Jeffty Is Five

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"Jeffty Is Five"
Author Harlan Ellison
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Science fiction short story
Published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
Publication type Periodical
Media type Print (Magazine, Hardback & Paperback)
Publication date 1977

"Jeffty Is Five" is a fantasy short story by American writer 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 mis-heard 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.


"Jeffty is Five" concerns 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 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 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 grew 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.


It won the short story Nebula Award in 1977 and Hugo Award in 1978. It was also voted in a 1999 online poll of Locus readers [2] to be the best short story of all time.