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I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream by Harlan…

I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream (1967)

by Harlan Ellison

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1,0602511,878 (3.91)28
Title:I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream
Authors:Harlan Ellison
Info:Publisher Unknown, ebook, 20 pages
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I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream: Stories by Harlan Ellison (1967)



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An uneven collection, and frankly dated at times, but when Ellison is good, he’s very good. I hesitated between three and four stars, but the title story made me go for four - it’s a classic, and rightly so. ( )
  espadana | Apr 29, 2019 |
I need to stop reading science fiction classics by men with their casual misogyny. This book goes beyond casual misogyny to glorious rape fantasies. It could be used as a spiritual text for sniveling incel groups. I can almost hear Ellison writing A Boy and His Dog and chuckling over all the ladies who were going to get their panties in a twist. Rape funny, he man good. Cue chest thumping. I guess I’m going to have to stick to science fiction by women from now on. ( )
  Citizenjoyce | Jul 16, 2018 |
Short stories. Several I had read in other collections. Always enjoy his tales. Varied focus, but always get your attention, make you react.
  jalfredb | Aug 20, 2017 |
My first reading of Ellison, and I was blown away. He’s a pretty big deal in the Science Fiction world, and I’ll read more of his books. His style is brutal, jarring, fast-moving and chaotic.

My two favorites from this collection are “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” and “Lonelyache.” ( )
  solitaryfossil | Aug 11, 2017 |
It's not possible to read Harlan Ellison's stories without thinking about Harlan Ellison the personality. Even if you go into his collections unaware of the stereotype Ellison's crafted for himself, that stereotype will be on your mind by the end of the first story's introduction.

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is exclusively remembered for its title story, which is pretty entertaining and the best of the lot. He wrote it, reportedly, in a frenzied single night, and the final published version featured few edits. This is often a condescending brag, but the story's -- and most of the stories in this collection, which Ellison frequently notes as featuring few edits from his original vision -- prose comes off as clunky and rough around the edges. Clumsy patterns repeat repeat repeat themselves without end, showing off nice ideas but making each voice bleed together. I often appreciated the intent, but not the execution or the pompousness.

"I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" (1967). ★★★

So "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream," alone in the collection, might be worth reading before the roll of time deems it too dated. After the death of humanity, five survivors are trapped inside an AI a la HAL-9000, and, tortured year after year by the hateful AI named AM (as in cogito ergo sum). The survivors all represent gross aspects of humanity -- stereotypes, whether naturally or shaped by AM is up for debate -- like the prostitute, the idealist, the messiah, etc. (I've also seen them and the AI painted as the deadly sins.)

Humanity's woes 109 years after the end of civilization are painted as grossly as their embodied human attributes. You don't care for any of them -- and you shouldn't. The male survivors, including the narrator, are particularly fixated on the woman, who herself is a bag of sexist tropes. Humanity is gross, and the nastiness of these people and this AI are forgivable, I think, within the context of the story.

That doesn't make the story great, though. A dangerous AI with this much loathing as written by an author ignorant of computers in 1967 all date this story. The logic of AM's torture methods and the artificial world humanity's last survivors are stuck in defies itself constantly every few pages with a contradiction.

"Big Sam was My Friend" (1958). ★

"Big Sam was My Friend" is perhaps the most dated story in the collection, envisioning alien civilizations through 1950s Americana. It's about a teleporting performer -- Big Sam -- looking for his long-lost love while escaping to a space circus.

Being set in a space circus, being driven by a boring, boy's love story full of machismo, and being centered around gobbledygook painted as sci-fi make this forgettable as hell.

"Eyes of Dust" (1959). ★

"Eyes of Dust" reminded me of Chuck Palahniuk. Ellison lauds his social satire of our cultural obsession with manufactured beauty, and then beats that message into every word and every page of this story. It's a shallow look at 1950s consumerism via two 'normal' (i.e., plain-looking) lovers. I had to look the story up a day after finishing it because I couldn't remember it.

"World of the Myth" (1964). ★½

"World of the Myth" is fairly enjoyable for its ideas, but it lacks development in its characters, and the story is stream-of-consciousness. The relationships between two men and a female scientist dips into casual misogyny and rape, two things painted as both horrible and deserved. On the other side of the spectrum, the ant-like species our heroes study is fascinating, even if descriptions of its hivemind are ripped straight from Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human.

"Lonelyache" (1964). ½

Up until this story, I was still trying to enjoy Ellison's writing. There were good ideas under there, and the bad was *almost* excusable by year of writing. "Lonelyache" is disgusting, and it doesn't help that Ellison introduces it as perhaps the best thing he's ever written. He describes it as autobiographical, inspired by his second divorce. While this could lead to some soul-searching for our hero, it doesn't. He stews in hatred and loathing of everyone. He -- and the story itself -- blame his ex-wife for divorcing him, for being thoughtless and not thinking of how divorce would hurt him emotionally. Now he floats, woman to woman, abusing and discarding them like meat.

He lays blame on his ex-wife -- his ex-wife who divorced him for cheating. The narrator argues that cheating is nothing, no big deal, and his wife is a bitch who over-reacted and hurt his feelings, and now it's her fault he's preying on other women.

This story is nowhere near the best thing Ellison's ever written. It's a throwaway fit of dated misogyny, lazily-written with its moral messages being obnoxious bullshit from a hateful, stupid person who's completely stuck up their own ass to understand people.

Delusion for a Dragon Slayer" (1966). ★★

"Delusion for a Dragon Slayer" is the dying fantasies of a man crushed in a freak accident. His vision of heaven is built on whatever he dreams, as long as he can maintain the dream. He turns himself into a fantasy hero chasing beautiful women. The prose and the story is fragmented and cut to ribbons, perhaps meant to imitate his dying mind. This story is hard to follow, and not interesting. This is an idea that wasn't fleshed out beyond its concept.

"Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes" (1967). ★★

The final story in this collection is fairly entertaining. A broke gambler and ne'er-do-well connects with a haunted slot machine. He and only he sees the spirit of a young woman in the slot machine, a young woman who dropped dead weeks earlier in front of that very machine. She professes her love for him, and he continues to rack up winnings from the machine until the clever-but-necessary twist ending.

I wish I connected with these stories more; I wish I could look past the shallow pretentiousness of Ellison's ideas, or his execrable view of women in every story. The very hate he paints his characters with too often leads plots forward, and I could never connect with that. We should never have to rationalize against sexist portrayals, but the easy argument is it's lazy, that it's a sign of bad writing. I want to read about real people, connect with real characters, not be bored by abusive fantasies written by and for little boys of generations past. That this was the standout response to Harlan Ellison's stories is telling: Ellison's prime was all about ideas, but his writing, to me, feels rushed and drowned by poor characterization, by selfishness and bitter emotions.

I recommend the title story -- at this point, at least; it's wearing its age more and more -- but the rest of this collection has dated itself far too much, and is far too forgettable. ( )
1 vote alaskayo | Jun 21, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Harlan Ellisonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dillon, DianeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, LeoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sturgeon, TheodoreIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Limp, the body of Gorrister hung from the pink palette, unsupported - hanging high above us in the computer chamber, and it did not shiver in the chill, oily breeze that blew eternally through the main cavern.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0441363954, Mass Market Paperback)

Harlan Ellison has won more awards for imaginative literature than any other living author, but only aficionados of Ellison's singular work have been aware of another of his passions ... he is a great oral interpreter of his stories. His recordings have been difficult to obtain ... by his choice. In 1999, for the first time, he was lured into the studio to record this stunning retrospective. Contents include: an original introduction; I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream; Laugh Track Grail; "Repent, Harlequin!" said the Ticktockman; The Very Last Day of a Good Woman; The Time of the Eye; Paladin of the Lost Hour; The Lingering Scent of Woodsmoke; and A Boy and His Dog (source of the cult motion picture). This recording is the winner of the International Horror Writers Bram Stoker Award for outstanding non-print media.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:48 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Among Ellison?s more famous stories, two consistently noted as his very best ever are the Hugo Award?winning, postapocalyptic title story of this collection of seven shorts and the volume?s concluding story, (3zsPretty Maggie Moneyeyes.(3y sSince Ellison himself strongly resists categorization of his work, we will not call them science fiction, or SF, or speculative fiction or horror or anything else except compelling reading experiences that are utterly unique. They could only have been written by the great Harlan Ellison, and they are incomparably original.… (more)

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