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I'm searching for a short story about a time in humanity's future when we are able to prove that reincarnation does occur naturally, and a newborn can be scanned to find out who they were in previous lives. From what I remember the story is mostly around the problems that arise when that belief is combined with capitalism, as someone can be born in an impoverished area, only to be told that they have accrued huge debt in a previous life and will spent their new life in apparent slavery.

Other details:

  • It was published in a collection of other sci-fi short stories, can't remember much of a connecting theme so it could have been Hugo nominees or something like that
  • I think I first read this collection at least 15 years ago, but I don't know if that's when it was published
  • Another story in that collection was around a young girl grappling with the decision whether or not to undergo a treatment to "cure" her autism, wondering if she would still feel like herself afterwards etc.

If anyone can help with this I'll be eternally grateful, it's a mystery that's bugged me for years and years!

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1 Answer 1

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Possibly Saving for a Sunny Day by Ian Watson. It starts:

When Jimmy was six years old, and able to think about money, a charming lady representative from the Life-Time Bank visited him and his parents, the Robertsons, to explain that Jimmy owed nine million dollars from his previous incarnation. Wow, what a big spender Jimmy had been in his past life! And now in this life he must pay the debt. In old Dollars that would have been ... never mind.

However this appears only to have been published in Watson's anthology of the same name and I don't remember a story about a cure for autism in the collection.

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    Am I right in guessing no one seeks out children to give them wealth generated in a previous life? Apr 25, 2023 at 13:06
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    @BenHocking This is capitalism, not charity. I can't possibly imagine how anyone would write such a story where they would do that. Apr 25, 2023 at 15:10
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    @BenHocking: from the story: Mike owned a modest but upmarket business called Bumz, specialising in chairs. He'd been reborn with about 80,000 dollars, revealed when he was six-years old. Denise only had one thousand to start off with, though admittedly that was better than minus a thousand. Apr 25, 2023 at 15:16
  • @JohnRennie Thanks and color me surprised! Of course, it is fiction. ;) Apr 25, 2023 at 16:57
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    Note that the actual story has a longer name that's been in more collections? isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?196448
    – Malady
    Apr 25, 2023 at 20:21

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