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Lightness, humor, satire . . . all are important to science fiction — maybe more so than those of us who nurse that sometimes stifling illness of “literary ambition” are willing to admit.

I will admit to having discovered, in working through various of the creative kinks and knots in my life, that having a grinning, fanged, satiric monkey on one’s back can make it hard to make a properly artistic impression upon the world.

Try wearing both your proper evening dress and your monkey-on-shoulder to a dinner party, for instance . . . and you will know what I mean.

Fine aesthetics are not what are needed in every circumstance, though. Sometimes the monkey has it right, in just jumping up and down on your shoulders and making you write (or draw or sing) utterly mischievous nonsense.

Not that what follows is utterly mischievous, or utterly nonsense . . .

For I think a bell of true metal is being rung somewhere in there, too. Is it being rung because of the monkey – or despite the monkey? You tell me.

This story appeared in Analog just a month after “Across the Sky.”

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