The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling is a science fiction short story authored by Ted Chiang. It is a first person narrative from the perspective of a journalist who is investigating a new search tool called Remem that can be used to query events and statements from a person's life log. He's concerned about the effect that externalizing episodic memory will have on people's personal and interpersonal development. He interviews people who use it concerning correcting each others' misremembering opinions and statements and using it to keep score. He interviews the president of the parent company and listens to her claims about the good Remem will do. Throughout, he presents a consistent view that the loss of subjective memory robs us of an important human quality.

At the same time the tale moves over to third person limited view in the life of a young African tribes man named Jijingi who is learning to read and write from a missionary at some point in the colonial period. It's a cliche at this point, but reading and writing opens up a whole new world to Jijingi; not just in terms of literacy but also in terms of semantic content. Jijingi's native language of Tiv has no word for word and it's not until he's forced to write with spaces that he recognizes his language is discrete rather than continuous. As time passes and he spends more and more time with the missionary and becomes more immersed in the concepts inherent in literacy that are so foreign to his tribes modes of thinking.

The story meanders back and forth between the two plots with the Journalist expressing his concern regarding how perfect memory could erode nostalgia and render fond childhood memories in to mere facts devoid of character while Jijingi deals with the stresses of becoming the village's scribe with one foot in the world of fuzzy tribal politics and lovingly told stories that change a little with each telling and the other in the world of lifeless permanent words and the facts they present. The narratives end with one accepting the new technology and the shift in perception it brings and the other rejecting it.

As far as stories go this is a real gem for reminding us just how subjective our experience of the world is without falling into the postmodern morass. It can be found here.


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