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I'm looking for a dystopian sci-fi story where something (probably nano-machines) makes the ink in books disappear; thus depriving humanity of its history, knowledge, and culture. This prompts a rule that any (newly recovered) books must be read out-loud to a crowd of people.

I think the protagonist is female and that there is a scene where she dreams she's reading to a crowd and that the letters disappear from the page she's reading before she can finish.

It's possible this is just a dream or a scene in another story, or that it's a short-story in a collection.

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    Actually there's a story by Ray Bradbury about a totalitarian state - that was the era they lived in then - where books were banned. Hence men and women actually memorised a book. They were living books. Jun 4, 2020 at 17:43
  • Got to say that nano-bots seem like a complicated way of inducing ink to disappear. Are you sure it wasn't an ink-eating virus or bacterium? Jun 4, 2020 at 17:45
  • @MoziburUllah It's possible it could've been a bacterium or virus... Jun 4, 2020 at 17:57
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    That is of course the premise of Stanislaw Lem's "Memoirs Found in a Bathtub", and it's a device to explain the existence of a vast underground military complex where people pretend to be in charge of some vast empire reaching to the stars (not unlike our contemporary Military-Industrial-Congressional-Judicial-Security-Complex) and speak in secret codes - that can recorded, played back, and decoded in any way you want, depending on which gotcha you would like to distill (much like Twitter). I digress,that's not it.But it rings a bell. Jun 4, 2020 at 22:02
  • @MoziburUllah Your right, I think that is Fahrenheit 451, but I don't think that is the story in question. Nice idea though.
    – mwarren
    Jun 5, 2020 at 7:25

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There is a scifi tv show called "Now and Again" from 2000, and there is a scene in that kind of matches your description. The show is about a man who, after suffering a near fatal accident, has his brain basically stolen by the government and placed in an advanced robotic/cyborg body, and he goes around having adventures and stuff while trying to escape from being a lab rat. The plot of the show doesn't matter that much, but there was one episode called There are no words, where some of the nano tech that runs this guys body gets loose and starts eating ink, leading to the erasure of every book. A law is enacted where every book has to be read to a crowd, and there is a scene near the end where one of the main characters (Dr. Morris, played by Dennis Haysbert) reads a book to a crowd, but the nano tech eats the ink before he can finish. The whole episode is online. Fast forward to 37 minutes to see the scene. The whole ink eating nano tech issue turns out to be a dream, because Dr. Morris felt guilty about not letting the main character have any books while he was being confined and studied. Outside of the reader being male rather than female, this matches your description pretty closely.

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  • Yeah, that's the one! I remember watching this show. Don't know why I thought the main character was female though... Thanks! Nov 25, 2022 at 22:49

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