The Genius of Harlan Ellison

 

Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison died in June 27 at age 84. He wrote or edited more than 120 books, and more than 1,700 stories, essays, and articles, as well as dozens of screenplays and teleplays. He won numerous awards, including the Edgar Award, a Hugo Award, an Audie Award for Best Solo Narration (including other authors work), and five Nebula Awards, breaking scifi genre records. A Grand Master chosen by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, he is responsible for inspiring The Terminator, keeping Star Trek alive during the very first season (when it faced cancellation), and writing some of the most legendary and imaginative stories ever, like “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.” (An AI has trapped a final group of humans in an eternal hell for revenge until one sees a way to trick it by murder/suicide in a moment of inattention…only he fails to kill himself before he’s stopped, and now the AI vows never to drop its attention again, and turns him into a slug-like being in a torture chamber without end. William Gibson, author of Neuromancer, creator of Cyberpunk, credits Harlan for being there first.) “A Boy and His Dog” was made into a Don Johnson movie, about a super intelligent dog who can speak, and protects his master from the dangers of a ravaged post-apocalyptic tic Earth. There is an underground city with suburban-like streets, from which a girl has snuck out topside, dressed like a bum, and the dog alerts the boy to follow her down. Dying of hunger, the dog waits for him. She tries to convince him to stay, forget the dog, insults him, and asks him “what is love?” She follows him out, and the scene moves forward to him remembering her question. The dog is no longer hungry. Last sentences: “What is love? A boy loves his dog.” The movie version was a cynical twist, with the dog saying, “She didn’t have good taste, but she sure did taste good.” (Laughter.) Ellison was angry, and filed many lawsuits against those who misused his work, or didn’t credit him. For a complete rendering of his run-ins with Star Trek and William Shatner, and his feud with Roddenberry, listen to THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER, which references his award-winning Star Trek teleplay. (Roddenberry lied? Yes, some lies are indisputable and documented.) Ellison enjoyed rubbing the lies in, too, and mostly won his lawsuits and awards. He even sued James Cameron, an honorable man, who settled out of court. “Writers always get the shaft,” he said. “Every thug and studio putz and semi-literate merchandizer has grown fat as a maggot off what I created.” OMG. Yes, he was derisive. But most local press is more interested in viral cat videos than local writers. Movie and sports stars? They are American Gods. Author of American Gods, Neil Gaiman, credits Ellison in becoming a writer. Ellison was friends with Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451. Stephen King tweeted, “There was no one quite like him in American letters, and never will be. Angry, funny, eloquent, hugely talented. If there’s an afterlife, Harlan is already kicking ass and taking down names.”    

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