Harlan Ellison: The Shark He’s Got Some Teeth And They Are There For All To See

By the time I met Harlan Ellison in 1975, he had been a powerhouse of American science fiction and pop culture for about 15 years. Unfortunately, I met him on the day he was booked to make an SRO presentation to students at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. i had just picked the lock on a glass display case in the student union and was helping myself to autographed copies of Ellison’s publicity photo.

Suddenly, Ellison stuck a steel index finger into my 17th vertebra. “You’d better wait ‘til this guy is dead before you start pilfering his promotional totems.” Without turning to look behind me, I improv’d fastest, dumbest retort I could think of: “Why should I bother? As near as I can tell, this midget is no bigger than you are, Shrimpie!”

On that note, Ellison spun me around. “Do you know who I am?” he growled. “No,” I said, “but I’m pretty sure your owner is losing his or her mind right now. Come with me, and I’ll take you down to the Lost and Found.”

What can I say? I have a magic way when it comes to making first impressions.

Crackling with infectious energy, :Harlan Ellison: Dreams With Sharp Teeth” pays homage to the dark prince of American letters, Harlan Ellison. Master of his craft, Ellison has heroically produced over 75 books and more than 1,700 classics of fiction and non-fiction on one of his Olympia manual typewriters, including the single most popular Star Trek episode (“City on the Edge of Forever”)
—from Trailer’s promo

Posted by StrangeAppar8us on 05/10/13 at 02:21 PM • Permalink

Categories: Geek SpeakI Don't Know Much About Art, But I Know What I LikeMessylaneousRumproast RelatedStrangeAppar8us

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The joke around a lot of Southern California conventions was “check under the tables, we’re going to talk smack about Harlan”.

Indeed, Patrick! I come from a generation of fantasy professionals who feared and adored Ellison as if he were the Muse Of Violent Inspiration arriving at Mom’s house on a Harley Thigh-buster on Ursula Le Guin’s birthday.

First, he’d shoot out all the bay windows with a Wrist-Rocket. Then, he’d smack me over the head with a brass soup spoon. And, finally he’d set fire to the house, screaming “Isaac Asimov? Who the hell is Isaac Asimov?”

Basically, you call Ellison “Shrimpie” and you’ve invited him to dine on your entrails. He is, however, one of the greatest writers our language and culture have ever produced.

I remember Ellison before he actually got on medication.  When he wasn’t just verbally and physically confrontational, but absolutely non-social, (little things like not showering for weeks at a time for example).  The medication helped with the social aspect, but his mind and tongue was just as deadly as before.

Several years ago, when the San Diego Comic Con was still a convention and not an oversized trade show, I attended a Babylon 5 panel with JMS, Ellison, and most of the writers and cast of that show.

During the panel, there kept being bleed-through soundwise from the room next to us.  Finally Ellison stood up, and said the most terrifying thing he could - “Excuse me, I’m going to have a word with the people next door”.  Cue silence as the audience for the panel realized the verbal abattoir about to take place.

As Harlan left the room, JMS goes “Funeral arrangements are pending…...”

I just referenced Ellison in a theater review I wrote this week. Years ago, he gave a talk at Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. At the time, I worked down the hall from them at Media Alliance so my then-boyfriend and I went to the talk. Ellison presented his succinct one-sentence answer to why humans do stupid/bad things: “Because it seemed like a good idea at the time.” And then illustrated by talking abut punching out his CO in the Army.

Ellison had a reading in San Francisco the year I lived in the Bay, promoting the re-release of Dangerous Visions, so I went. It was an entertaining evening, though I felt like an outsider. I probably was at that – he seemed to know many of the guests, and I only got a signature and a glare while he joked around with everyone else. Still, a fantastic writer who deserves more recognition.

I adore the (apocryphal?) story of a young Ellison hitting on a model at a party. “Hey, what do you say to a little fuck?” said Harlan. “Hello, little fuck,” replied the model.

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