Here we have the second story by Harlan Ellison in the same collection. About this Wagner says “One of those unwritten rules seems to be that an editor should never include more than one story by a given author in an anthology…Presumably an anthology of “the year’s best” should above all other considerations strive to present just that. Harlan Ellison has written two of the year’s best horror stories from 1979.” A perfect example of Wagner dispensing with niceties to do what he thinks best.
All the Birds was originally published in Playboy‘s March issue of 1979. This is the second story of the collection to be from a men’s interest magazine, the first being Easyriders. All the Birds is a story about Michael, a man cursed to re-sleep with all the women he’s slept with throughout his life starting from the most recent and working towards his first. We find out he has an abusive and dark past with his first wife, who was also the first women he slept with. As the list of past partners gets smaller and smaller the anticipation of seeing her again begins to drive him mad. No matter how hard he tries he can’t seem to avoid these women from the past. We see the growing terror and fear in Michael as the list runs through.
I find Ellison troublesome, and it’s often hard for me to separate his public persona from his work. That being said, I’ve decided to view this story as a person needing to face the damage they caused in the past. In this case, Michael being unable to escape his past as a perpetrator of domestic violence.