Bethany C. Morrow’s MEM tells the story of a Montreal scientist who discovers how to extract peoples’ memories, whole and unscathed. As the book’s summary describes, “the Mems exist as mirror-images of their source—zombie-like creatures destined to experience that singular memory over and over, until they expire in the cavernous Vault where they are kept.”
But what happens when you’re capable of taking charge of your own existence, only to suddenly be called back to the Vault? Just ask Elsie, aka Dolores Extract #1, the first Mem with the power to create her own memories. Intrigued? Then check out our four other reasons to add Morrow’s fascinating debut to your book shelf.
It Was Inspired by the Differences Between Science Fiction and Actual Science.
“I was literally laying in bed, thinking about the difference between science and science fiction, in particular how ‘cloning’ in the real world was so much less remarkable—at least in terms of who the clone is,” Morrow told the American Books Association in May. “I thought about the way they don’t clone memories or experiences or personalities, and then, of course, how remarkable it might be if cloning were expressly for the purpose of sharing memories. Or removing them.”
It’s Been Called “a Black Mirror Episode Set in Jazz-Age Montreal.”
And who wouldn’t want to read that? Shout out to Electric Literature‘s Adam Morgan for the A1 description.
Morrow told literary blog My Life My Books My Escape in May, “MEM takes place in an alternate 1920s Montreal, which of course is a real and vibrant city in the Canadian province of Quebec, which also means it’s an officially bilingual, but realistically multi-lingual, multicultural city that is often described as a cross between a European and an American city. In MEM, Montreal is as it was—except for the scientific discovery, and the fact that I intentionally omitted racism as an institution so that I could tell Elsie’s story as a MEM, without the realistic consequences of her other intersections demanding certain outcomes.”
It’s Based on Research About the Cultural Omission of Slavery.
“When I was first decided I was going to move to Montreal, one of the things I started researching was the proliferation of the culture of omission in a country that had 206 years of slavery, but claimed that it didn’t have slavery,” Morrow told Electric Lit. “So my confusion was, why wasn’t there a huge exodus to Canada? Because all you hear is ‘Canada was at the end of the Underground Railroad,’ and, ‘There was never any slavery or Jim Crow in Quebec.’ So I started doing some research on it because this doesn’t make any sense. If that’s true, where are all the Black Canadians? Where are all the Black Quebecois? Of course, it’s not true.”
She continued, “As a Black American who has lived in two other countries, I can say this: when you leave America, you become American. As a Black American, I don’t necessarily face the same things that I would face in my own country because I’m seen as an American. But you see that the same racism you experienced in your country is still happening to African French people and Black French people. It’s just not happening to you because you’re seen as an American.”
The Reviews Are Glowing.
“With her dizzying concept, richly imagined narrator, ornate setting, and first-rate storytelling, Morrow offers an epiphany for readers of speculative fiction with echoes of ideas explored in films like Blade Runner and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” says Kirkus Reviews.
So what are you waiting for? Cop dat.
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