Snow (Crowley short story)

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Snow is a 1985 short story by American Author John Crowley.

The story won third prize in the Locus Award competition and was nominated in 1986 for both the Hugo Award and Nebula Award.[1]


A woman named Georgie becomes wealthy by marriage to her first husband. He buys her a self-surveillance device called a Wasp, a flying drone designed to record her life which she retains after his death. When the unnamed narrator meets and marries her, she has adjusted to the Wasp as a part of her life despite considering it unnecessary. The two enjoy many happy excursions, especially alpine skiing before separating. The narrator is separated from, yet on good terms with Georgie when he hears she has died. After her death, Georgie's recorded life is downloaded into a system called The Park, a type of digital cemetery in which her memories can be accessed by loved ones after her death. The narrator visits Georgie's "memories" but finds them distant, covering mostly memories he does not remember or care for and only accessible at random, with no organization allowing him to specify memories. Annoyed, the narrator queries the director, who explains that due to legal interests, recordings are required to be random to avoid legal vulnerability or screening and deleting of memories considered legal evidence. Based on this decision, developers of the technology based their memory systems "on the molecular level", yielding both extremely economic storage, but leaving access random. The narrator returns, accessing videos of Georgie alone, before and after his time with her. Noticing that the video appears to lose clarity, the narrator returns to the director, who informs him that over time, a small amount of degradation will happen to video quality. Returning later, the narrator finds even more degradation, resulting in video snow. The director, at this point, explains that he has explained the most he knows about loss of quality, and that other Park users have had similar problems. He relates the story as well, that his previous job working at a stock footage warehouse yielded the opposite set of complaints; producers frequently requested stock image of scenes from everyday life, and such footage could almost never be found. At The Park, often users only want access to significant memories, but are faced with far more footage of scenes from everyday life. Much later, the narrator reveals he no longer uses The Park, and reflects on the nature of memory. While he can almost never remember specific details of significant memories, he finds himself very sharply "sleepwalking" into memories. He finds his memories of Georgie that most affect him, especially as he ages, are those that come naturally to him, which do not age either in his memory, unlike those artificially recorded.

Thematic content[edit]

The short story includes the theme of memory which pervades a great deal of Crowley's work, notably Ariel Hawksquill's "magic" in Little, Big and the Pierce's quest in The Solitudes. By the end of the story, the narrator prefers involuntary memory to that which is either significantly detailed, or technologically preserved.

In an interview, Crowley revealed that the story also parallels Greek myth dealing with those who have died, especially Orpheus and Eurydice and Aeneas' being required to give blood to hear the shades in Hades.[2]

Relation to actual technology[edit]

Crowley sardonically noted in 2012, 27 years after the publication of the story, a New York Times article in which drones designed to record a subject's life were optimistically forecasted.[3]


  1. ^ "Listing of Literary Awards for John Crowley". Locus Magazine. Retrieved 18 April 2012. 
  2. ^ Lupo, Robyn. "Author Spotlight:John Crowley". Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  3. ^ Crowley, John. "Me, SF Prophet". Retrieved 18 June 2012. 

External links[edit]