Deathbird Stories

One of Harlan Ellison's darkest short story collections, published in 1975. This collection is about gods: old gods long forgotten, like Dis, and the new gods of machinery, of money and of lust. While the gods are sometimes hard to spot in the stories, Ellison provides helpful introductions to each story to point the reader in the right direction or an interesting tangent.

In a short note preceding the book's introduction, Ellison recommends that this book not be read straight through. In his own words: "The emotional content of these stories, taken without break, may be extremely upsetting. This note is intended most sincerely, and not as hyperbole." Good advice, I would say, especially given Ellison's tendency to layer his fiction with hidden elements that only reveal themselves after the reading, late at night when you're just about to fall asleep and suddenly can't.


All of these stories are good. Most of them are good enough to make budding authors weep with envy, Ellison being an author's author of sorts. My favourites are "Ernest and the Machine God", "Neon", and the classic New York horror story "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs".