Many years ago I have read a novel in Polish SF&F magazine "Fantastyka" (or "Nowa Fantastyka"), where main character job at a moment was to modify existing movies removing smoking and/or drinking from them (mentioned were "Dumbo" and "Casablanca"). Movies were stored in something like light-based memory, constantly refreshed and checked for unauthorized changes. There are no new movies made, only remakes, or movies made out of fragments of other movies (finding relevant fragments is one of jobs of main character).

The organization of the story was rather characteristic: before each section there was short description of trope, with example... and in the plot the trope was usually played straight, sometimes subverted.

One of supporting characters (female) had in Polish translation nickname "Heada" (not sure what it was in original).

Is anyone here able to help me identify this book?

  • tried to improve the title, feel free to roll it back if it's not to your liking. Commented Mar 6, 2011 at 18:46
  • @Mark Rogers: Thanks, it reads better after your edit. Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 12:00

3 Answers 3


In this case googling leads to the answer (the top hit has a summary of the book, and the second hit is an (illegal) online copy)! Googling works because you've remembered enough proper names.

This is Remake by Connie Willis. Plot summary by Phil Neskew:

In the near future, every movie that comes out of Hollywood is either a remake or a sequel, and every one of them digitally borrows scenery, props, and even actors and actresses from earlier movies. Tom's job involves finding things to borrow from other movies, as well as digitally altering original films (like Dumbo and Casablanca) to make them less offensive. Tom meets Alis, who wants to dance in the movies, really dance, not just have her face pasted on the body of the original dancer. He thinks her dream is impossible, until he starts seeing Alis in the movies he's editing. He becomes consumed by a need to find out how she's doing it. Did she really sell out, or is she traveling back in time to dance in the musicals when they were first filmed?

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    1995? Sounds like it's talking about the near future then. I get the impression we always get the same re-heated crap in movies. Commented Mar 6, 2011 at 21:30

I seem to recall either a Michael Crichton novel or Clive Cussler's "Raise the Titanic" having a character subplot about removing cigarettes from movies. Sorry I can't be more specific than that as I no longer have the book and can't find any references.

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    Welcome to SciFi.SE! The question was already answered over eight years ago, but this is still useful in case anyone is looking for one of those books and stumbles across this question.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 16:03
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    Although it would be better if there were an actual answer in it. :) Partial answers can help, but better a partial map than a "something like this exists".
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 16:19
  • The bit about the Titanic was indeed in an as yet unidentified story that I've read as well. Protagonist edits out people smoking from old movies but it sometimes caused odd movements and gestures by the actors. He explains to his girlfriend that he has left a reference in the film 'A Night To Remember' ( about Titanic sinking) because it doesn't actually show the act... Instead some matronly woman points off screen and says "That man! He's smoking a cigarette, at a time like this!"......This is NOT in Remake by Connie Willis because I've just looked through my copy
    – Danny Mc G
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 16:40
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    You are thinking about "The Ghost from the Grand Banks" by Arthur C. Clarke. One of the secondary-ish characters made his money from the type of digital "correction" of classic films to make them more acceptable to the social mores of the time the book is set in that you are describing. This is set against a pair or competing attempts to raise the pieces of the Titanic.
    – Bentzin
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 21:29
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    @Bentzin You are correct! I've just downloaded The Ghost From The Grand Banks and it indeed has exactly the scene I remembered. Not what the OP was after I know, but it's still handy to have the titles of books/stories about digitally deleting smoking from old movies all in the one thread. Cheers
    – Danny Mc G
    Commented Jun 21, 2019 at 12:12

Try William Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer.. I can't find it on my shelves and I have had no success googling it but I can think of nowhere else it might come from.

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    Welcome to the site! As you can see by the green check mark on the above answer, there is already an accepted answer for this question, so there's no need for more guesswork as to what the answer is.
    – gnovice
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 18:20
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    Also, I think you mean Idoru by Gibson, which features a paragraph about the practise of editing out cigarettes.
    – SQB
    Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 6:31

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