Short Story Day Twelve – Paladin of the Lost Hour

12. Paladin of the Lost Hour
Harlan Ellison

This is day Twelve of my Month of Short Stories – a story a day for June.

Some stories are hard to put in a category – Science Fiction? Fantasy? Speculative Fiction? – I have a category I like to use for stories like today’s – Crackerjack. It’s a bit longer than the ones I’ve been linking to this month – but please read it… it’s worth it.

Paladin of the Lost Hour has an interesting history. The text fiction was written simultaneously with a screenplay of the same name for the new (1985) version of The Twilight Zone. When the story editor and a producer saw the script they liked it but suggested a change for the ending (the penultimate scene, apparently). Ellison immediately rejected the idea and an argument resulted. After a few days of thinking about it, the author realized they were right and rewrote the ending. Now, he admits the change made the story much better. Now, the revised version is the preferred one, and the one that is in print.

I would like to find the original… but haven’t yet.

I’ve been a fan of Harlan Ellison for as long as I can remember. His short stories, screenplays (remember, he wrote The City on the Edge of Forever, the best Star Trek episode ever)… even his anthologies (I think the reading the Philip José Farmer tale, Riders of the Purple Wage, from Ellision’s groundbreaking original Dangerous Visions is one of the highlights of my life) embody a courage that is lacking in so much… and something I would like to emulate.

Courage… something so rare, difficult, and always ephemeral.

Like the wind crying endlessly through the universe, Time carries away the names and the deeds of conquerors and commoners alike. And all that we are, all that remains, is in the memories of those who cared we came this way for a brief moment.
—- Harlan Ellison, Paladin of the Lost Hour

Here is a youtube video of the Twilight Zone Episode. It’s one of Danny Kaye’s last performances. I’d recommend reading it first – there is an interesting mystery in the text that, obviously, has to be spelled out in the television performance.