At the 1986 Worldcon I was on a mildly unusual panel discussion. The panelists were told to look at a specific painting in the art show, and then base a story on it, which would be read and discussed at the panel a few hours later.
The painting was an image of winged humanoids flying among gigantic bubbles connected by a sort of stem, with a landscape inside each bubble.
The idea was to demonstrate that we would all have different approaches and would come up with completely different stories from the same inspiration. Which it did, though in fact none of the stories were actually finished in time for the panel. If I remember correctly (not a sure thing so long after the fact), one panelist had nothing (but explained why not), two had premises or rough outlines, Darrell Schweitzer had a rather poetic opening but no idea where the story was going, and I had the first draft of "Nif's World."
They were all, as expected, completely different stories. The panel's audience was entertained and informed, which was the purpose of the event. The artist who had created the painting was bemused. And that was the end of it; so far as I know, the other writers discarded their work without a qualm. I have no idea what became of the painting, nor do I remember who the artist was.
The thing is, I kind of liked "Nif's World." I knew it wasn't a finished, publishable story, but I didn't want to throw it out, so I filed it away. Every so often over the next couple of decades I'd take it out, look it over, polish a bit, tweak a bit, then put it away again. I tried a couple of different endings, a couple of different titles, considered and rejected the idea of drastically expanding it.
I don't remember ever actually getting to the point of submitting it anywhere prior to 2015.
But then John Betancourt at Wildside Press asked if I had any unsold stories lying around he could see.
I like John, and I've done a lot of business with Wildside, so I looked through my files and found "Nif's World." It was almost ready, so I polished it up until I thought it was finally finished, and sent it to him. He bought it, and included it in The 10th Science Fiction Megapack.
And there we are.
It's been reprinted once, in 2017, in Science Fiction for the Throne: One-Sitting Reads.
I'd like to be able to provide a look at the painting that inspired it, but I can't -- haven't seen it since 1986, don't remember who painted it. Sorry.
2/10/15 to 2/4/17:
That's it; here's your list of handy exits: