Thursday, June 28, 2018

Well, Hell. RIP, Harlan Ellison (EDIT)

Writer Harlan Ellison Dead At 84

Harlan Ellison Dead: Hollywood Reacts: “No One Quite Like Him” Stephen King Says | Deadline
Probably the truest thing King ever wrote...

 Harlan Ellison, one of science fiction’s most controversial authors, has died - The Verge
Ditto The Verge.

EDIT: Adding this link.  Goodbye To Harlan Ellison, 'America's Weird Uncle' : NPR Yes, its NPR. This one, I approve of.

I have no personal stories of Harlan Ellison. Never met him. Certainly never argued politics with him.

Things I remember hearing or reading, though...

I know he was Guest of Honor at a con thrown by the SF club at Eastern Michigan University before I joined, someone heard he would be in the general area visiting family, and got hold of his phone number, and called him in the middle of the night, when he was coherent enough to answer the hone and say "sure", but not coherent enough to say "No."

Or, famously, "Fuck you, pay me." (Typically, the GoH at a con gets their travel and room comped, but not even that always happens. I understand Heinlein always paid his own way. So far as I know, Ellison never actually demanded pay for a Con appearance, but I don't know.)

There was an essay where someone had referred to him  as a "gadfly"; ISTR that this was about the time I saw him referred to in a letter column in Analog magazine as "Harlan 'I Am All Mouth And Therefore I Scream' Ellison". Anyway, he refuted the "gadfly" claim, because gadflies are mere nuisances, not actually accomplishing anything.

There was a column in, ahem, a man's magazine IYKWIMAITYD in which he described his half-day of employment at Disney. Apparently, at lunch he was hanging with a bunch of other writers who had been brought in to "reimagine" Disney product, or something. He started in on "we should do Disney porn" and riffing on the roles of The Mouse, The Duck, The Big Stupid Dog, doing expert impressions of all their voices and really getting into it...

And Eisner was at the next table. So much for that job...

Ellison had beat out Larry Niven for a Hugo. later, Niven was sitting in the Author's Lounge, with some adult beverage in a brndy snifter, cooled with dry ice. So all the water is sublimating out in a cloud of steam. Ellison walks in, Niven holds the snifter out and says (slurs) "Harlan, ol' buddy, have a drink." Ellsion recoils and exclaims "Don't tell me this bastard doesn't hold a grudge!"

While I was attending the Defense Language Institute the first time, one of my classmates mentioned to me that "They've republished the collections of the TV criticism Harlan Ellison did for the LA Free Press." Yes, they had, The Glass Teat and The Other Glass Teat. I picked them up, and the articles I most remember are the ones he did on the "Junior Miss" pageant -- "Can you say 'child pornography'?" -- and the one about the time he appeared on one of the early Dating Game shows.

He claimed Barris had the tape burned, after he (Ellison) told the woman that they would spend their dream date down at the city dump, shooting rats with chrome plated 1911s...

I told Bill Quick that story, and he said "Harley's a commie, you know."

I said "Duh."

And, really, just re-reading TGT and TOGT, I have to wonder what Ellison thought of the state of political discourse today. He not only predicted AntiFa, Black Blok, the Occupy Movement, BLM, Maxine Waters, Peter Fonda, Cathy Griffin, the whole vile lot... He was calling for it!

I suppose it is possible that Harlan repented of these opinions, or his extreme statements of them, as he aged; he might have seen what he and his ilk had wrought and realized that maybe this would not work out so well after all...

Still, I look at his politics, and wonder if growing up Jewish in small-town Ohio was really so traumatic that calling for violence was a rational outcome. I dunno, I didn't grow up Jewish in small town Ohio.

So I while will try to remember the talent that was responsible for some of the most imaginative speculative fiction ever -- "'Repent, Harlequin', said the Ticktockman", "A Boy And His Dog", "I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream", not to mention the Star Trek episode "City On The Edge of Forever" and his contributions to Babylon 5, and I will continue to admire one who relentlessly refused to cave in to mainstream thought and convention just because it was convenient.

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