I read a lot of horror fiction, but the scariest book I’ve read is a work of non-fiction titled, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat. This book relates several rare psychiatric cases, including cases of extreme amnesia where individuals have lost all ties to the past and live in a perpetual state of the present, uncertain of who they are or their place in a confusing world that lacks context.
Goddamn that gives me goosebumps. The thought of waking to a state of consciousness that lacks identity, recognizes nothing, and has no idea where it is or what it’s supposed to be doing. As Desirina puts it in her novella, “To live in this nightmare without a story would be too much to bear.”
This is the general predicament facing Lolo and the other “rapt children” in Desirina Boskovich’s surreal and aptly titled, Never Now Always. The story follows three interconnected characters, Lolo, Gor, and Tess who are only aware of the NOW in which they exist. Memories are wispy images that might or might not be real. The future is opaque. The present is gravely mysterious. Who are they? Where are they? Why are they here?
The characters in this novella are all children. The silent antagonists are featureless adults enacting an impenetrable agenda, keeping the kids, both literally and figuratively, in the dark. I remember feeling this confusion as a child, before my identity had formed. The mystery of existence. Coming to adults with questions they couldn’t answer. Thinking I’d been inserted into a dangerous game where the stakes were high yet no one knew the rules. Or that vital information was being withheld for reasons I couldn’t comprehend.
And now, as an adult, looking back on my childhood with such blistering nostalgia it threatens to crumble my heart. Wondering, sometimes, if I wouldn’t be better off without a past, or at least with certain parts anesthetized. In this novella, we get the sense that the children have seen or been exposed to something so traumatizing that having their past erased is preferable to retaining its memory. That, perhaps, they are being protected by concerned guardians saving them from the pain of some shared experience. Or maybe they’re being lied to for some nefarious purpose.
The traumas we face as children tend to stay with us, shaping the kind of adults we become. If something so traumatizing had occurred as a child that it would devastate the rest of your life, would you want it erased? Which is better: imposed ignorance or devastating truth?
Such compelling questions are raised in this immersive, entertaining, and wildly inventive tale that I highly recommend.
Pre-order a copy HERE.
And follow Desirina to learn more about her current and future work. She’s one of my personal favorites.
Desirina Boskovich’s short fiction has been published in Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Nightmare, F&SF, Kaleidotrope, PodCastle, Drabblecast, and anthologies such as Aliens: Recent Encounters, The Apocalypse Triptych, and Tomorrow’s Cthulhu. Her nonfiction pieces on music, literature, and culture have appeared in Lightspeed, Weird Fiction Review, the Huffington Post, Wonderbook, and The Steampunk Bible. She is also the editor of It Came From the North: Anthology of Finnish Speculative Fiction, and together with Jeff VanderMeer, co-author of The Steampunk User’s Manual. Find her online at www.desirinaboskovich.com