“‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” by Harlan Ellison
Appeared in Galaxy in December 1965; won the 1966 Hugo Award for best short story; won the 1965 Nebula Award; anthologized in World’s Best Science Fiction: 1966
Not sure how many words
I was pretty underwhelmed when I finally got around to reading this. I’ll admit that the prose style and the unserious tone are awesome, especially the cheeky 1984 reference. Maybe that stuff was striking and innovative when this piece was first published, but today, treating serious subject matter with complete irreverence is unremarkable. The same goes for the dystopian plot. (Maybe the moral is that even small, doomed acts of rebellion can make a difference in the long run? Sure, whatever.) It doesn’t help that the characters are deliberately paper-thin.
I feel like “‘Repent'” fails for the same reason any story of its kind must fail. You can use the techniques of storytelling to deny that stories hold meaning, but you just end up undermining yourself.