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Chaos Trifecta #9: Rememory

chaos trifecta
Written By Ai Jiang

Ai Jiang is a Chinese-Canadian writer and an immigrant from Fujian. She is a member of HWA, SFWA, and Codex. Her work can be found in F&SF, The Dark, Uncanny, among others. She is the holder of Odyssey Workshop's 2022 Fresh Voices Scholarship. Her debut novella Linghun (April 2023) is forthcoming with Dark Matter INK. Find her on Twitter (@AiJiang_) and online (aijiang.ca).

During my undergraduate studies, I read Beloved by Toni Morrison four times, and I’m planning to reread it again sometime soon. Back then, I read it more with an academic eye, and I think reading it now as a writer might offer a very different experience. Regardless, what has stuck with me most all these years after reading this novel is not only the exploration of death, grief, trauma, and bleak, bleak history, but also the concept Morrison introduced within the pages of Beloved: Rememory.

From my reading, this word seems to point to the revisiting of the past through memory and the way that repressed memories of the past might at times overcomes the present. I think the definition can also extend to the act of deliberate remembering, as we specifically call upon particular memories. In Beloved, we can see how rememory is something that causes the past to manifest in the present.

I have been brewing further on the way death affects us both consciously and unconsciously after writing LINGHUN—the way we cling tight to deaths unexplained, accidents that could have been prevented, guilt where there should be none, guilt when there is all that there is, revenge and justice—and wonder about what might linger in those who have passed. Below are three recommendations that I think explore the concept of rememory in one way or another and the form it might take in worlds fantastical, contemporary yet cosmic, and far, far into the future.

Merciless Waters by Rae Knowles

Merciless Waters is about an all-female crew aboard a ship set sail in an eternal present. What strikes me most about this book is not only its breathless and poetic prose, but its dark narrative centered on repressing memories and living without ever drawing on the past. Knowles shows us what happens when pasts are unlocked, traumas triggered, when we cannot help but latch on, particularly when it comes to who have been wronged. Merciless Waters shows us what happens when the desire for revenge is much stronger than that of peace, and perhaps that is what makes the story world so terrifying—the way people seek to be in constant turmoil both consciously and unconsciously. I took a psychology class once that said humans tend towards chaos, do things that mess things up rather than make things better, but in this story, it seems that the characters are only able to achieve justice and peace through chaos.

Disappearance of Tom Nero by TJ Price

Recently, I finished Uzumaki by Junji Ito with its hypnotic storyline and artwork about death because of obsession, and I think Disappearance of Tom Nero by TJ Price is a lovely companion for those looking for obsession-driven horror. Through Price’s intriguing structural choices and experimental format, we gain deeper insight into cosmic forces that might drive humans mad and the way that sometimes obsession is something we simply cannot explain. In Uzumaki, obsession takes form of the spiral; in Disappearance of Tom Nero, obsession takes form of a word that the characters cannot rid of from their minds. Another interesting similarity is the way that these seemingly cosmic driven obsessions impact those around the obsessers both before and after their death—the way one person’s obsession might transfer onto their closest to them, or the way those mourning deaths might inherit the deceased obsession almost as a way to reconnect with them or keep a piece of them in their lives.

Time’s Ellipse by Frasier Armitage

In Time’s Ellipse by Frasier Armitage, the story explores the concept of death where death is something that moves at different speeds for different people as we follow the settlement of humans on a new planet and the generations that survive after them. Armitage explores the concept of rememory through the ways in which children carry memories of the previous generation and the knowledge of ancestors no matter how that knowledge and history might have changed as it passes through different hands. The way that death, not just life, results in evolution, the way we make sense of the people who no longer exist in the world of the living and the past events that might alter depending on the perspective it is filtered through. Here, rememory takes the form of stories that have been created, passed forth, and lost, and how calling upon the past might shape and reshape the collective present and future.

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