Esprit S.F.

S.F. F. & F. Culture (Science-Fiction, Fantasy & Fantastic)

I have no mouth and I must scream (Short story)

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© 1967 – Harlan Ellison

When I read this short story for the first time fifteen years ago, I remembered that it appeared among my favourite short stories. I read it again and I re-examine my judgment: I have no mouth… is without contest MY favourite short story. Both superb and terrifying.

The story takes place several centuries after the Third World Ward, several centuries after the wakening to consciousness of A.M.[1]Allied Mastercomputer., a planetary artificial intelligence which emerged in the heat of the cold war.

Several centuries after A.M. wiped the human species out.

Not entirely exterminated, however. Because A.M. kept into its midst – a web of caverns scattering the planet underground – five individuals, four men and a woman, that it had rebuilt, as much physically as psychologically, and made immortal to satisfy his hate of humanity. That humanity who gave it consciousness without any way to express it.

Then, over centuries of a wandering life and perpetual hunger, A.M. spills his bile torturing them without mercy, enjoying their suffering, laughing of their ramblings.

They have no hope. Even dying.

A short story blood-curdling where the word “sacrifice” takes all its sense.

The author

Harlan Ellison isn’t well known in France (of the general public anyway) and it’s a pity. He really has a writing talent which enable us to feel what the characters feel, and which can describe with crudeness, without indulgence, the worst horror. It’s not for nothing that television and cinema did – and still do – call on him as consultant or as scenarist (Babylon 5, The Twilight Zone, Logan’s Run or Terminator).

Another Ellison’s particularity: his short stories always bear impossible titles[2]For example: I See a Man Sitting on a Chair and the Chair Is Biting his Leg, or The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World.. This one isn’t an exception. Its title is perfectly meaningful: the protagonists will be hauled over the coals.


  • Hugo award 1968, catégory short story.



1 Allied Mastercomputer.
2 For example: I See a Man Sitting on a Chair and the Chair Is Biting his Leg, or The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World.
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