Top 10 Harlan Ellison Short Stories

Categories: Books

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The total amount of insanity in a person is directly proportionate to the number of Harlan Ellison works that they have read. The master of all speculative fiction, Ellison has published hundreds of mind-bending works that obliterate all your comfortably held ideas about sex, science, morality, or any subject you choose. We've been reading him since the age of ten, when our father made the questionable but much appreciated move of pointing us to "A Boy and His Dog," a postapocalyptic tale of telepathic canines, rape and the role of cinema in society.

By no means can we claim this list is definitive. Merely that it best represents the works we've come across that most affected us. We definitely encourage readers to contribute their favorites in the comments.


10. In Fear of K

A man and a woman are trapped together, forever hating each other and forever needing each other in order to fend off an unspeakable monster known as K. Little do they know that K means them no real harm, he simply feeds off their animosity, and does his best to provide them with necessities. However, he is growing ever more ravenous, and a final showdown between hunger and hate is imminent.


9. The Discarded

After a virus begins causing horrific mutations, the infected are exiled from Earth in a spaceship. The exile doesn't stop the spread of the virus, though, and Earth comes begging to the ship for blood samples to create a cure. What follows is a tense battle of wills between those who wish to return home and those who are convinced the plea of Earth is a trap.


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8. Santa Claus vs. S.P.I.D.E.R.

We slipped this story into our Geek explanations for Christmas questions you might get from your kids, though we left out all the blood, mind parasites and death by prolonged boinking. Ellison's Santa is the ultimate spy and assassin, using his polar base as a mere ruse for when he has to come to the aid of the world against alien invasions. Pulpy, wonderful fun.

7. Run for the Stars

Benno Tallant was a cowardly junkie on Deald's World when the alien Kyben attacked. Kidnapped off the street by the planet's last human soldiers, they used him in a desperate attempt to escape. Their plan? Place the most powerful bomb in the universe in his stomach, and set him to run from the Kyben, who seek to vivisect him in order to defuse the bomb. If you thought the Saw movies showed what lengths man will go to to survive, then you've haven't seen anything yet.


6. From A to Z in the Chocolate Alphabet

Twenty-fix short, disturbing visions. One for each letter of the alphabet, and each one a perfectly distinct bit of dark humor and utter madness. Our favorite is...

O is for Ouroboros

Banished from Earth, the great worm coiled ever so tightly and went to sleep. One day he will wake. The moon will rise.

We're always hoping that Asmodeus X will base a song on that one.

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10 comments
Saturnrose2
Saturnrose2

With all The Great Ellison has put out there, such a roomful of work, well, if From A to Z the Chocolate Alphabet, is a Top 10-er, he's in trouble.  As are we all.  Get real.  'Chocolate Alphabet is insanely, incredibly creative, very innovative for its time, but I could spit the same type of thing out in 45 minutes, and all that's stopping it from winning a Hugo, is the jaded America we now live in, and the fact that my name isn't Harlan Jaye Ellison!

Remove.  Replace with Croatoan.  It sickens me and it angers me, but it's better than 'Chocolate Alphabet.  Leagues better.

Gregory Feeley
Gregory Feeley

I don't think that Ellison's most popular stories (or his award winners) accord very closely with what will prove to be his most memorable ones.  Underrated Ellison stories include "At the Mouse Circus" and "One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty."  Overrated Ellison stories include "A Boy and His Dog" and "Jeffty is Five" (a later, longer, less taut, and finally sentimental version of the theme he treated in the more affecting "One Life").

Karl Krogmann
Karl Krogmann

One Life Furnished in Early Poverty is a masterpiece... so is All the Lies That Are My Life.

skot
skot

Looks like I have more to add to the ole ever-growing Reading List.

Fulmer
Fulmer

A good list to be sure. I would add A Boy & His Dog, but it's more of a novella. Also his script for the Star Trek episode: City on the Edge of Forever (1967) is one of the finest the original series ever produced.

fuzzyscribble
fuzzyscribble

Paladin of the Lost Hour.  Broken Glass gave me nightmares.  And I love "Laugh Track."  Honestly... there's very little Ellison I don't like... though some is more memorable...

MadMac
MadMac

Check out Ms. Koenig's list of fall shows. You'll find all kinds of reading time.

Jef With One F
Jef With One F

Boy and His Dog has kind of paled for me over the years. Maybe it's just overexposure to it. I keep meaning to read that Star Trek script.

Beckett
Beckett

Jef, do read it.  It's truly epic Ellison and totally different from the episode because the story was rewritten by DC Fontana.

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