Jeffty Is Five
"Jeffty Is Five" is a fantasy short story by American author Harlan Ellison. It was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1977, then was included in DAW's The 1978 Annual World's Best SF in 1978 and Ellison's short story collection Shatterday two years later. According to Ellison, it was partially inspired by a fragment of conversation that he misheard at a party at the home of actor Walter Koenig: "How is Jeff?" "Jeff is fine. He's always fine," which he perceived as "Jeff is five, he's always five." Additionally, Ellison based the character of Jeffty on Joshua Andrew Koenig, Walter's son. He declared:
|"Jeffty Is Five"|
|Genre(s)||Fantasy short story|
|Published in||The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction|
|Media type||Print (magazine, hardback and paperback)|
... I had been awed and delighted by Josh Koenig, and I instantly thought of just such a child who was arrested in time at the age of five. Jeffty, in no small measure, is Josh: the sweetness of Josh, the intelligence of Josh, the questioning nature of Josh.
Jeffty is a boy who never grows past the age of five — physically, mentally, or chronologically. The narrator, Jeffty's friend from the age of five well into adulthood, discovers that Jeffty's radio plays all-new episodes of long-canceled serial programs, broadcast on radio stations that no longer exist. He can buy all-new issues of long-discontinued comic books such as The Shadow and Doc Savage, and of long-discontinued pulp magazines with all-new stories by long-dead authors like Stanley G. Weinbaum, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Robert E. Howard. Jeffty can even watch films that are adaptations of old pulp fiction novels like Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man. The narrator is privy to this world because of Jeffty's trust, while the rest of the world (the world that got older as Jeffty did not) is not. When Jeffty's world and the "real" world intersect, Jeffty loses his grip on his own world, eventually meeting a tragic end.
"Jeffty Is Five" won the 1977 Nebula Award for Best Short Story and the 1978 Hugo Award for Best Short Story, and was nominated for the 1978 World Fantasy Award—Short Fiction. It was also voted in a 1999 online poll of Locus readers as the best short story of all time.
Publishers Weekly called it "touching but scary", and Tor.com called it "heartbreaking", while at the SF Site, Paul Kincaid described it as "a wonder of sustained nostalgia coupled with despair at the modern world", but noted that it "only really succeeds because of the tragedy of [its] ending."
- Ellison, Harlan (1980). Shatterday. Houghton Mifflin. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-395-28587-9.
- Nebula Award Winners 1965-2011, at Science Fiction Writers of America; retrieved February 26, 2017
- 1978 Hugo Awards Archived 2011-05-07 at the Wayback Machine, at TheHugoAwards.org; retrieved February 26, 2017
- Nominees, at the World Fantasy Convention; retrieved February 26, 2017
- 1999 Locus Poll, at Locus Online (via archive.org)
- The Essential Ellison: A 35-Year Retrospective, at Publishers Weekly; reviewed January 1, 1987; retrieved February 26, 2017
- 3 Quick Ways to Introduce Yourself to the Work of Harlan Ellison, by Ryan Britt, at Tor.com; published May 27, 2012; retrieved February 26, 2017
- Shatterday, by Harlan Ellison, reviewed by Paul Kincaid, at the SF Site; published 2007; retrieved February 26, 2017