I love a gripping story that makes me anxious to find out what happens next. As soon as I started listening to “The Memory of Mars” by Raymond F. Jones I knew I was hooked. Mel Hastings, a reporter, is waiting to hear about his wife’s operation. But what was troubling him was what his wife Alice said before going into surgery: “As soon as I’m well again we’ll go to Mars for a vacation again, and then you’ll remember. It’s so beautiful there. We had so much fun—”
Mel Hastings knew they had never been to Mars. Mel’s mystery became my mystery, and I knew this story was going to be a ripping good yarn. But I also thought the story sounded like the beginning of “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick, a much more famous science fiction story from 1966, and known today by the title of the two movies that were based on it, Total Recall.
Before we go any further you might like to stop and read “The Memory of Mars.” It’s available in a scan of the original issue of Amazing Stories from December 1961. Or you can read it online at Project Gutenberg. But I recommend listening to this excellent audio production at YouTube. Or you can buy Raymond F. Jones Resurrected: Selected Science Fiction Stories of Raymond F. Jones for the Kindle for $3.99 or paperback for $15.99 which I did because I wanted to read more of his stories.
The mystery deepens when the surgeon tells Mel his wife has died and that she wasn’t human. Her internal organs were all different. Because Mel is a reporter he starts investigating his wife and was able to prove she was human until very recently with other medical records. Then he finds photos of Alice on Mars and souvenirs from a Martian vacation. Now, doesn’t that remind you of the PKD story? But it gets even more like “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.”
Mel decides he must go to Mars to find out what happens but he has a deep phobia against space travel. He then goes to a medical specialist to erase that phobia and they discover Mel had gone on vacation to Mars with Alice. Now this is getting eerily like the PKD story. Could Dick have been inspired by “The Memory of Mars” to write his tale?
Mel Hastings has quite an adventure solving these mysteries with even more similarities to the PKD story. But I hope you’ll read “The Memory of Mars” to find out what happens.
I love finding old SF stories that are forgotten but still deserve to be read. “The Memory of Mars” was never reprinted in an anthology, and in only in one collection of stories by Raymond F. Jones mention above. You can see its reprint history here.
Raymond F. Jones had marginal success as a SF writer back in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. His biggest claim to fame was the film This Island Earth based off his fix-up novel of the same title. I became acquainted with his work as a kid reading his young adult novels for the Winston Science Fiction series (Son of the Stars, Planet of Light, The Year When Stardust Fell). I definitely need to read more of his work.
James Wallace Harris, 2/6/21
9 thoughts on ““The Memory of Mars” by Raymond F. Jones”
I was going to shrug off Raymond F. Jones until you mentioned ‘The Year When Stardust Fell’. That’s one of the treasures of my childhood. Thank you.
I reread The Year When Stardust Fell last year. It holds up well.
I apparently haven’t read anything by Jones, although I own a few volumes…. This one sounds worth the read!
If you like audiobooks, give the audio version a try. It’s very well done.
Thanks a TON for writing this up, Jim. THANK YOU!
I reviewed “The Memory of Mars” for one of my Old Magazine Reviews. I didn’t think of “We Can Remember it For You Wholesale” but I should have! Here’s my review:
Finally there is Raymond F. Jones’ “The Memory of Mars”. Mel Hastings is a journalist, and his wife is dying. She insists, however, that they once went on a trip to Mars. But Mel has no such memory — and he also has a desperate fear of spaceflight. But he regrets not being able to indulge her desire for a “return” trip — then, after he dies, he learns to his shock that she doesn’t seem to be human. I admit, as a regular SF reader, I immediately assumed she’d turn out to have been Martian, somehow having replaced his real wife during the trip to Mars, during which Mel would have been treated to forget. That’s not quite what’s going on, though — the resolution is far more complicated, and a bit strange, involving Mel getting treatment to deal with his space fright, which leads to him recalling his and Alice’s trip, and realizing something very odd indeed happened. I think in the end the story is overly complicated, wrapped around a familiar idea, but I did want to know what was going on all along. Not great at all, but intriguing in its way.
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As for Raymond F. Jones, he was an interesting “almost good” sort of writer. Here’s my birthday review: http://rrhorton.blogspot.com/2018/11/birthday-review-stories-of-raymond-f.html
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