Robert Heinlein says, "This book is raw corn liquor--you should serve a whiskbroom with each shot so the customer can brush the sawdust off after he gets up from the floor." Perhaps a mooring cable might also be added as necessary equipment for reading these eight wonderful stories: They not only knock you down...they raise you to the stars. Passion is the keynote as you encounter the Harlequin and his nemesis, the dreaded Tictockman, in one of the most reprinted and widely taught stories in the English language; a pyretic who creates fire merely by willing it; the last surgeon in a world of robot physicians; a spaceship filled with hideous mutants rejected by the world that gave them birth. Touching and gentle and shocking stories from an incomparable master of impossible dreams and troubling truths.
"Harlan Ellison is the dark prince of American letters, cutting through our corrupted midnight fog with a switchblade prose. He simply must be read."
"Ellison writes with sensitivity as well as guts--a rare combination."
--Leslie Charteris, creator of The Saint
Showing 1-2 of the 2 most recent reviews
1 . Great book!
Posted January 28, 2011 by Ray Porter , Sarasota, FloridaI've enjoyed Harlan Ellison short stories since I was a teenager, and they are still as relevant and illuminating today as they were then. He's an author's author, and always make you think.
2 . Ellison is a "Master storyteller"
Posted December 02, 2009 by Daniel Heerema , Flower Mound, TXHarlan Ellison is my favorite writer! Everytime I pick up his work I get sucked in to his writing (as if I were as helpless as a human being being abducted into the kalidoscopic light of an all powerful mothership) and can NOT put it down! Harlan takes you to the lowest of hellish lows, and brings you up the the farthest reaches of the heavens, in a rollercoaster of a ride of excitement.
December 11, 2008
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Excerpt from Paingod and Other Delusions by Harlan Ellison
Late in March of 1965, I was compelled to join twenty-five thousand others, from all corners of the United States, who marched on the then-bastion of bigotry, the then-capitol of corruption, Montgomery, Alabama (though South Boston now holds undisputed title to the designation, Montgomery is still no flowerbed of racial sanity) (but the myth of the "liberal" North sure got the hell shot out of it by the Southies from Irish-redneck Boston).
I was part of the human floodtide they called a "freedom march" that was trying to tell Governor George Wallace that Alabama was not an island, that it was part of the civilized universe, that though we came from New York and California and Illinois and South Dakota we were not "outside agitators," we were fellow human beings who shared the same granfalloon called "Americans," and we were seeking dignity and civil rights for a people shamefully bludgeoned and mistreated for over two centuries. It was a walk through the country of the blind. I've written about it at length elsewhere.
But now it's ten years later and yesterday a friend of mine's sixty-five-year-old mother got mugged and robbed in broad daylight by two black girls. It's ten years later and a girl I once loved very deeply got raped repeatedly, at knife-point, in the back seat of her own car in an empty lot behind a bowling alley in the San Fernando Valley by a black dude who kept at her for seven hours. It's ten years later and Martin Luther King is dead and Super Fly is alive, and what am I to say to Doris Pitkin Buck, who lost her dear and magical Richard on the streets of Washington, D.C., to a pack of black killers who chose to stomp to death a man in his eighties for however much stash-money he might have been carrying?
Do I say to that friend of mine: when they went to drag the Mississippi swamps for the bodies of the civil rights workers Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman, they dredged up the bodies of sixteen black men who had been cavalierly murdered and dumped in the muck, and no one even gave a damn, the newspapers didn't even make much of a note of it, that it was the accepted way to handle an "uppity nigger" in the South? Do I say that and hope I've said something rational?
Do I say to that girl I loved: every time you see a mocha-colored maid or waitress it means her great-great-grandmother was a sexual pin cushion for some plantation Massa', that rape and indentured bed service was taken for granted for two hundred years and if it was refused there was always a stout length of cordwood to change the girl's thinking? Do I say that and hope I've drawn a reasonable parallel?
Do I tell brave and talented Doris Buck, who never hurt anyone in her life, that we're paying dues for what our ancestors did, that we're reaping the terrible crop of pain and evil and murder committed in the name of White Supremacy, that white men rob and rape and steal and kill as well as black, but that blacks are poorer, more desperate, more frustrated, angrier? Do I say that and hope to stop her tears with logic?
Why the hell do we expect a nobility of blacks that whites never possessed?
Of course I don't say that pack of simple-minded platitudes. Personal pain is incapable of spontaneous remission in the presence of loss. I say nothing.
But my days of White Liberal Guilt are gone. My days of championing whole classes and sexes and pigmentations of people are gone. The Sixties are gone, and we live in the terrible present, where death and guilt don't mix. Now I come, after all these years, to the only position that works: each one on his or her own merits, black/white/yellow/brown. Not all Jews are money-gouging kikes, but some are. Not all blacks are slavering rapists, but some are. Not all Puerto Ricans are midnight second-storey spicks, but some are.
And we come to the question again and again, what kind of a god is it that permits such misery ... are we truly cast in his image, such an image of cruelty and rapaciousness ... were we put here really to suffer such torment? Let the Children of God answer that one with something other than no-brain jingoism. Mark Twain said, "If one truly believes there is an all-powerful Deity, and one looks around at the condition of the universe, one is led inescapably to the conclusion that God is a malign thug." That's the quote that caused me to write "The Deathbird." It's a puzzle I cannot reason out.
I doubt. I have always doubted, since the day I read in the Old Testament--the word of God, remember--that there was only Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel, and then Cain got married. To whom? To Eve? Then don't tell me what a no-no incest is.
Isaac Asimov assures me it's a rational universe, predicated on sanity and order. Yeah? Well, tell me about God. Tell me who He is, why He allows the foulest hyenas of our society to run amuck while decent men and women cower in terror behind Fox locks and Dictograph systems. Tell me about Him. Equate theology with the world in which we live, with William Calley and Kitty Genovese and the people who keep their kids out of school because the new textbooks dare to say Humans are clever descendants of the Ape. No? Having some trouble? Getting ready to write me a letter denouncing me as the Antichrist? "God in his infinite wisdom," you say? Faith, you urge me? I have faith ... in people, not Gods.
But perhaps belief is not enough. Perhaps doubt serves the cause more honestly, more boldly. If so, I offer by way of faith
* * * *
Tears were impossible, yet tears were his heritage. Sorrow was beyond him, yet sorrow was his birthright. Anguish was denied him; even so, anguish was his stock in trade. For Trente, there was no unhappiness; nor was there joy, concern, discomfort, age, time, feeling.
And this was as the Ethos had planned it.
For Trente had been appointed by the Ethos--the race of somewhere/somewhen beings who morally and ethically ruled the universes--as their Paingod. To Trente, who knew neither the tug of time nor the crippling demands of the emotions, fell the forever task of dispensing pain and sorrow to the myriad multitudes of creatures that inhabited the universes. Whether sentient or barely capable of the feeblest unicellular reaction-formation, Trente passed along from his faceted cubicle, invisible against the backdrop of the changing stars, unhappiness and misery in proportions too complexly arrived at to be verbalized.
He was Paingod for the universes, the one who dealt out the tears and the anguish and the soul-wrenching terrors that blighted life from its first moment to its last. Beyond age, beyond death, beyond feeling--lonely and alone in his cubicle--Trente went about his business without concern or pause.
Trente was not the first Paingod, there had been others. They had come before, not too many of them, but a few, and why they no longer held their post was a question Trente had never asked. He was the chosen one from a race that lived almost indefinitely, and his job was to pass along the calibrated and measured dollops of melancholy as prescribed by the Ethos. It involved no feeling and no concern, only attention to duty. It was his position, and it was his obligation. How peculiar it was that he felt concern, after all this time.
It had begun so long before--and of time he had no conception--that the only marking date with validity was that in the great ocean soon to become the Gobi Desert, paramecia had become more prevalent than amoebae. It had grown in him through the centimetered centuries as layers and layers of forever settled down like mist to form the strata of the past.
Now, it was now.
Despite the strange ache in his nerve-gland, his central nerve-gland; despite the progressive dulling of his eye globes; despite the mad thoughts that spit and stuttered through his triple-domed cerebrum, thoughts of which he knew he was incapable; despite all this, Trente performed his now functions as he was required.
He dispensed unbearable anguish to the residents of a third-power planet in the Snail Cluster, supportable agony to a farm colony that had sprung up on Jacopettii U; incredible suffering to a parentless spider-child on Hiydyg IX; and relentless torment to a blameless race of mute aborigines on a nameless, arid planet circling a dying sun of the 707 System.
And through it all, Trente suffered for his charges.
What could not be, was. What could not come to pass, had. The soulless, emotionless, regimented creature that the Ethos had named Paingod, had contracted a sickness. Concern. He cared. At last, after centuries too filed away to unearth and number, Trente had reached a Now in which he could no longer support his acts.
The physical manifestations of his mental upheaval were numerous. His oblong head throbbed and his eye globes were dulling, a little more each decade; the interlinked duodenal ulcers so necessary to his endocrine system's normal function had begun to misfire like faulty plugs in an old car; the thwack! of his salamander tail had grown weaker, indicating his motor responses were feebler. Trente--who had always been considered rather a handsome example of his race--had slowly come to look forlorn, weary, even a touch pathetic.
And he sent down woe to an armored, flying creature with a mite-sized brain on a dark planet at the edge of the Coalsack; he dispatched fear and trembling to a smokelike wraith that was the only visible remains of a great race, which had learned to dispense with its bodies centuries before, in the sun known as Vertel; he conscientiously winged terror and unhappiness and misery and sadness to a group of murdering pirates, a clique of shrewd politicians and a brothelful of unregenerate whores--all on a fifth-power planet of the White Horse Constellation.
Stopped alone there, in the night of space, his mind spiralling now for the first time down a strange and disquieting chamber of thought, Trente twisted within himself. I was selected because I lacked the certain difficulties I now manifest. What is this torment? What is this unpleasant, unhappy, unrelenting feeling that gnaws at me, tears at me, corrupts my thoughts, colors darkly my every desire? Am I going mad? Madness is beyond my race; it is a something we have never known. Have I been at this post too long, have I failed in my duties? If there was a God stronger than the God that I am, or a God stronger than the Ethos Gods, then I would appeal to that God. But there is only silence and the night and the stars, and I'm alone, so alone, so God all alone here, doing what I must, doing my best.
And then, finally: I must know. I must know!
...while he spun a fiber of melancholy down to a double-thoraxed insect-creature on Io, speared with dread a blob of barely sentient mud on Acaras III, pain-goaded into suicide an electrical-wave being capable of producing exquisite 15-toned harmonics on Syndon Beta V, reduced by half the pleasures of a pitiable slug thing in the methane caves of Kkklll IV, enshrouded in bitterness and misery a man named Colin Marshack on an insignificant planet called Sol III, Earth, Terra, the world..."
And then, finally: I will know. I will know!
Trente removed the scale model of Earth from the display crate, and stared at it. Such a tiny thing, such a helpless thing, to support the nightwalk of a Paingod.
He selected the most recent recipient of his attentions, since one was as good as another; and using the means of travel his race had long since perfected, he left his encased cubicle hanging translucent against the stars. Trente, Paingod of the universes, for the first time in all the centuries he had lived that life of giving, never receiving, left his place, and left his Now, and went to find out. To find out ... what? He had no way of knowing.
For the Paingod, it was the first nightwalk.