I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison

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Harlan Ellison is considered one of science fiction’s grand masters and I’ve heard praise for the title story in this collection, so I decided to give it a try.

“I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream” doesn’t have much of a plot. Basically, four men and one woman are being tortured by an artificial intelligence the whole time. The woman has sex with all the men even though they beat her and ignore her cries.

“Big Sam was My Friend” is about circus performers with psychic powers performing on an alien world. Big Sam saves a woman from being offered up as a virgin sacrifice and she thanks him by condemning him to death because woman are awful.

“Eyes of Dust” takes place in a world where ugliness is not tolerated. An ugly person named Person is put to death for being ugly.

Two men and a woman crash land on a planet in “World of the Myth”. The ant-like creatures who share a hive mind were interesting, however, the narrator blames a rape victim for being raped and lets us know how horrible he thinks she is.

In “Lonelyache”, a recently divorced man dreams of murdering people and treats a series of women badly. In the introduction, Ellison tells us this story is pretty much autobiographical, which doesn’t come as a big surprise.

“Delusion for a Dragon Slayer” features a man who is tasked with slaying a monster as an afterlife test. The damsel in distress, however, gets seduced by the monster which utterly disgusts him.

“Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes” is about a dead sex worker trapped inside a slot machine who falls in love with some random dude and lets him win 19 jackpots in a row. The most unbelievable thing about the story is the casino owner doesn’t take the slot machine off the floor after the second jackpot. In the end, the disembodied sex worker betrays the man because that’s what women do.

Except for “Eyes of Dust”, the moral to all these stories is women can’t be trusted, not surprising coming from the man who sexually assaulted Connie Willis during the 2006 Hugo Awards ceremony when she was presenting him with an award. Based on this collection, I have no idea why Ellison is considered one of science fiction’s grand masters.

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