“Memorare” is a 2007 science fiction novella by Gene Wolfe. It is about a man making a documentary of the dangerous tombs built in asteroids.
Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:
March Wildspring is putting all his time, effort and money into making the next big documentary. He has traveled to the asteroid belt and is filming inside the memorials left behind as tombstones for departed space travelers. It is dangerous work though, because several of them contain traps intended to kill unsuspecting visitors and force their souls into eternal bondage. To help him with the voice over commentary March’s girlfriend, Kit, has come to the asteroid belt with a battered woman who is trying to escape her abusive husband. Together, the three of them decide to enter the most dangerous memorial of all – and the hallucinogenic landscape they find there is both amazing and disgusting. Discovering its secret wasn’t too difficult, but getting out is proving harder than they imagined it would be.
“Someone perished here,” he told the mike, “far beyond the orbit of Mars. Other someones, employees or followers, family or friends, built his memorial—and built it as a trap, so that their revered dead might be served.… Where? In the spirit world? In Paradise? Nirvana? Heaven?
“Or Hell. Hell is possible, too.”
Flowing letters, beautiful and alien, danced upon the curving walls. Arabic, perhaps, or Sanskrit. It would be well, March thought, to show enough of it that people would recognize it and stay away. For the present, the corpses floating outside it might be warning enough. His digicorder zoomed in before he switched it off and returned to his scarred olive-drab hopper.
My Two Cents:
• The good:
- I am a huge Gene Wolfe fan, so I obviously enjoyed this story. It is different than anything else I’ve read by him, so you may want to give it a try even if you don’t like his work.
- In true Gene Wolfe fashion the dialog between characters is spectacular! He has a special knack for making it sound both real and convincing – that’s some good writing!
- The idea of asteroid tombs was awesome! I loved reading about what was inside each of them – especially Number 19!
• The bad:
- Honestly, I enjoyed the whole thing, but there is some strong language to watch out for.
- Oh, and it is kind of long – but I found it to be so fascinating that the length never bothered me.
• Page Count: 43
• Word Count: 27,850
• “Memorare” garnered the following awards:
- It was nominated for 2008 Nebula Award for Best Novella.
Where you can find “Memorare”:
- This novella first appeared in the April 2007 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
- “Memorare” is included in David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer’s collection of science fiction stories entitled Year’s Best SF 13.
- You can read a free online version of this story at the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
Some Interesting Links:
- You can learn more about the amazing Gene Wolfe at Wikipedia.
Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge, about a group of anthropological aliens who are studying the long and brutal empire of mankind, by Mike Resnick.