I read this as part of my reading challenge: 25 short stories in 25 days.
Today I read another Clarks World story, both because they are always beautiful and thought-provoking and because the writer was far from an US resident. This is of course only why I picked up the story, it is far from why I found it an interesting story. For the first time in days I will also fully awake while reading the day’s story, which was really nice.
As the title suggest this story was about memory, but perhaps more accurately it is about the act of remembering as a society or choosing to forget. Throughout the story it is never said what it is that should be remembered or forgotten. The event is before our PoV character remembers. I think that is a really powerful move by the author – not to reveal what the event was. The reader just knows that it was different before, something happened and we slowly learns how it is now. That the PoV character, Adventure Boy, is not in fact human, he is an alternative, an artificial person. Not born but made, somehow. Another piece of world-building that er just hinted at, not explained. The story is totally devoid of exposition, we have to figure everything out our self. I am not sure anyone are human in this story, there are Makers and Alternatives and the metal men. I think it really works. Nobodies but the Mechanical’s appearances is ever mentioned in the story. The Father’s clothing is described but I have no idea what colour his hair or skin is or for that matter if he is thin or fat. That of course leave the images entirely to the reader’s imagination.
We get to hear a bit about what the Alternatives think about them self, from Jill who is clumsy, loud and makes jokes:
“My Parents said they wanted the perfect child,” she said. “But they meant the perfect child for them.”
I thinks that she means that she doesn’t think she is anywhere near perfect. That she like all humans know that she has flaws. But the quote also speaks of the selfishness of creating a designer child. You force that child into your vision of the perfect child and forces that child to try to live up to that dream of perfection.
Adventure Boy talks to his father about when Father made Mother.
“I know she is as you wanted her to be,” Adventure Boy said. “But, were you happy?”
“I am happier now,” Father said. “She broke her program, just as she was meant to. She became herself.”
At least Father does not want a wife who is his perfect vision of a wife, he wants a woman who is her own person. Who broke her programing as it were. He made her to be her own person – that is pretty powerful. I find that insanely sympathetic and it relieves a bit of the creepy tension from the fact that he designed his own wife. Though one have to wonder how much choice she had in choosing the relationship.
I actually found the world more interesting than the plot – the plot kind of seem like an excuse to explore the world. To slowly reveal it to the reader. That might just be me. The problem of what to remember and what to forget is far from a new issue for me to explore, so I might just not be as interested. And as a historian I have to agree that it is better to remember the past than try to erase it even when it is painful. A society might choose not to dwell on a painful past to give time to heal some of the rawness before looking too closely at the past. But I think it is better to know what happen than not to know. Or even worse try to hide the past. If you try to hide the past it tend to come and bite you in the ass later. You forget the old lessons, you forget the enemies you make but you also choose not to let people talk about the horrible thing that happened, to take comfort in being together in the survival of it. And I said it didn’t really interest me, hmmm I might have lacked a bit of self insight there.
As always the Clarks World stories are thought-provoking! And this story definitely live up to that expectation. There are so many interesting themes in this story, I am sure I have only touched the surface.