I may have read this novel/novella in the ’80s or ’90s, not sure exactly. The setting was mostly in a near-future Connecticut, but not entirely.

The premise was that someone had invented a way to “delete” chunks of reality using a gizmo no more complicated than a pocket calculator; when you deleted a chunk of reality, it didn’t magically adjust physical records of its existence, but nobody would remember it. It was just as easy to undelete the chunk of reality, which would also restore people’s memories of it - but only the gizmo that deleted a chunk could undelete it.

The story was mostly about a civil war (Beirut-style, not US-1860-style) or terrorism conducted with these gizmos.

  • 1
    This seems similar to Larry Niven's "Backspace" except in that, there was only one editing device, and it was created by a character who could alter reality himself (but only by knowing and changing the root cause of a condition). In a later story, he said he burned it out preventing WWIII.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Aug 6 '18 at 19:25

This may be War of Omission by Kevin O'Donnell Jr.

A new war... a revolt of the middle, of ordinary people fed up with taxes, bureaucracy, government interference. A rebellion destined to fail--until fate tipped the scales and gave them the power to win. The Time-Space Separation unit: 'Tisser' for short. A device that wipes out chunks of spacetime, then knits the edges of reality back together, leaving no memory of the places--or people--who vanished.

Note that in this novel, the deleted parts of the world were actually removed, not just deleted from living memory -- but it's the closest I'm aware of to your description, and has the correct setting.

War of Omission front cover

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    This is probably it; the cover seems familiar. Your note after the quote is consistent with what I recall, but apparently didn't make clear - if, for example, you went to New York and deleted the Empire State Building, the photo of it in your pocket would still show it, and all the kitschy souvenir models of it would still be on knickknack shelves everywhere, but nobody would remember the actual building - "gee, I've never seen that building", even if the picture showed them standing right there in front of it - or recognize what the kitschy knickknacks were models of. Aug 6 '18 at 19:43
  • (N.B. Waiting for an ordered copy to arrive, to verify. I expect I'll be accepting the answer, but not until I've got the book in my hot little hands. :) ) Aug 8 '18 at 11:38
  • Even if it's not the one you remember, it's a good read. I've got a paperback copy I bought when it came out.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Aug 8 '18 at 12:01
  • Got a surprise in the mail last night; stayed up much too late reading this. Have some rep! :) Aug 9 '18 at 12:13

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