2021-06-07 00:26:35 UTC
This article contains minor spoilers about the novelette, "The
I have just finished a group discussion of Walter M. Miller, Jr's "The
Darfsteller", which first appeared in the January, 1955, issue of
_Astounding_Science_Fiction_. One aspect of the story no one could
explain was the origin of the title, which appears to be a pun in
German, combining "Darsteller" (actor) with the first-person, singular
form of "dürfen" (to have permission to). According to Wikipedia, this
term applied to a human actor on a stage normally populated by robots
under control of an AI. The human is free to interpret the scene
according to his own instincts, not as a slave to a central control.
The big question that neither we nor Wikipedia could answer was "Why
German?" The story is set in a large, American metropolis that looks
like New York City and the title is never tied to anything within the
story. It seems clear that Miller was pretty fluent in German to invent
such a word, but the same cannot be said of the average science fiction
reader in 1955.
I have parsed a few Miller biographies but cannot find anything that
looks like an explanation. Does anyone have an idea?
Advance thanks for any insights.