“Arties Aren’t Stupid” — Jeremiah Tolbert

Jeremiah Tolbert’s fiction has appeared in Fantasy Magazine, Interzone, Ideomancer, and Shimmer, as well as in the anthologies Federations and Polyphony 4. He’s also been featured several times on the Escape Pod and Podcastle podcasts. In addition to being a writer, he is a web designer, photographer, and graphic artist—and he shows off each of those skills in his Dr. Roundbottom project, located at www.clockpunk.com. He lives in Colorado, with his wife and cats. This story first appeared in my anthology Seeds of Change.

Does it hurt an artist to go a week without painting?  Does it pain a singer to spend a day without singing?  Do creative people suffer when they are denied the chance to create? 

Our next story is the story of artists who do suffer when circumstances keep them from creating art.  They suffer real pain—because they are genetically engineered constructs whose bodies are specially designed to make art.  These “arties” aren’t alone in their specialization.  There are “brainiacs” whose bodies are atrophied beneath massive brains, and “thicknecks” and “skinnybois,” too.  Each group has their own skills, their own weaknesses, their own strange places in a strange world.

In such a regimented society, it’s not surprising that even a temporary mural needs to be licensed.  But when their latest art experiment is rejected, the crew of artists have to find a new kind of creativity, an art so big it will transcend the boundaries between every specialty.

This piece sketches a dark reality where art is dangerous and creativity hurts.  It confronts us with the value of art in our own time and place.  It asks:  can society thrive without art?  Can we live without it?

Would we want to?