We'll never tell. Don't ask again.
February 24, 2008 6:53 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a science fiction short story I read years ago.

I've been Googling aimlessly for a few years now trying to recover the title of a short story I read years ago. I'm 75% confident I read this story before 1998 and 50% confident I read it before 1995.

The plotline of the story is roughly as follows: a crime scene investigator is brought in when a body is discovered in a landfill in a major metropolitan area. Before he makes much headway in his investigation, another body is discovered, then another. All of the bodies date to the same temporal layer of the landfill, a period roughly fifty years ago.

Soon there are hundreds of these bodies, maybe thousands, and they start being discovered in landfills in other cities as well. Obviously some sort of major event happened fifty-or-so years ago involving mass casualties that was never recorded in the history books or ever spoken about. I believe that at the end of the story the main character goes to his own grandmother to ask her just what happened back then, and she basically says "I'll never tell you, and neither will anyone else. Don't ask again."

There's speculation in the story, I believe, that the current inhabitants of earth may be replacements who invaded and killed off the original human race. I remember feeling at the time of reading that this is how the Holocaust might have been unremembered in a hundred years' time had Hitler won the war, but I'm not sure this connection is made explicit in the story or not

In my head, I've always thought this was an Asimov story, but I've looked through the Asimov anthologies I owned at the time and I can't find it.

Does this ring any bells?
posted by gerryblog to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I think I have read all the Asimov stories, and this plot does not bring up anything. I would like to know the answer too: I'll check back.
posted by francesca too at 8:01 AM on February 24, 2008

Best answer: I'm pretty sure you're thinking of a David Brin short story called Detritus Affected. You can find it in Otherness, one of his short story collections.
posted by renderthis at 8:24 AM on February 24, 2008 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm pretty sure I owned that book in the 1990s. I'm about to head down to the library to confirm. renderthis, you may be science fiction's greatest hero.
posted by gerryblog at 8:55 AM on February 24, 2008

Response by poster: Got it in one. Outstanding.
posted by gerryblog at 9:27 AM on February 24, 2008

Response by poster: And it's especially impressive given how mangled my memory of the story was in the first place. Thanks again.
posted by gerryblog at 9:37 AM on February 24, 2008

Glad I could help. That story really affected me back when I read it.
posted by renderthis at 11:04 AM on February 24, 2008

Added to wishlist. I have to read this! Thanks for the recommendation.
posted by cmyk at 11:49 AM on February 24, 2008

It's too bad I can't find a copy of this story online. I'd really like to read it.
posted by lizzicide at 2:19 PM on February 24, 2008

Sounds like an interesting story. Fortunately, my public library has the book and now I've reserved it.
posted by neuron at 4:30 PM on February 24, 2008

I want to read it too. I have a lot of Brin, but not that one
posted by francesca too at 5:30 PM on March 4, 2008

After months coming used bookstores, I finally had to order the damn thing from Amazon.

If anyone ever checks this thread again: fascinating idea, execution good, slightly less than great.
posted by codswallop at 8:58 PM on June 30, 2008

« Older Bundle or burn?   |   How to get over a nasty breakup Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.