Harlan Ellison (1934-2018)

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Ribs
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Harlan Ellison (1934-2018)

#1 Post by Ribs » Thu Jun 28, 2018 3:47 pm


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Big Ben
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Re: Passages

#2 Post by Big Ben » Thu Jun 28, 2018 4:08 pm

Ribs wrote:
Thu Jun 28, 2018 3:47 pm
Harlan Ellison
Harlan was an absolutely brilliant writer and asshole. He was openly combative and was openly shitty about a lot of things but nonetheless he did everything from the original Outer Limits to Star Trek.

They actually tried to ban one of his stories (I think it was I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream) a while back in a Montana school and it didn't go over well. A comically overblown reaction to a story to a fifty year old story.

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Mr Sausage
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Re: Passages

#3 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Jun 28, 2018 4:25 pm

His stories never did much for me, but I like his two Outer Limits episodes, and he could sure come up with a striking title.

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Dylan
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Re: Passages

#4 Post by Dylan » Thu Jun 28, 2018 4:39 pm

Harlan Ellison will always be my favorite writer and a personal hero. A huge loss. But he lived a magnificent life, and he's left behind an unbeatable body of work. Rest in peace.

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Re: Passages

#5 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Jun 28, 2018 6:10 pm

Ellison provided the voice of psychotic supercomputer AM in the videogame adaptation of I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream.

There's also that fantastic adaptation of Ellison's story A Boy And His Dog directed by Peckinpah actor turned director L.Q. Jones (its strange how much it feels as if it anticipates the Mad Max films from later in the decade. Though its much more sex obsessed!). I would highly recommend the great hour long interview-reminiscence piece between the pair on the Shout! Factory Blu-ray/DVD edition of the film.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Fri Jun 29, 2018 2:07 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Big Ben
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Re: Passages

#6 Post by Big Ben » Thu Jun 28, 2018 6:14 pm

I certainly missed playing the game version of IHNMAIMS due to being a child when it was released but I recommend it like Colin has despite it being rather shocking even by today's standards (To the best of my knowledge you can't even play a full version of it in Germany to this day due to censorship!).

Ellison is perfect as AM though. If you've got an hour and half and want to feel miserable it's pretty cheap on distribution sites like Steam or GOG.

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Re: Passages

#7 Post by knives » Thu Jun 28, 2018 7:49 pm

He also had a fun and self deprecating role on one of the recent Scooby Doo series.

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Re: Passages

#8 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jun 28, 2018 10:47 pm

Not a lover of his written work that I've read, but I love his advice to writers and artists everywhere: if you are good at something, don't do it for free

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Re: Passages

#9 Post by Polybius » Thu Jun 28, 2018 11:34 pm

My reaction is close to Dylan's. He's not my favorite writer but he's on the short list and he's definitely a person who mattered.

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Re: Passages

#10 Post by Donald Brown » Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:55 am

The best post-mortem on Ellison, courtesy of Gary Groth, who had the misfortune to know the man as well as anyone:
He was certainly the most amoral person I ever knew — a category which is, as you know, fiercely competitive. Monumentally hypocritical because of his unceasingly self righteous posturing, he was a monster of staggering proportion, a pathological and serial liar that makes Donald Trump look like FDR. Of course, I have had the advantage —or as I prefer to more realistically think of it, the disadvantage— of being trapped as a co-defendant in a lawsuit with him for seven years, which was like being stuck in a trench with a sociopath for seven years without a bathroom break: Constantly watching out for the plunging knife in my back and being in shit up to my eyeballs. I would relate one or two of them here but I can’t think of any one that is remotely funny, all the ones that come to mind being either too ugly or too complicated (and ugly) to relate frivolously, the ones involving his behavior toward women being perhaps the most morally brain-spinning (though to be fair his viciousness was spewed indiscriminately). I look forward to the right context in which to enumerate them at the length and detail that they deserve. And finally, almost as alarming as his own malignant behavior is the enthusiastic approbation by public figures who one would think are too intelligent, literate and educated enough to have been taken in by the antics of this intellectually vapid bunco artist and have been showering him with encomiums. Ellison has snowed them like he has snowed so many with a cultivated persona of perpetual indignation that ultimately serves no one but his own branding.
Last edited by Donald Brown on Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:10 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Passages

#11 Post by Polybius » Fri Jul 13, 2018 5:10 pm

Donald Brown wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:55 am
The best post-mortem on Ellison, courtesy of Gary Groth, who had the misfortune to know the man as well as anyone:
For anyone who doesn't know the history, the two men conducted a bitter feud over the span of more than three decades. There is plenty about it online if you're curious about the details but suffice it to say that the idea that Groth knew Ellison "as well as anyone" is, to put it mildly, questionable.

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Re: Passages

#12 Post by Donald Brown » Fri Jul 13, 2018 8:22 pm

Other than Ellison's immediate family, I'd like to know who had a closer look at him over the last 40 years than Groth. Regardless, Groth's assessment of the man is indisputable, though sycophants will try.

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Re: Passages

#13 Post by Polybius » Fri Jul 13, 2018 10:09 pm

I'm not taking that bait, other than to say that if you think that sort of an opinion based polemic is anything like "indisputable", that's your problem.

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Re: Passages

#14 Post by Big Ben » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:16 pm

Ellison was well known for being a churlish asshole for entire career. I don't really that much is disputable.

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Re: Passages

#15 Post by Gregory » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:41 pm

"Entire career" was a period of over sixty years, so even aside from whether it's somehow an indisputable claim, it's one that could use a bit more specificity if it's going to mean much. If the claim is that (almost) everyone who knew him even in, say, the 1950s and early '60s thought he was a complete asshole, then that doesn't ring true (e.g., Ted White met him in the mid-1950s and remained friends with him until the end). And I don't say this to defend Ellison at all. I just think his career is interesting and varied enough that something is lost if it's all lumped together as if he was the same person in his early pulp career as he was when Groth knew him. I wouldn't even call myself a fan of his, let alone a sycophantic one.

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Re: Passages

#16 Post by Polybius » Sat Jul 14, 2018 2:30 am

The only reason I revisited this was to put Groth's place in this matter in something like it's proper context. To let anyone who was not aware of their long standing antagonism know that Groth wasn't a close confidant or objective observer.

As a rule, I don't think any direct participant in such an antagonistic relationship is the person best suited to provide the definitive assessment upon the other party's death. That someone would do so in itself seems rather churlish.

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Re: Passages

#17 Post by Gregory » Sat Jul 14, 2018 2:26 pm

Just one more thing about Ellison: I really enjoyed his anecdote about joining the Walt Disney team in the early ’60s and being shown the door three hours later:
I despise Walt Disney; he was a thief and a con man. And this is coming from someone who has great respect for most con men. I wrote about my time at Disney in an essay called ‘The Three Most Important Things in Life,’ which of course are sex, violence and labor relations. A lot of people think I lasted there a day, but it was actually only three hours from the moment I drove onto the lot and they said, ‘Welcome, Mr. Ellison.’ I didn’t know what I was going to be writing or what the project was, but my name was on the parking spot and I went to the office and my name was on the door.

Whilst having lunch at the Disney commissary with four other writers, I described in detail my ideas for a pornographic Disney movie, doing all the voices out loud. Roy Disney, Walt’s brother, who ran the studio, was sitting in the booth behind me and when I arrived back at my office there was a pink slip saying, ‘You’re fired. Get out of the studio.’

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Re: Passages

#18 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jul 14, 2018 3:28 pm

I mean, I'd fire someone like that too if I hired them to work for my family friendly company and on the first day they had the lack of awareness to do that in the presence of their new co-workers. Am I supposed to be on Ellison's side here?

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Re: Passages

#19 Post by Gregory » Sat Jul 14, 2018 3:42 pm

Not really, just thought it was funny—imagining the situation not only of a person like Roy Disney overhearing something like that but also how far out of his element Ellison was. It was clearly a bad decision to hire him, and Ellison probably didn't even want to be there but just really needed the job, being a new arrival in Los Angeles as a complete nobody.

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Re: Passages

#20 Post by J Wilson » Sun Jul 15, 2018 12:19 am

domino harvey wrote:
Sat Jul 14, 2018 3:28 pm
I mean, I'd fire someone like that too if I hired them to work for my family friendly company and on the first day they had the lack of awareness to do that in the presence of their new co-workers. Am I supposed to be on Ellison's side here?
I forget which book he published that anecdote in, but my take was Ellison was basically using the anecdote to show off what a iconoclastic, take-no-prisoners type he was. Also, being a fanatical champion of under-recognized writers, one of the reasons he hated Disney was the way the animated films seemingly wiped all memory of the works they were adapted from (Bambi and Pinocchio being two he mentioned in one essay). I find Ellison's work fascinating to read, but there are any number of occasions where you have to take what he says with a mountain of salt. One of his more striking books was a memoir of sorts of his time running undercover with a street gang, called Memos From Purgatory. Basically, Ellison wanted to write about street gangs, so he pretended to be 17 and joined up with one. What still sticks with me is a section where he has to choose a girl to be with, as the gang all have their women they more or less claim ownership of. Ellison describes how, as part of his initiation, he has to take the girl he chose into this room at the gang's base and have sex with her. He doesn't go into detail, but with the gang hovering outside, basically says "what else could I do?" and goes through with it (the girl is a terrified virgin). I felt like I needed a shower after reading it. I remember thinking "this guy is fucking crazy."

One of the things I'm curious to potentially hear more about is his failure to publish The Last Dangerous Visions anthology, which he sat on for decades and repeatedly lied and bullshitted about. Writer Christopher Priest penned a brutal takedown of Ellison's continual failed promises to publish it in a short book called The Book on the Edge of Forever (published by Gary Groth's Fantagraphics). My assumption is that the project just got away from Ellison, and being who he was, couldn't admit to blowing it.

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Re: Harlan Ellison (1934-2018)

#21 Post by Boosmahn » Sun Jul 15, 2018 12:34 am

Not getting into the discussion above; just dropping by to say that I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is a great short story. I love (hate?) that type of horror.

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Re: Passages

#22 Post by Perkins Cobb » Mon Jul 16, 2018 1:34 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Sat Jul 14, 2018 3:28 pm
I mean, I'd fire someone like that too if I hired them to work for my family friendly company and on the first day they had the lack of awareness to do that in the presence of their new co-workers. Am I supposed to be on Ellison's side here?
Well I am.

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