Harlan Ellison’s short story, ‘‘‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,’’ first appeared in Galaxy magazine in December 1965, and earned Ellison both a Hugo and a Nebula award in 1966. The story was first collected in Paingod and Other Delusions in 1965, and has been frequently anthologized over the years, appearing in Nebula Award Stories 1965 (1966) and The Essential Ellison: A 50-Year Retrospective (2001) among other anthologies. Indeed, the story has been anthologized more than 160 times since its first publication, and has been translated into many languages. In 1997, Ellison and Rick Berry collaborated on a lavishly illustrated, oversized edition of the story, published by Underwood Press, with a new introduction by Ellison.
The world of the Harlequin is one run by the Master Timekeeper, generally known as the Ticktockman. In this world, people are on time, or run the risk of having their lives shortened by the minutes of their tardiness. Into this depressingly gray world steps the gaudily dressed Harlequin, throwing jelly beans at workers changing shifts. A comic hero, the Harlequin threatens the existence of the state, and brings the wrath of the Ticktockman down on himself.
Compared by some critics to George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and Aldous Huxley’s equally famous novel, Brave New World (1932), ‘‘‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman’’ is both dark and humorous, a twentieth-century cautionary tale of mechanical tyranny.