Harlan Ellison built his career on the short story format and as a result, became one of the most awarded living writers. I have many of his collections in my library, which was why I recognized most of the material in this anthology.
Deathbird Stories consists of 19 tales, originally printed between 1960 and 1974, all loosely gathered here under the theme of modern gods. While some of the stories, such as “Neon”, “Along the Scenic Route”, and “Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes” seem to miss that mark, many of the stories directly fit the theme or at least, contain supernatural elements.
Some of my favorites include (along with Harlan’s taglines for each):
The Whimper of Whipped Dogs – When the new god comes to the Big Apple, its Kyrie Eleison turns out to be a prayer Kitty Genovese simply couldn’t sing. But thirty-eight others knew the tune.
Along the Scenic Route – God, in the latest, chrome-plated, dual-carb, chopped & channeled, eight-hundred-horsepowered incarnation. God’s unspoken name is Vroooom!
On The Downhill Side – Posing the question: does the god of love use underarm deodorant, vaginal spray, and fluoride toothpaste?
Neon – Kurt Weill and Max Anderson wrote, “Maybe God’s gone away, forgetting His promise He made that day: and we’re lost out here in the stars.” And maybe He/She’s just waiting for the right signal to come back, whaddaya think?
Basilisk – Have you ever noticed: the most vocal superpatriots are the old men who send young men off to die? Well, it might just be that the heaviest reverential act when worshipping the god of war is to be the biggest mutherin traitor of them all. Check Spiro, I think he’s having a seizure.
Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes – The god of the slot machine: new religions, new souls, new limbos.
Paingod – If God is good, why does He send us pain and misery?
Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans – Reality has become fantasy; fantasy has become reality. 35mm constructs have more substance than your senior congressman, but Martha Nelson is real, no matter what you think. And the search for your soul in a soulless world requires special maps.