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Self Demonstrating / Merlin Sickness

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Compare with Non-Linear Character. Contrast Unstuck in Time. Often runs in tandem with Time-Travel Romance.

When used as a framing device, see Back to Front.

Merlin Sickness is generally associated with fantasy and works that are on the soft end of Mohs Scale of Sci-Fi Hardness.

Characters with Merlin Sickness live or age backwards in time. What happens to their memory is highly variable; some options include:

  • The character remembers the past, but ages backwards (so they remember what happened when they were "older").
  • The character remembers the future, and is exceedingly confusing. This can be a form of Cursed With Awesome—it allows the character to serve as a seer, but if taken seriously more or less precludes them from developing much of a connection with anyone (as just about any event carries the opposite sort of emotional resonance for them as for anyone else). Sometimes characters like this come off as Mad Oracles.
  • The character remembers the past, but remembers successively less of it as they get younger. Usually this occurs when Merlin Sickness is contracted partway through life, while the other two options are more associated with characters who are "born" (that is to say, who die) with it.

Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.
Bob Dylan, "My Back Pages"

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