Brains with Sharp Teeth

Four decades ago I read a short story titled I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream. It shook me up a bit and wasn't a particularly pleasant experience. I was still trying to figure out what to do in life, having just completed two years of music school with concentration in performance classical guitar. A couple of extremely talented and accomplished classmates had graduated at the end of my first year attending classes at North Texas State University's school of music and had immediately moved to New York City to make their way as professionals in the music business there. They returned near the end of my second year and I was shocked by their emaciated appearance, and some of the stories they told about their time in NYC were pretty horrifying. Life as a professional musician did not sound pleasant at all so I dropped out of music school at the end of that semester to begin coursework in mathematics and engineering while working in the steel structures construction industry as a weldor. After graduation from university I not only wanted to be able to eat, I wanted to eat well and still have money to spare for purchasing hobby toys like fine musical instruments.


After reading Harlan Ellison's collection of short stories while attending engineering school so long ago I completely forgot about them and forgot the name of the author as well. They weren't my favorite kind of science fiction stories even though they stuck in my brain better than I realized at the time. After watching the documentary Dreams with Sharp Teeth last week about the life, times and works of Harlan Ellison I was intrigued and downloaded the ebook I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream, not remembering at all that I had already read it.


Within the first few paragraphs it began to dawn on me that I had already read it and that a particular passage regarding a character's computer-enhance genitalia was coming up soon in the story, a passage I considered sort of pornographic the first time I read it and not really necessary for story plot–a cheap trick leverage by the author for shock value alone. Upon encountering the passage I marveled at my brain's ability to so easily recall such a distant memory from reading the first few paragraphs of a story I had read only once forty years ago. Why had the story, and in particular that cheap-trick passage, so firmly stuck in a special place of my mind for such ready recall? How in the world could my aging old brains still have such sharp teeth?