The Deathbird • 1973 • magical realism short story by Harlan Ellison


Meta: isfdb. This magical realism short story appeared March 1973 in The Magazine of Fantasy and SF and was re-published in Deathbird Stories. It won the 1974 Hugo and Locus Awards.

Synopsis:  In an inversion of Christian and Jewish mythology, humanity’s alien protector helps the reincarnated Adam in the final confrontation of a mad god and an anthropomorphized Earth’s assisted suicide.

Review:  Ellison does a fair amount of experimenting in this ecological and ethical tale. He merges several high school tests in the form of academic parodies, and Nietzsche citations into the framing story. He also breaks narrative conventions by merging a real, highly emotional autobiographic essay into this magical realism tale: he gives the mortal injection to his beloved dog Ahbuh to end the pain from cancer, a story that Ellison independently picked up in his tale „A Boy and his Dog“. He does so to emphasize one central topic: Use the needle? 

I highly recommend this emotionally powerful and thought-provoking master piece.


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