Imagine a world where memories can be shared through a single touch.
In Shallee McArthur’s debut The Unhappening of Genesis Lee, a small group of genetically enhanced people called the Mementi have the ability to do just that. With any touch, they can share and see memories – and with the help of their Link bracelets, they can preserve memories perfectly.
But with that ability came challenges, both for McArthur and the Mementi themselves.
“I knew how I wanted the Links that store memories to work, but it introduced SO many problems,” said McArthur.
Being able to share memories through touch put Mementi at risk, so in order to protect them, McArthur had to construct an entire world where people couldn’t do the one thing many people take for granted: touch.
“They’re supposed to give each other about 2 feet of space,” said McArthur. The Mementi wear also protective clothing and set rituals for how to behave in group settings. “They always pass each other on the left, make eye contact, and nod to acknowledge each other when they walk.”
While their society accommodated to not being able to touch, there were other factors that presented problems. But McArthur had no interest in shying away from these problems.
Instead, she wanted to explore them.
“I’m a firm believer that complications of an idea make for better conflicts in the plot, so I don’t like to find the easy way out.”
The Mementi’s ability to preserve and share memory also came with resentment from the Populace, the majority population of ordinary humans.
While Mementi society is constructed on rituals to refrain from touching, their interactions with ordinary humans don’t share the same risk so there are no rules to prevent them from mingling. Instead, McArthur noted, they generally avoid each other.
“They sit on different sides of the trams, have different sections at clubs, [and]live on opposite sides of town,” McArthur said. “They don’t get along well. Mementi think they’re superior, the Populace resent the Mementi, and both sides fear each other.”
And when Mementi begin to lose their lives to a memory thief, tensions only increase.
“There’s so much prejudice, and it kind of sets the town on fire because each side blames the other for the memory thefts.”
So who’s the thief? A Mementi or ordinary human?