Thing of Beauty (short story)
|"Thing of Beauty"|
|Genre(s)||Science fiction short story|
|Published in||Galaxy Science Fiction|
|Publisher||Galaxy Publishing Corporation|
|Media type||Print (Magazine, Hardback & Paperback)|
|Publication date||September 1958|
"Thing of Beauty" is a science fiction short story written by Damon Knight. It first appeared in the September 1958 issue of Galaxy magazine and has been reprinted three times, in Far Out (1961), The Sixth Galaxy Reader (1962), and The Best of Damon Knight (1976).
One morning, a group of men in tight purple clothing make a delivery to the house of Gordon Fish in Southern California. It is a machine, the controls of which are labeled in an unknown language. By trial and error, Fish discovers that the machine produces high-quality drawings of people and things. Fish enters one of the drawings in an artistic competition, claiming that it was drawn by a nephew. It wins, but to receive the full prize money, the artist is required to paint the image on a wall. Fish convinces a friend to carry out the task. Fish continues to try to find ways to make money from the machine; he poses as an art teacher and takes on a young woman as a student. As time goes on, he notices that the variety of the images being produced by the machine becomes smaller and smaller. An operating manual came with the machine; he sends it to be translated, and learns that the language is Swedish. He discovers that he has systematically been removing images from storage in the machine each time he produces a picture.