I read this story around 1996. It was probably no more than 10-15 years old then. It was in an anthology book which may have been Nebula showcase or Hugo winners anthology but may have been an original multiauthor anthology. In the story, a lady is looking for her sister and travels to the planet where she was last known to be. She hikes into the wilderness, eventually finding natives familiar with her sister. In the story, memories can be transferred by ingestion of brain matter, and the protagonist is able to discover what happened to her sister, maybe from a native who has her sister's memories through that mechanism. Parts of my recollection could be way off, but that's the essence of it that I remember. Thanks to anyone who has any ideas!

Edit for additional info after reading the guide to asking questions: hardback book, anthology with science fiction stories from multiple authors; i don't think it was an author i was very familiar with at the time, so not niven, asimov, heinlein, clarke, probably not one of the really bigtime authors at the time but it could have been someone like swanwick who i just hadn't been exposed to much. The natives were humanoid, and I think maybe hairy. They were felt to be savage or uncivilized but i don't think necessarily warlike or violent. Lived in small groups i think. The missing sister may have been on the planet for an anthropological science mission. I feel like there were not many humans on the planet.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F! This is an interesting question; it tickles my memory a bit even. Maybe if you take a look at the suggestions for writing questions it might help you remember some details that you can edit into your question. (Suggestions include things like what the cover of the book looked like.)
    – DavidW
    Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 21:34
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    Gaining memories from someone you eat was also central to the story "Hunting Rights" which I read in the May '88 issue of Analog.
    – DavidW
    Commented Feb 23, 2019 at 5:29
  • Thanks, DavidW, for the info about the story "Hunting Rights". Although I see at ISFDB that that story doesn't seem to have been picked up for any anthologies, I can't rule it out because I did occasionally pick up an old issue of Analog back then and may be mistaken about the material I read it in. Do you remember if it had any other features in common with the story I seek?
    – arb
    Commented Feb 23, 2019 at 21:22
  • Danny3414: I also feel like it was a female author, but I may remember it that way because of the female protagonist viewpoint.
    – arb
    Commented Feb 23, 2019 at 21:26
  • @arb Sorry, other than gaining memories by ingestion, there isn't much similarity. "Hunting Rights" is about a mixed (various alien species) team of scientists exploring an alien planet where the apex predator (pictured in the cover art) is able to absorb memories from anything it eats (and it eats anything). It is intelligent, and after a first encounter starts hunting down the scientists in order to learn more about the universe. So, not a match. :)
    – DavidW
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 16:16

1 Answer 1


I happened across the story in an old anthology from the library. The story is "Memories of Muriel" by Paula May. It appeared in the original anthology Universe 2, which was edited by Robert Silverberg. It never appeared anywhere else according to ISFDb. Some of the details are different, but it is essentially as originally posted.

In the story Harry Franson, a mathematician, teacher and businessman has sold most of his business to finance a trip to the planet where his first love, Muriel, died doing xenological research. (His wife has recently died and that loss, combined with the unresolved pain of his earlier loss, are driving him.) He is dropped by airplane in the extremely rugged White Mountains where members of the native intelligent species still live a primitive life. He is nearly accidentally blinded by the very white primary (high UV emitter) and meets a pair of the natives.

The older of the natives, who Harry calls "Wisdom," is one of their elders (the last of their elders) and when the younger is killed he enacts the ceremony of taking a sample of the brain to preserve memories. Harry sees that Wisdom carries a human bone and Wisdom admits that when Muriel died in a fall the elders all took some of her memories. The lingering memories of Muriel allow her to say good-bye to Harry as his rescuers come for him.

Universe 2 is available to be borrowed at the Internet Archive.

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    Weclcome back arb. You can use the contact us button at the bottom of any page to ask for your accounts to be merged so you can get your reputation back. Glad you found your answer. Commented Jan 27, 2022 at 1:16
  • @arb - In addition, merging your accounts will enable you to mark this answer as accepted. Commented Jan 27, 2022 at 1:33

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