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Jeffty is Five by Harlan Ellison

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“Jeffty is Five” is a 1977 science fiction short story by Harlan Ellison. It is about a five year old boy who never ages and the strange pocket of time in which he lives.

Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:

1959 Fisher RadioDonald Horton, a man in his early 20’s, has moved back to his old home town to open a TV shop. It is there that he meets up with one of his childhood buddies, Jeff Kinzer. Small problem though – Jeff hasn’t aged a day and is still five years old! Although he still looks and acts like a five year old, there is something even more strange about “Jeffty” – he appears to live in some sort of alternate pocket of time. As he spends more time with Jeffty, Donald comes to realize that many of his favorite old shows are still being produced in Jeffty’s world, and that is ample reason for Donald to hang out with him – until he makes one giant mistake!

What I mean by five years old is not that Jeffty was retarded. I don’t think that’s what it was. Smart as a whip for five years old; very bright, quick, cute, a funny kid.

But he was three feet tall, small for his age, and perfectly formed: no big head, no strange jaw, none of that. A nice, normal-looking five-year-old kid. Except that he was the same age as I was: twenty-two.

My Two Cents:

• The good:

  • I was a bit surprised by the cool idea of this story. Not just that Jeffty stayed five years old, but that he lived in his own world where old time radio shows were still being produced. It was quite fun to read about Donald’s sense of wonder.
  • Ah, it’s good to reminisce about the old times, and how good things used to be. If you are someone who longs for the old days then you will probably really enjoy “Jeffty is Five”.

• The bad:

  • I am not a Harlan Ellison fan, but overall I enjoyed this story even though some things in it drove me crazy. For example, the scene in the TV store where the narrator describes what is on every single tv! Gah! We get it already!
  • It’s kind of a depressing story. Stay away if you need more cheer in your life!

Fact Sheet:
• Page Count: 14
• Word Count: 8,289
“Jeffty is Five” garnered the following awards:

  • It won the 1978 Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards.
  • It also won the 1978 Jupiter and 1979 British Fantasy awards and was nominated for the 1978 World Fantasy and 1979 Balrog awards.
  • In 1999 this story placed first in the Locus All-Time Poll for best short story.

Where you can find “Jeffty is Five”:

  • This short story first appeared in the July 1977 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
  • “Jeffty is Five” is included in Ellison’s short story collection Shatterday .
  • You can read the entire story for free online here.

Some Interesting Links:

Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like Impossible Dreams, about a man who discovers a video store with movies that were never made, by Tim Pratt.

2 thoughts to “Jeffty is Five by Harlan Ellison”

  1. Perhaps my favorite short story of all time. Say what you will about Harlan Ellison the man, but his writing can be amazingly affective. This story in particular starts the ol’ waterfalls every… single… time. It’s the sort of writing that a bit too perceptively conjures memories of loss and regret and forgotten youth in ways that aren’t pretty but are quite beautiful.

    Fully recommended to anyone who doesn’t mind being depressed over a story for a few hours.

  2. Atrack,

    You really nailed the feeling one gets when reading this story – sad, but also beautiful. I liked this story much more than most Ellison stuff I’ve read. Although it is depressing, its still cool.

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