified realism that marked his own personalized version of this ancient
writer's workplace.
Turning on his Authorpad model 73.2 automatically called up the last
wordfile Taro had entered before going to sleep a very few hours before. Taro
had caught fire late yesterday afternoon, and unwilling to spare attention or
energy for anything else, he had composed until his latest tale-his best,
he knew-arrived at the conclusion for which he had been searching.
Anxious lest the passages that seemed so perfect before Taro had
returned home and thrown himself down on his rumpled sheets and slept at last
would now appear awkward and imprecise, he nervously rubbed his left hand
over his mouth and cheek. Taro had waited long for this one, so long that
he was terrified lest he had deluded himself into thinking, as all
beginners must, that he had a winner. No, he was certain. This time
his Submission would move the Agency to promote his from Apprentice Artist
Class 1C to Artist.
Like all those many thousands of student and apprentice artists, Taro had
wasted far too much creative energy, he knew, dreaming of making it. Taro
wanted the enormously greater convenience of having his own workunit at home,
of course, and like every one else, he naturally wanted the stipend that
came with promotion as well. And the status of being a real Artist and not
one of the hangers-on, the would-be's, so many of whom eventually dropped out
of the struggle and ended their days as clerks or worse, well, that was
wonderful, to be sure. But it was publication, gaining access to the literary
network, that made it all worthwhile.
Sure, it wasn't much, not like achieving the status of Mass Artist or even
Serious Artist, but it was a first step, the one that allowed and encouraged
him to take others. Some legendary Apprentice Artists had made it real big.
Why, not more than two or three years ago, Taro remembered, a young man had
shot out of obscurity, scored big with a Mass Novel about the last war that
had made international network where it had been picked up and used for
videos throughout the world. There was even one of those weird pop fairy-
tale versions in New Delhi, and the French had taken it, dividing the main
character into six states of consciousness or moods, and creating a
phantasmagoria that made the art channels.
Today Taro felt hopeful, energetic, sure that he would make it to the
network. Moods are funny, he thought, for not more than a week ago he had
felt crushed beneath the base of this massive pyramid that stretched from
students, artists-in-training, and would-be artists to fully accredited
practitioners and from them upward to the minor and major Mass Artists, and
above them, in turn, to the Serious ones, whose works would be allowed to
exist for one hundred years after their death. And, then, way off in the
distance, at the peak of this pyramid, there were the Canonical Artists,
those whose works had lasted and would be allowed to last, those whose works
could be read and were even taught in schools to those who didn't want to be
Taro knew how difficult creating something new had proved. And Taro
certainly had learned the hard way that there were no easy shortcuts to
success. In particular, Taro remembered with embarrassment how he had
tried to crash through the gates of success with a little piece on a young
artist struggling to succeed, and he still squirmed when he remembered
how Evaluator, the Agency of Culture's gateway computer, had responded to
his first Submission with an extreme boredom and superior knowledge born of
long experience, "Ah, yes, Mr. Kimura, a story on a young artist, another
one. Let's see, that's the eighth today-one from North America, one from
Europe, two from Asia, and the rest from Africa, where that seems a popular
discovery of this month. Your ending, like your concentration on classroom
action and late night discussions among would-be artists, makes this a
clear example of Kunstlerroman type 4A.31. Record this number and check the
library, which at the last network census has 4,245 examples, three of which
are canonical, 103 Serious Fiction, and the remainder Amphiony/Abulafia.
"Your submission has been erased, and the portions of your Authorpad memory
containing it have been cleared, thus allowing you to get on with more
promising work. Thank you for your submission. Good day, Apprentice Artist
Taro Kimura."
That, Taro thought, must be his most painful memory, but another concerning
his attempt at truly original creativity rivaled it. A year before the first
incident, which took place this past November, Taro had decided that he had
been relying too much on the Authorpad's tieins to the Agency's plot,
character, and image generators. No, Taro promised, he would be his own
man, and though he had found it difficult working without the assistance
of that friendly voice that made suggestions and allowed his to link
instantly to source texts and abundant examples, he had forced himself to
slog on, hour after hour, confident that he would return the craft of
artist to its past glories, the glories of the BackTime when computers had
not offered their friendly assistance and artists, so it was rumored,
actually created heavy things called 'plastic art' (though how one was supposed
to store them Taro wasn't quite certain). Taro remembered his chagrin
when the Practice Evaluator at school, which was programmed to emulate the
Agency's official one, pointed out how sadly derivative his contribution had
turned out to be. When Taro emphasized how he had composed it entirely
"on his own"-that was the phrase he used-the knowing voice commanded,
"Look, Taro," and then before he realized what the evaluator was doing,
the scene vanished from his Surround, replaced by sets of flow charts,
concept maps, and menus, some of which bore labels like "Parallels to Plots
of Submitted Work" or "Forty-One Types of Novels about Artists." Taro
found himself particularly embarrassed to discover that even the title of
which he was so proud, "The Portrait of the Ordinary Artist," had already
been used by an obscure twentieth-century artist who resided in the distant
reaches of the canon.
Worst, Taro had had to listen, this time forced to pay close attention, to
another lecture on the foolish egotism of would-be artists. Taro had taken
all the requisite courses in literary theory, naturally, and now Evaluator
was accusing him of theoretical naivete and ideological illiteracy. His main
problem, Taro had to admit, was that he had such a firm sense of
himself, such a firm conviction that he existed apart, different, that he
found the Culture Agency's emphasis on inevitable creation uncongenial, and
well, yes, threatening as well. It all went back, the machine was reminding
him, to language, the condition of all intelligence, whether human,
artificial, or combination of the two. "All of us, Apprentice Taro, use it
to communicate our thoughts and to shape our reality, but although you
speak ComEnglish, you do not create it, even though no one may ever have
combined those words that you use at this instant in precisely that way
before. In fact, as your teachers have reminded you so many times, the
thoughtful Artist confronts the fact that language speaks him as much as
he speaks language. And since literature is but another level of language and
linguistically organized codes, you cannot assume that you are in sole
control of the stories you produce. Your job as an artist, Mr. Kimura,
involves recombinations and possible discoveries, not origins, not
originations. An artist is a weaver of tapestries and not a sheep producing
wool fibre."
Taro learned his lesson, he felt sure, and this story would be the one to
realize all that potential his teachers had seen so many years earlier.

Taro pressed the white button, transmitting his story from the Authorpad
to Evaluator in the legally required act of Submission. Taro there upon
stepped back and waited. Slightly more than seven seconds later, Evaluator's
melodious womanly voice, now warmer and more enthusiastic than before,
announced, "Congratulations, Artist Taro, your story has been accepted. It
will appear this Thursday on the regional network and we predict solid
interest. Please check the official reviews and abstract that will be
circulated on this date in order to provide artist's confirmation of the
abstract. Additional congratulations are in order, Mr. Kimura: Requests have
just been received for translation rights from Greater Germany, Nepal, and

Taro lifted his finger to press the white button that would transmit his
story from the Authorpad to Evaluator in the legally required act of
Submission. Taro placed his finger near the white button, paused a second,
and then another. Slowly unplugging his Authorpad, Taro left the cell, and
holding himself rigid by sheer force of will, walked briskly back toward the

Taro pressed the white button, transmitting his story from the Authorpad
to Evaluator in the legally required act of Submission. Taro was still
seated, eyes shut and holding his breath, when less than ten seconds later,
Evaluator announced, "Congratulations, Artist Taro, your story has been
accepted for a collaborative fiction! Your text will mingle with those of
eleven other artists, only two of them brand new like yourself. That is quite
an honor, I must say. Would you like to learn the identities of your

Taro pressed the white button, transmitting his story from the Authorpad
to Evaluator in the legally required act of Submission. Taro had not time to
remove his index finger from the button, when the firm motherly voice of
Evaluator gently announced, "I am sorry, Mr. Kimura. Your Submission is not
accepted. Please try not to be upset. At another time, your work might have
been admitted to the Net, but this past week has seen an unusual number of
texts submitted. If you find yourself in need of a tranquilizing agent now or
something to help you sleep later, I am authorized to prescribe one at your
local pharmacia."