The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

All but one of the stories in Shatterday first appeared in a variety of magazines, from science-fiction periodicals to Playboy, or as radio or television broadcasts in the late 1970’s. Arguably the best published selection among Harlan Ellison’s hundreds of stories, it is most representative of the mature author at the height of his powers. It also demonstrates the reason behind Ellison’s discomfort at being labeled a science-fiction writer: Most of the stories here could be defined as Magical Realism; only a few include science-fiction elements; and “Would You Do It for a Penny?,” a comic seduction story written with Haskell Barkin, and the semiautobiographical novella “All the Lies That Are My Life” are neither science fiction nor fantasy. The book also includes Ellison’s introductions, both for the collection as a whole and for individual stories.

The most striking works in the collection depict a real world in which marvelous events naturally happen; the characters are too awestruck or wrapped up in their own lives to reject them. “Jeffty Is Five,” for example, is narrated by the friend of a five-year-old boy named Jeffty who remains five years old while everyone around him ages, including the narrator. “Flop Sweat” at first appears to be a contemporary horror story about a serial killer but evolves into a fantasy about a radio talk-show host’s connection to the powers of darkness. In “The Man Who Was...

(The entire section is 498 words.)