The Tiles Setters was born in a car dealership. I’d been given the assignment to go out and search: find ideas for stories. Learn about
something you’ve no interest in. Meet people. Observe.
I wandered into the dealership with my partner from the class, and we
decided to pretend to be interested in a car. The somewhat lecherous
salesman turned out to be uninteresting, except for the fact that he was the perfect representation of the cliché. So I looked around. The tile caught my attention. It wasn’t magnificent, being a simple cream and white ceramic with gray grout. But it started me off on a route I’ve found myself taking many times since.
How did this tile get here? Who laid it? What were their lives like? How was it made?
That last question lead to visions of clay being kneaded and rolled out and cut. I knew that clay sometimes benefits from different things being added. What would happen if this process were magic? What if the additives imbued some kind of power to the tile? I imagined that the magic artist might use snippits of themselves. Some of the things in those jars are dead skin cells and even dried blood, as well as other plant, animal, and mineral materials with certain properties.
Initially, my idea was that the tile makers worked for a prince of long ago. But someone suggested I bring it to the modern age. It was brilliant idea and I wish I remembered who it was to thank them. My husband had worked in an advertising agency. These places really do spend lots of money on their own image and their office décor.
I wrote the story in about seven hours. Then, I couldn’t get my laptop hooked up to a printer so I retyped it in an hour onto the school computer so I could print it out. Good times.
Ami's story, "The Tile Setters," is in issue 10 of Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show, available now.