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Five Slippery SFF Stories About Losing Memories and the Self


Five Slippery SFF Stories About Losing Memories and the Self

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Five Slippery SFF Stories About Losing Memories and the Self

Questions of memory and identity are always tricky, even without the intervention of magical and supernatural forces...


Published on June 20, 2024

Photo by Debby Hudson [via Unsplash]

Photo of an open diary, dated June 1925. A bunch of purple flowers and a sepia toned photograph of a man and woman are laid over the diary.

Photo by Debby Hudson [via Unsplash]

Human memory is one of my most favorite topics of study. Not only are the cognitive processes that influence it fascinating, but it also inspires the writer in me to ponder what it means to lose certain or all memories, and by extension, one’s self. Here are a few thought-provoking SFF stories that consider the importance and fragility of memory and identity…

The Thief of Memory” by Sunyi Dean

Miquon’s village is dying. The drought is relentless. As a young, strong member of her village, she ought to go to the mountains and bring back water from the springs for her people. But the mountains are haunted by a colorless spirit that misleads people into making bargains that benefit only itself. Miquon knows she must be wary, take the water, and not be fooled by the spirit. That she remembers well. But memory is tricky, and she doesn’t remember everything she should, making her task difficult…

A heartbreaking story about young people’s ideals, free will and the narratives in which we choose to believe, what becomes legend, and what’s regarded as the truth.

Time: Marked and Mended” by Carrie Vaughn

Graff’s people are collectors of memories. They record, archive, and share people’s lives and experiences. When Graff discovers that a part of his memory is missing, he is devastated, for he’s been built to never lose a memory. The anomaly puts him in a crisis—who is he, as an individual and to his people, if he’s so irresponsible with his memories? And what impact will this loss have on the world?

Given the reconstructive nature of human memory, Vaughn’s story makes for a particularly interesting take on a situation in which memory is difficult to erase.

The Stop After the Last Station” by A. T. Greenblatt

Tito is on a subway train that will take him to the stop after the last station. It takes six silver coins and two and a half years to get there. He knows that when you get to the place, there’s very little of you left. As he waits to reach his destination, Tito struggles to remember. What happened during the journey? Why was he left with only one token? Who is he, exactly, and why has he come here, after all?

A story about looking forward, told in reverse-chronological order and through an optimistic lens.

Circle of Memories” by Jessica Meats

When Cara opens her eyes, she finds herself sitting across from a witch, who conducted the ritual that gave Cara some magic in exchange for a precious memory. What the memory was or why Cara needed the magic, she doesn’t remember anymore. She knows that the greedy have gone so far as to give up their own names for power, so she wants to take her time to decide what to do with her allotment of magic now that she has so much of it.

Elner, the witch, tells Cara that she can stay with her while she decides. As the days pass, Cara witnesses how, when a person in need can’t provide the necessary magic, Elner uses her own memories to help and heal them. Cara is both touched and amazed by Elner’s continuous sacrifices for the good of others. But before long, it starts to become clear that there was more to the day Cara visited Elner and gave up her valuable memory. A clever, heartbreaking story.

The Last Truth” by AnaMaria Curtis

Eri is a lockbreaker. Her craft doesn’t require any physical tools; only truths told to no one else, that can be used only once. Each truth takes away a bit of her memory; Eri doesn’t know which memories will disappear. While trying to steal for her contractor on a ship, a musician spots her and asks for her help. It is a small request and one that Eri doesn’t argue with much, for musicians have their own power that one must be wary of. But their encounter brings with it an opportunity, a hope for a better life and freedom from thievery and obligation—an opportunity that would mean risking Eri’s memory, if not her entire self.


About the Author

Ratika Deshpande


Ratika Deshpande (she/her), Order of Truthwatchers, is currently writing a series of essays at on the art and craft of writing, one blog post at a time.
Learn More About Ratika
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