"Repent, Harlequin!" Said The Ticktockman

Story Art © Don Ivan Punchatz 1978
Everett C. Marm lives in a futuristic working-class city of Indiana where nobody can afford to waste a second. Time is the main capitalistic currency here, not money nor property. If you're ten  minutes late, you have to pay for it ten minutes worth of your life. Those are called revocations--small penalties for minute violations. But if your offence cumulate to a considerable amount of wasted time, the System will have to terminate you via the Master Timekeeper, dreadfully known as the Ticktockman. Such is the punishment for somebody who lives a square peg life forced to fit into a circular socket kind of world.

Harlan Ellison's short story "Repent, Harlequin!" Said The Ticktockman originally appeared in Galaxy Magazine, 1965 belonged to dystopic stories we lovers of fantasy and science fiction know by heart. Those kind of disturbing stories that teach us the necessity of opposing tyrannies and rules of the conformist. The kind of stories that hit us at our very own core because we love freedom and diversity in their basic form as much as the authors want to try reminding us against real oppressions of the past not far from reality, and may also serve as warning for coming tyranny of the land with or without fantasy and magic of science. I give the author extra credit for his direct reference to George Orwell's 1984 novel, especially when the Harlequin met his transformation in the hands of his captors. There is really no need to relive the horrors of brainwashing word by word, and blood by blood...

Ellison's short opus reminds me of Yevgeny Zamyatin's seminal dystopic work WE that actually predated George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. All quality work that stood as cautionary tales about the past and the future. "Repent, Harlequin! Said The Ticktockman deserved to win both the Nebula (1965) and the Hugo (1966) for short fiction.

most memorable scene:
"Scare someone else. I'd rather be dead than live in a dumb world with a bogeyman like you."
"It's my job."
"You're full of it. You're a tyrant. You have no right to order people around and kill them if they show up late."
"You can't adjust. You can't fit in."
"Unstrap me, and I'll fit my fist into your mouth."

Genre: Short Fiction, Sci Fi, Dystopia
Rating: 4 jelly beans out of 5

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