The Archive of the Forgotten
A. J. Hackwith

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The Archive of the Forgotten



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The Archive of the Forgotten

Copyright © 2020 by A. J. Hackwith

Note (Hal’s):
In this novel, many observations that reach beyond the immediate story—the sort I collect in this journal—are in chapter headings, presented as entries in a longstanding Librarian’s Log. To keep track, I include, as in the source, the citations of the fictional Librarian authors.

This turns out to be the second novel in a series. I may have to seek out the first one, The Library of the Unwritten.

— end note


Essential, intense, emotional lives, scrubbed down and stripped away and honed to a cutting edge. That’s how you fascinate a reader. Characters are more real than real. That’s what fiction is. Why else do stories make them suffer or make them change? They’re mirrors and foils. [...] We fall a little in love with every character we meet. Maybe the story of humanity is learning to be brave enough to be the character in their own story.

Apprentice Librarian Brevity, 2016 CE

7 “They burn them first, the stories. Humans always come for the stories first. It’s their warm-up, before they start burning other humans. It’s their first form of control, to burn the libraries, to burn the books, to burn the archives of a culture. Humans are the stories they tell. If you want to destroy your enemy, destroy their stories. Even if the people survive, it will be as if they never existed at all.”


Books (general)


Mad . . . now, that’s a peculiar term, and, saints, don’t they love applying it to women. Women have a special facility for madness. We’re encouraged to go mad over the littlest things, because if our anger caught and held on the big things, we’d shape the world.

It’s acceptable to be mad; it’s dangerous to be angry.

The secret is that I am both.

Librarian Fleur Michel, 1792 CE




So much frivolity and fuss over the human soul. You’ve got to wonder why. [...]

Let me tell you, from someone with lifelong experience owning one, a soul’s not that shiny on the inside. A grand bother, it is. We spend half our life worried about preserving it, then the rest of it worried that we haven’t spent the currency well enough. Better if we never knew we had one, in my opinion. Life is for the living; leave worrying about souls for the dead.

But there was no chance we’d be that sensibly ignorant. Not in a world so lousy with stories.

Souls: pesky, powerful stuff.

Librarian Fleur Michel, 1784 CE

Humans were ridiculous creatures, in Hero’s expert opinion. They always saw what they wanted to see and ignored the rest. No creature edited its own reality so viciously as a human. [...] A rational creature might at least consider whether any paradise one has to sacrifice others to get into is worth the price of admission.

But no, not humans. Even in death, they picked and chose a comfortable sort of truth.




The quiet was less forbidding, just knowing Rami was there among the aisles. It was funny, how companionship did that. Like how just knowing there was a campfire to return to made the night feel less dark, even when you were far from it.


We have to let go of a story, give up the reins, when we ask it to be read. We pretend it’s like making any other product, bread for the hungry or coats for the cold. But what no author admits is that it’s not like that at all. Stories are not made of flour or wool. Stories, real stories, are made with a sliver of yourself.

The purpose for stories is what readers will make of them. But the reason, the desperate need, is a splinter in the author alone. A good story gets under your skin, because that’s where all good stories start.

Librarian Bjorn the Bard, 1313 CE




There is no library of secrets. Secrets cannot be kept or curated. Secrets have no need for a library, but each library needs secrets. Books are a secret hidden in plain sight. Read me, they say. Look at me. Turn my pages. Touch my spine. Read my words, and content yourself.

Every book is a secret that only readers know.

Librarian Ibukun of Ise, 904 CE




So this is my charge: We will be librarians. True to the books, but even more important, dedicated to those who have yet to read them. Understand that our duty does not end at the end of a page. Stories must serve the living, not the reverse. If knowledge is freedom, then we must be chain breakers. If there’s one thing I learned from the specter of my predecessor, it is this: to be a librarian is to be in rebellion against time, against the world.

Librarian Madiha al-Fihri, 612 CE




What is a story without want, without need?

Moreover, what is want, what is need, without a story?

Librarian Gregor Henry, 1896 CE


Stories are slivers of us, all of us. What makes a story real is the soul of the author. We’re humanity, splintered into the stories we tell ourselves. I doubt the old demon would be pleased to know I’ve rediscovered this. I’ll need to feign ignorance; perhaps we all will. But future librarians need to know.

The logbook keeps a librarian’s secrets, until they’re needed. Well then, old book. It appears we have work to do.

Librarian Fleur Michel, 1782 CE



38 There was a reason people read in corners. It was a room made of one. Spine curved, arms bracketed, and the remaining walls made of the reassuring weight of a book. A self-constructed universe, for as long as you needed it. Or as long as the story lasted.

text checked (see note) Jul 2023

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