By the way, thank you everyone, for your very varied unfavourite hymns and songs. Do read all the comments, in order to find out which carol promised the young Judith Leader “fritters for ever”.

Very soon, the PPI Blogger is planning to watch a film called “The Crimes of Grindelwald”, sequel to “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”

I have frequently told the story of how “We Do Not Kill Children” started – I was writing little miscellaneous ideas for stories and conversations in an otherwise unused diary. Looking back a year later, I found snippets of Dorac meeting Gormad, and also the original Place to Die – and the rest can be found in the Tales from Ragaris.

But there were a few other ideas that didn’t make the cut, and one of them was a conversation between two contemporary young women called Laura and Lucy. It is too embarrassingly bad to reproduce here, but the point is that Lucy’s situation bore a certain resemblance to the most beloved character in “Fantastic Beasts”, Jacob Kowalski (played by Dan Fogler.)

Lucy had been recruited by some amiable People with Strange Powers to combat a Sinister Plot. (You can see that the story planning had some way to go.) One of her new friends had a good reason for wanting a diversion one night, so he implanted a false image in Lucy’s mind of seeing someone in a kitchen. The snippet I wrote was her discovery of the truth, and her reaction.


In “Fantastic Beasts”, Jacob Kowalski, unlike Lucy, is aware that he is being Obliviated (or not. Sweet sentimental ending!), but no one else in New York is told this. For the convenience of the wizarding community, the murder and mayhem that has been going on for the past 24 hours is obliterated from everyone’s memory, at the hero’s suggestion, and the background music suggests we should approve.

Of course this is common procedure in JK Rowling’s works. Notably, a campsite manager called Mr Roberts has his memory repeatedly wiped in “The Goblet of Fire”, making him at least temporarily unwell. This is done so that wizards can gather for a sporting event without disturbance. It’s not just Muggles: Kingsley Shacklebolt falsifies Marietta Edgecombe’s memory in “The Order of the Phoenix”, to get Dumbledore and Harry off the hook.

I yield to almost no one in my love for the Potterverse, but I have always been unhappy with this aspect.

It is the normal procedure for the Men in Black, and someone I knew indeed criticised the Will Smith/Tommy Lee Jones film bitterly for pandering to US conspiracy theorists in this way. (“There’s something going on that they’re not telling us.”) It wasn’t her kind of film anyway, but I now think she had a good point.

Wiping and replacing memories has also been done by Professor Charles Xavier of the X-Men, by Superman (Superman!) to Lois Lane, and even by an alien race to Tintin (but not Snowy) in one of his later adventures. Of course it’s often done by bad guys (“The Matrix”, anyone?) and as far as I remember it’s a feature of the replicants’ history in “Blade Runner.”

It’s a common SF/fantasy procedure. Occasionally some of the “good” characters express unease, as J does in the original Men in Black film, but it’s not unease that they should be registering. It’s utter horror and condemnation, and this was what I was wanting to say when I wrote a few hundred words about Lucy.

To change or implant someone’s memory, or their perception of events, without their knowledge or consent, would if it were possible be an act almost unbelievably evil. Anyone who did this would automatically not be one of the good guys, even if their name was Albus Dumbledore, or indeed Arthur Weasley.

My fictional Lucy discovered that this had been done to her, over quite a minor matter (they said). She tried to explain to her former “friend” that from now on, she knew and could be certain of nothing , nothing at all. She didn’t know her name or address, or the names or faces of her family. She only had an impression, which might or might not be correct. And therefore she was leaving the organisation, because no good it was claiming to do outweighed this wrong.

Lucy’s friends, the Ministry of Magic, and the Men in Black, regard themselves (just as Grindelwald does) as acting for the greater good. Can anyone point me to the appropriate popular film or book that properly calls out and condemns this practice and this justification? The only one I know of that addresses the (im)morality of memory-wipes is “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, and in that one there is consent.

I alas can’t write such a story, as telepathic powers don’t fit with the world of Ragaris, but if no one yet has, they should.

Fortunately, the power is fictional…

Love from the PPI Blogger

PS It occurred to me only while planning this post that people who think they’ve a moral right to protect their secrets by harming others do exist on Ragaris after all, and I write about them in “The Servant’s Voice”. But it’s not quite the same.


  • Stephen Sheridan

    16th November 2018 at 11:23 pm Reply

    You raise very good points that authors typically just brush over. Deleting people’s memories “for their own good” can be the springboard to abuse people and simply erase the memories or plant false memories to point the finger at other innocent people. As well as the erasure of memories, there is also the implantation of memories to consider.

    I recommend reading a short story by Philip K Dick, of such dystopian classics as Minority Report, The Man In The High Castle and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (the latter filmed as Blade Runner). The story is We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, but that was too long a title for Hollywood, so it was filmed twice as Total Recall. While the first Total Recall is a fun Arnie/Michael Ironside/Sharon Stone caper with some nice twists and an enigmatic ending, the original story is more interesting with more twists. The basic thrust is if you live a boring life, you would love to have memories of a heroic and exciting life implanted; but equally if you actually live such a dangerous life, sometimes you can only survive if you have your memories erased to live a boring life and avoid the repercussions of the dangerous life.

    There is a fun line in the original film, which I don’t think is in the story: “a man is defined by his actions, not his memories.” We are often enslaved by our memories good or bad – yearning for good ones we once had and made sad by knowing we will probably not experience them again; or traumatised by bad memories, which imprison us and don’t allow us to escape their trauma to move on.

    Additionally our memories are very inaccurate and biased records of life. Our minds builds up a narrative of the world which we rationalise at the time and then build on that narrative to build a view of the world that is often at variance with our actual experience. Experiments often illustrate this. For instance facial recognition of criminal suspects, while highly regarded by most humans, has been shown to be very poor guide in reality, particularly as our minds are often prone to suggestions from authority figures.

  • Judith Anne Renton

    16th November 2018 at 11:35 pm Reply

    The best Doctor Who removed Donna’s memories in order to protect her…that was a good not evil thing…

    • Stephen Sheridan

      17th November 2018 at 4:16 pm Reply

      That is a good point, but that was a very specific example where through exposure to the Doctor’s severed hand and a triggering mechanism due to an energy hit from Davros, Donna had metamorphosed into the Donna/Doctor as previously prophesied by the Ood. This meant that her mind had merged with a version of the Doctor’s mind so she was effectively partially possessed by a version of the Doctor. Since merging a Time Lord mind with a human mind within her own brain would inevitably result in overload and thus death, the Doctor removed her memories both from the “possession mind” of the Doctor and any memories she had of her time with the Doctor prior to the event as the latter might trigger the former again. So the memory erasure was two fold and can be justified quite easily because the initial “possession” was due to an involuntary act of species merger which would result in death, while the memories prior to possession had to be removed as they would re-trigger the possession. It is however more akin to exorcism than a straight memory removal.
      By the way, it may not appear that way, but I do have a life – I have just wasted too much of it watching Doctor Who! Loving those cheap special effects in the Seventies 🙂

  • Ruth Price

    18th November 2018 at 9:50 am Reply

    Red Dwarf dealt with this in a way in Thanks for the memory in an early series. Lister gives Rimmer a memory of a relationship he had but it goes wrong so much that they all decide to wipe their memories of the last three days to try to forget. Funny but thought provoking 🙂

  • Penelope Wallace

    18th November 2018 at 7:13 pm Reply

    My memories of the Doctor Who episode in question are evidently hazier than yours, Stephen and Judith, but I’m still not convinced about removal of all the memories of her adventures. Did he get her consent, and might she have wanted to take the risk of a trigger? It wasn’t his call.

    • Stephen Sheridan

      18th November 2018 at 7:46 pm Reply

      You are correct Penelope. Thanks to Youtube, rather than trogging through my DVD collection:


      He does it expressly without her consent – she actually says “please don’t send me back”, so he saves her life by doing it, but without her consent. This brings up the other moral question of whether one should stop some one doing a dangerous act which is likely to result in their death, if they expressly wish to do it for very particular reasons.

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