Story Time Reviews: “Glow Worm” by Harlan Ellison

Image is the inside of a crumbling building in a greenish light. The ceiling is gone except for a lacy structure, the floor is littered with debris.

Story Time Reviews is a blog series that offers reviews of stories both read and read aloud. Today Story Time Reviews “Glow Worm” by Harlan Ellison presented by The Lost Sci Fi Podcast, narrated by Scott Miller. The episode lasts 29:22 minutes, part of that time is used to give a brief bio of the author.

The story, “Glow Worm,” was originally published in 1955 with the publisher listed as Royal Publications, Inc. The story’s release date is recorded as February 8, 2022 on Guttenburg. 

The Story

He was the last man on Earth, all right. But—was he still a man?

This short story is the tale of a man, Seligman, who is the result of experiments to make a super soldier. The last man on Earth because many had gone to the stars and because those who were left behind were the ones “who knew no other answer,” “the ones who fathered the Attilas, the Genghis Khans, the Hitlers.” 

The war is over and not a life form on Earth has survived, except Seligman. In his depression, he asks himself why? Why did he alone survive? 

Slowly, he recognizes symptoms of the physical changes that allow him to survive. Were the changes the results of the experiments or the radiation he endured, or both? Ultimately, he recognizes he has a new purpose and that he decides he must fulfill that purpose. 

The Author

Portrait of a younger Harlan Ellison at a convention

For a brief time, I was here; and for a brief time, I mattered.

Harlan Ellison, from the Afterword to The Essential Ellison

Harlan Ellison, (1934-2018), was a prolific author, editor, comic book script writer, teleplay writer, movie script writer, voice actor, and activist. He wrote more than 1700 stories, novels, essays, and columns. He wrote television and movie scripts and, as a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), he has many VoiceOver credits. You have likely seen or heard his work if you watched Star Trek or Babylon 5 or The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits (or many other non-SF shows).His works are too many for me to list here. Either his official website or the Ellison Wikipedia entry would be a good place to search for a list of his credits. 

People have described Ellison as caustic, cantankerous, abrasive, argumentative, pugilistic (occasionally), and always tenacious. He was as flamboyant as he was fearless in pursuing a story (check out the story behind his first novel, Rumble) or in fighting against plagiarism or contract violations or for civil rights. 

His work experiences were many and included a two-year stint in the army.

He had four different brief marriages before he found his mate and his match, Susan (Toth). They’d been married 32 years at the time of his death.

The Voice Talent

In Scott Miller’s introduction to the first episode of the Lost Sci Fi Podcast, he states that his podcast, and his audiobooks are his “passion project.” At the time he wrote his introduction, he’d been narrating audiobooks for a decade. On March 21st of this year, he published his 64th episode. 

The Lost SciFi Podcast publishes weekly episodes with at least one vintage science fiction story read aloud each week. Miller features vintage stories that were written 60-100 years ago. “You can listen to any episode you want, in any order you want….” He calls these vintage stories Lost Sci-Fi Short Stories from the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

The podcast is available everywhere podcasts appear, including Spotify, Apple, and YouTube. Mr. Miller has also created audiobooks of the stories he’s read on his podcast. They are available on his website and on Chirp.

My Opinion

I had the good fortune to meet Harlan Ellison more than once at various science fiction conventions. He tolerated my presence, possibly because I usually came with one of my friends who was also a close friend of his. I saw his temper displayed more than once, sometimes unjustly, often at an individual who could have behaved better. (This is not an excuse for Ellison’s behavior.) 

It was my great pleasure to hear Ellison read one of his stories aloud. His vocal display was spellbinding. He confessed that he’d spent a great deal of time learning how to use his voice. I wish I’d heard him read more of his works.

I wish I could have heard Ellison read this story. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Miller’s version.

Scott Miller, of the Lost Sci Fi Podcast, reads this story well. His voice is a baritone with a bit of gravel. It’s not overly theatrical and uses good inflection and tone. In other words, he gets out of the way of the story and lets his voice be a vehicle so you can enjoy the ride of the story.

In typical Harlan Ellison style, this post-apocalyptic story is told in a 3rd person distant voice. As a writer, I notice he overuses the word “suddenly” and he’s fond of phrases that begin with “as.” There are sentence structures and word choices that belong to an older time, but these are minor. I love Ellison’s descriptions. Some of my favorite of his phrases include: “… dawn oozed up…,” “the final dust of extinction…,” and “coughed brokenly.”


Glow Worm is a satisfying story. It explores themes that interest me and that remain relevant today. Where do we draw the line on experiments to improve humankind? What would I do if I were the last alive on the planet? Or if I discovered I had changed as much as Seligman? What would you do? 

If you have 20 minutes, I hope you listen to this story.

Have you read or listened to “Glow Worm” by Harlan Ellison? Please share what you thought of the story.

If you liked this, check out my other Story Time Reviews posts.

Image Credits

Top Image by 66kim from Pixabay 

Photo of Harlan Ellison by Pip R. Lagenta, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons (also marked Copyright 2006 by Galen A. Tripp)


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