This is a story I read sometime in the late 1980s or so, about a man who had perfect recall of every aspect of every moment of his life. I must have read it in either a science fiction magazine or a collection of short stories. (If I had to choose, I would say a magazine.) The publication date was probably sometime 1965 to 1980, but it may have been earlier.

The story is told in the first person, and one detail that stands out is his discussion about how he never knows whether other people to whom he's been introduced will remember him or not. There's a specific reference to how he can place every face he's ever seen, with an example of passing someone that had sat near him in the stands of a baseball game years ago.

The story may have used the word "eidetic" to describe his memory. (Note: This is not true, per the provided answer; perhaps I just associated this term with the story when I first learned it.) I think it was something he was born with -- not the result of an experiment or anything like that. I also think he did his best to hide his talent, to avoid the notice of government researchers.

I'm sure there was a plot, but I can't remember any details about it.


2 Answers 2


Robert Silverberg's "The Man Who Never Forgot"

Silverberg's tale is about the life of a man who remembers everything, every single detail from the memory of his birth, to everything he's read and every conversation he's heard. I never had a memory as good as the protagonist, Niles, but much of what Niles felt and went through struck a painfully familiar chord in me.

You're correct on the detail about the sports stands. It's right at the beginning.

He saw the girl waiting in line outside a big Los Angeles movie house, on a mildly foggy Tuesday morning. She was slim and pale, barely five-three, with stringy flaxen hair, and she was alone. He remembered her, of course.

He knew it would be a mistake, but he crossed the street anyway and walked up along the theater line to where she stood.

"Hello," he said.

She turned, stared at him blankly, flicked the tip of her tongue out for an instant over her lips. "I don't believe I—"

"Tom Niles," he said. "Pasadena, New Year's Day, 1955. You sat next to me. Ohio State-20, Southern Cal-7. You don't remember?"

First published in 1958, it's been published pretty much throughout since then. The term "eidetic" is never used, but he was born with it. It's third person limited, not first person, but the difference is small. As regards a plot, it's more or less about his journey from realizing what a great gift it is, to realizing how little use he gets from it, to seeing it as a curse and considering ending his life, to finding out his grandfather had the same gift and deciding that he needs to be sure he passes this on to his own descendants because others will be able to use it better.

  • I remembered reading it in an anthology and specifically remembered that the character at one point tries to get work in a side show as "The Human Tape Recorder", which led me to search for science fiction "human tape recorder" on Google, which brought me to a mirror of SciFi.com's now defunct Sci Fiction page. I probably read it myself in Mutants: Science Fiction Stories by Poul Anderson, Frederik Pohl, James Blish, and more!.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jul 24, 2017 at 19:25
  • Yep, that's almost certainly it. Thanks! It's great to be 80% wrong on details and still get an answer.
    – Otis
    Jul 28, 2017 at 16:42
  • The full story can be found here: lexal.net/scifi/scifiction/classics/classics_archive/… I just read it, a nice little story with an optimistic ending.
    – Deepak
    Oct 11, 2017 at 6:18
  • @FuzzyBoots you beat me to the answer - I read it in the same collection, which also included the original story "It's a Good Life", from which sprang the classic Twilight Zone episode. Mar 26, 2019 at 14:26

Could it be "Lest We Remember" from the anthology "Winds of Change" by Isaac Asimov?

John Heath is a "dead average" man working for Quantum Pharmaceuticals. Unhappy with his average position in the company and in life, he searches for a way to improve himself and at the same time impress his fiancée, Susan Collins. When researchers from Quantum give him the opportunity, he volunteers to be a test subject for a new drug that allows total memory recall. When the drug succeeds and John is able to remember everything and anything that he has ever read or heard down to the exact word, he goes on a rampage to climb the corporate ladder in his company, blackmailing his superiors into conceding to his demands. When his bosses and the researchers who gave him the drug trick him and lock him in one of the rooms in the office building, they try to inject him with the antidote for the recall drug. Susan, however, comes to his rescue, and although they never succeed in giving him the antidote (after he suffers a traumatic shock, the bosses believe he has lost the power), John promises to Susan never to use his new power for malevolence, while the possibility remains open that maybe one day everyone could possess that ability.

  • 2
    Why do you think this is the answer? Jul 23, 2017 at 18:13
  • Can you please add some description of why this matches the description in the question?
    – Mithical
    Jul 23, 2017 at 18:25
  • 1
    Poor answer. Besides not fitting the question, it is just a link to what you think might be the answer.
    – JRE
    Jul 24, 2017 at 2:03
  • 1
    Upvoted for the reference to a story about a man with perfect memory. Although Silverberg's story seems to be the correct answer, Asimov's story was a good suggestion. Please note that quoting a bit of material from a referenced link adds context and helps an answer remain useful if the link changes or becomes unavailable. While people new to stackexchange may be reluctant to risk the appearance of plagiarism by providing quotes from other websites, this is fine as long as credit such as the source's URL is included with the quote.
    – Gaultheria
    Jul 24, 2017 at 20:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.