03 December 2021

Ellison's Titles

 Came across a Harlan Ellison short story I'd read before and stopped to look at the title again – "Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes" and marveled at another of his great titles. I went through my Ellison books and thought I'd share some of his titles:

"I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream"

"Come to Me Not in Winter’s White"

"Shattered Like a Glass Goblin"

"Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans: Latitude 38° 54’N, Longitude 77° 00’ 13” W”

"Mefisto in Onyx"

"City on the Edge of Forever"

"Soft Monkey"

"Pennies, Off a Dead Man's Eyes"

"Love Ain’t Nothing But Sex Misspelled"

"The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World"


"Angry Candy"

"The Deathbird"

"Again, Whoredome at a Penny a Word"

"Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World"

"Someone is Hungrier"

"All The Sounds of Fear"

"I See A Man Sitting On A Chair, and The Chair is Biting His Leg"


"The Very Last Day of a Good Woman"

"Nothing for My Noon Meal"

"Deeper Than The Darkness"

"Wanted in Surgery"

"One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty"

"Delusion for a Dragon Slayer"

"White Trash Don’t Exist"


"The Wine Has Been Left Open Too Long and the Memory Has Gone Flat"

"Lonely Women are the Vessels of Time"

"The Diagnosis of Dr. D’arqueAngel"

"All the Lies That Are my Life"

"Escape Goat"

"Paladin of the Lost Hour"

"Prince Myskhin, and Hold the Relish"

"The Function of Dream Sleep"

"Count the Clock That Tells the Time"

"The Executioner of Malformed Children"

"Twilight in the Cupboard"

"With Virgil Oddum at the East Pole" 

"The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore"

"Anywhere But Here, With Anybody But You"

"Darkness on the Face of the Deep"

"How Interesting: A Tin Man"

"Demon with a Glass Hand"

"The Lingering Scent of Woodsmoke"

"Where Shall I Dwell in the Next World"

"Chatting with Anubis"

"Djinn, no Chaser"

"She’s a Young Thing and Cannot Leave Her Mother"

"Never Send to Know for Whom the Lettuce Wilts"

"Objects in the Mirror are Closer than They Appear"

"The Toad Prince; or, Sex Queen of the Martian Pleasure-Dome"

"Loose Cannon; or, Rubber Ducks from Space"

"Jeffty is Five"

"A Boy and His Dog"

"Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes"

“Repent Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman

and my favorite – "The Whimper or Whipped Dogs"

No, they are not all speculative fiction. Two won the Edgar Award – "Soft Monkey" in 1988 and "The Whimper or Whipped Dogs" in 1974. Four were awarded a Writers Guild of America Award.

I've said it before. Titles are critically important, not just with books, but short stories as well. How many times have you thought about a good movie you've seen, then asked yourself – what was the title. Was it Blood something or Fatal something or a one of those instantly forgettable one-word titles like Contagion, Inception, Deception, Conception, Affliction?

I've quoted Walker Percy before – “A good title should intrigue, without being too baffling or too obvious.”

I would add a good title should be memorable.


  1. Oh, I love Ellison! He's marvelous! And I love his titles! A few more from his TV scripts include "Who Killed 1/2 of Glory Lee?" from "Burke's Law;" "The Sort of Do-It-Yourself Dreadful Affair" from "The Man From Uncle" and "Where Do Elephants Go to Die?" from a forgotten show called "Ripcord." Wonderful column O'Neil!

    1. Wow, Jeff. Way to go! I did not know.

    2. Darryl and I practically live on IMDB! :D

  2. Ellison was a great, ground-breaking writer, and his Dangerous Visions collection of sci-fi/fantasy opened my eyes as to what you could write about and how. BTW, one of my favorite episodes of Outer Limits was Ellison's "Demon with a Glass Hand" (Robert Culp).

  3. You could teach a class in choosing story titles.

  4. O'Neil, I've read several of those– fewer than half, I'd guess– but I recall several titles and the first two covers.

    Was Ellison one of the SF authors rumored to be involved (possibly with Heinlein and Samual R Delany) in the bet with Hubbard about starting his own religion?

  5. I'm shriveling in a puddle of title envy. I think that's the hardest part of writing for me. I wonder if it would help if I typed up each of those superb titles, cut them into pieces and pulled a few at random. Who wouldn't want to read "The Toad Sex Queen from Space?" Great article, O'Neil. And oh, those puns.

    1. LOL! Sounds like a Cordwainer Smith title!

  6. R.T. – that's a good idea. Leigh, I'm not sure but here's an article in which Harlan claims he was there when ole L. Ron Hubbard came up with the idea of a religion. Wendy, that's also a good idea. Don't laugh, I've written a number of stories after coming up with an odd title.

  7. Great list of titles, O'Neil. I too have read some of these, but certainly not all. I need to search out the Ellisons I've missed.

    Enjoyed this!

  8. Thanks for the list. Mefisto in Onyx is an old favorite.


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