I read a short story, sometime in the early 80s, I think. The plot is about a guy who's had a motorcycle accident and is suffering from anterograde amnesia, so he cannot form new memories, though he does remember his life before the accident.

The catch is, it's been like twelve years since, and in between, some powerful aliens have invaded the Earth. They don't want to destroy us. When they came, they showed their true power by retroactively erasing things (like countries, or animal species) from history (and all history books, films, pictures, etc), but not from the human minds. So people remember that such and such animal used to exist, or such and such country, though there's no trace of them anywhere. The aliens usually do not meddle with human affairs, but they show curiosity every now and then, and of course the world governments are extremely interested in knowing (and trying to understand) what appeals to them. And our protagonist is one of the things the aliens feel curious about, so the government has him in an apartment, paying all his expenses and taking care of him.

The story is narrated through a document that he finds each morning, that gradually introduces him to the events so far. First he awakens in a closed room, no mirrors or windows, but there's clothes and the document itself. When he reaches certain point (and he already knows that he's grown older), he's allowed to another room with a mirror, then another with windows (so he can see the changes to the city), etc, so each step is small enough that he doesn't feel too overwhelmed. The document is in fact written by himself, so if he feels something hasn't worked and should be done differently, he can just change it for tomorrow.

That's all I remember. I read it in some anthology, and I'm pretty sure is not by some obscure author, but a well-known one. Gene Wolf comes to mind, but perhaps because of the similarity to "Soldier of the Mist". I've long suspected John Crowley, too, but I haven't been able to find any story by him with that premise.

Any ideas? (Don't bother with film references, etc, I know anterograde amnesia has been used several times, like in "Memento". I'm really looking for the story. Thanks.)


1 Answer 1


This is probably John Varley's "Just Another Perfect Day," which can be read here.

As you remember, it's told in the form of a series of letters for the main character upon waking up, to explain their condition.

And now, back to your questions.

Top of the list: What happened?

Briefly (and it must be brief—more on that later):

In 1989 you had an accident. It involved a motorcycle which you don’t remember owning because you didn’t buy it until 1988, and a city bus. You had a difference of opinion concerning the right of way, and the bus won.

Feel your scalp with your fingertips. Don’t be queasy; it healed long ago—as much as it’s going to. Under those great knots of scar tissue are the useless results of the labors of the best neurosurgeons in the country. In the end, they just had to scoop out a lot of grey matter and close you back up, shaking their heads sagely and opining that you would probably feel right at home under glass on a salad bar.

But you fooled them. You woke up, and there was much rejoicing, even though you couldn’t remember anything after the summer of ’86. You were conscious a few hours, long enough for the doctors to determine that your intelligence didn’t seem to be impaired. You could talk, read, speak, see, hear. Then you went back to sleep.

The next day you woke up, and couldn’t remember anything after the summer of ’86. No one was too worried. They told you again what had happened. You were awake most of the day, and again you fell asleep.

And Aliens:

On to the second picture.

Looks almost human, doesn’t he? If the offspring of Gumby and E.T. could be considered human. He is humanoid: two eyes, nose, mouth, two arms and two legs, and that goofy grin. The green skin you’ll get used to quickly enough.

What he is, is a Martian.

See, fifteen years ago the Martians landed and took over the planet Earth. We still don’t know what they plan to do with it, but some of the theories are not good news for Homo sapiens.

Don’t Worry.

Take a few deep breaths. I’ll wait.

It's also the subject of this question. The question itself doesn't involve the amnesia in any way, but because the answers are the same, if both are confirmed, it will be counted as a dupe (but the other one has never been officially confirmed)

  • Care to post the same solution over here? :-) (I found that forum thread while searching for the answer to this question.)
    – Rand al'Thor
    May 7, 2017 at 16:27
  • 1
    Out of interest, what was the winning google query?
    – Edlothiad
    May 7, 2017 at 16:28
  • @Randal'Thor The thread seems to be locked so I can't really post it there, I'm afraid. May 7, 2017 at 16:30
  • @Edlothiad If you mean for finding it? None, I happened to read it a couple months back (in a collecton of Varley's short fiction) so I knew the author, to get the specifics I just searched "Varley" on here in case it was a dupe and found the title and a link to the story in another question. May 7, 2017 at 16:31
  • 1
    Definitely that's the story I was thinking of. Thanks!
    – Lektu
    May 7, 2017 at 16:38

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