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    • CommentAuthorDon Kelly
    • CommentTimeJun 25th 2008
  1.  (2731.2)
    old thread, but not closed. couldn't find anything else about the man on here, and I'd like some perspective, please.

    obviously, with a legend and literary pillar of this caliber, it's safe to assume that we've all at least heard of the man. I had, but that's about it. If I recall correctly, the only thing I'd ever read by him was an intro to a Sandman trade way back. Well, I watched the documentary, Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth (which will stream on netflix, btw), and I was really deeply moved and impressed by this portrait of a very passionate and righteous artist who has contributed an incalculable amount of work and words to, not only the genre of speculative fiction, but to the cause of being a professional writer and to the overarching battle against the ignorant masses and their ever-present mass cultural temptation to compromise oneself and one's vision for any number of reasons. If there's one word to describe Harlan Ellison (this opinion formed solely from the aforementioned documentary) is it UNCOMPROMISING.

    I particularly enjoyed the historical perspective on his cultural impact during the '60's and '70's, marching with Dr. King in Selma, AL and writing an essay afterwards opening with the admonishment "...if you weren't there marching with us, FUCK YOU."

    I just so happen to have a copy of The Beast Who Shouted Love At The Heart Of The World which is where I will start my exploration of his body of work. I've also ordered Dangerous Visions, which is touted as a game-changer in speculative fiction anthologies. What I'm really interested in are his non-fiction essays. Does anyone have any recommendations?

    I'm brining this to Whitechapel because I would really like the community's perspective on the cultural impact of Harlan Ellison throughout the decades. I'm sure some of you lived through the events that were related in the documentary and I would be very interested in hearing about your experiences with Harlan Ellison's life and works. (Reporter: "Mr. Ellis, what does Harlan Ellison mean to you?")

    Thanks in advance, Whitechapel!
  2.  (2731.3)
    Definitely check out THE GLASS TEAT for Ellison's still timeless insights into television. His description of 1969 Rio de Janeiro "news" programs uncomfortably sounds an awful lot like many current TV "news" programs. THE ESSENTIAL ELLISON also has a few of his non-fiction essays including a memorable one (whose name escapes me) about science fiction writers talking about their encounters with fans with very questionable behavior standards, he said politely. AN EDGE IN MY VOICE collects Ellison's weekly newspaper column for (I think) the L.A. Free Press. HARLAN ELLISON'S WATCHING collects movie reviews done for F&SF among other places.

    Ellison is never shy about expressing his opinions. He's written about a particular moment in the original THE OMEN that made it a vile piece of garbage. His less than stellar opinions regarding the very first STAR TREK movie earned him the wrath of some particularly mouth-frothing Trekkies. But he also persuaded me to check out Alex Cox's REPO MAN, for which I will always be grateful.

    Perhaps reading Ellison steeled me to appreciate Our Beloved Lord And Master of this here forum.
  3.  (2731.4)
    I'm watching this carefully. I've met Harlan, and I like and admire the man immensely.

    Seconding the recommendation of his GLASS TEAT books as a place to start with his non-fiction. I re-read them annually.
    • CommentAuthorsacredchao
    • CommentTimeAug 31st 2010
    You should get a hold of any audiobook versions of his stuff that he recorded himself that you can find. He is easily one of the best readers I've ever listened to.
  4.  (2731.6)
    thanks all for the recommendations. ordered and eager to read The Glass Teat, as I have not "subscribed to television" for several years (though I do netflix and torrent certain programs)

    Perhaps reading Ellison steeled me to appreciate Our Beloved Lord And Master of this here forum.

    Yes, I inferred a direct line of influence myself. In fact, I feel like when I first heard of Warren being announced to follow Joss Whedon on Astonishing X-Men, I said: "Hmm. Warren Ellis? That name sounds familiar." but in retrospect, I think I was confusing him for Harlan Ellison. (c'mon, I'm not the only picking up on the similar euphonics!)

    @warren of course, we assume that you're always watching everything carefully. thank you for confirming my suspicions re: your relationship to Harlan. if you find the time to share a few thoughts on how you came to discover his work and his impact on you or the culture in general (ala your Do Anything flows), that's what I'm really fishing for here. again, I'm really interested in Harlan Ellison, the Righteous Radical of the '60's and '70's, screaming love and reason and hope at the establishment for that one glowing moment in history when it felt as if the world could actually change! ....

    We live in hope.

    @sacredchao oh, I know!!! that stood out more than anything else from the doc. it reminded me of this one teacher I had in grade school who could just completely engulf you within a story with her "Reading Aloud" skills. In fact, I actually had the thought "Wow. I need to start practicing reading aloud for when I have kids!" I also got the impression that he's probably recorded himself reading every single things he's ever written, if we're lucky.

    I would absolutely LOVE to hear him read this passage from the intro to the book I'm reading now:
    "The other [stories] are to tell you that as night approaches we are all aliens, down here on this alien EarthTo tell you that not Christ nor man nor governments of men will save you. To tell you that writers about tomorrow must stop living in yesterday and work from their hearts and their guts and their courage to tell us about tomorrow, before all the tomorrows are stolen away from us. To tell you no one will come down from the mountain to save your lily-white hide or your black ass. God is within you. Save yourselves." Harlan Ellison, 1969
    • CommentTimeAug 31st 2010
    Harlan Ellison told me a dirty joke once.

    Deathbird Stories was the first thing I'd read by him (I knew him from his stint on The SciFi Channel).

    It ruined me.

    It tore me down, and rewrote my brainwiring. It led me to the decision that I wanted to be a writer, and it made me face the fact that it was pointless--Ellison had done it already, and at a level I just couldn't hope to achieve.

    Reading Ellison made me a better person, no shit. More cognizant, kinder, yet fiercer.
  5.  (2731.8)
    Reading Ellison made me a better person, no shit. More cognizant, kinder, yet fiercer.

    ... I wrote two paragraphs musing about this and it got deleted upon submission. suffice it to say that this tension between kindness and fierceness has received extended consideration since watching the Ellison documentary on Sunday. compassion towards humanity as it destroys itself and takes you with it... How can I be as uncompromising and resolute, now, when it is needed the most? and will it do any good? many men stronger and more committed than I have fought this battle on so many fronts... what can I hope to accomplish? it really is infuriating watching the world revel in fear and ignorance when we have so many tools at our disposal to remedy our problems, not the least of which (though by far the least employed) is rational thought and discourse. No wonder Harlan's so pissed off all the time. The world desperately needs artists like him and Warren, et al. to give voice to our frustration and show us not only how to throw thought bombs at the established self-destructive status quo, but also to remind us why it is important that we do so.
    • CommentAuthorDon Kelly
    • CommentTimeAug 31st 2010
    I first read An Edge In My Voice when I was 15, leading me to concur with earlier remarks. It changed my life. The essays taught me to think a little bit more and to ask a few pertinent questions before accepting a common conclusion. That was already quite a gift. His fiction only added to my admiration for the man. Around the time he was creative consultant on a Twilight Zone relaunch that produced some damn fine work in its first season (His, Paladin of the Lost Hour, Silverberg's, To See the Invisible Man, King's, Grandma).

    I started going out of my way to see Ellison lecture whenever I could. There's that fear about meeting your heroes, but he was always gracious, kind, and funny.

    One of my last good memories of Los Angeles was the week I got to produce a progressive radio show. The host was on vacation and a buddy of mine got a call to fill in. He asked me to help out getting guests. The only guy I wanted to talk to was Ellison. Sadly, he was out of town.

    I'm home after the last day of the gig. My phone rings. An unfamiliar number appears on the caller ID. Normally, I avoid such calls, but I answered. It was Ellison calling to thank me. We ended up talking for half an hour, chatting like old friends. Every time I thought the call was done we kept on talking. Hell of a good man.

    So, yes, read The Glass Teat books, An Edge In My Voice, Shatterday, and Deathbird stories. And if you really want the Ellison to love you buy them through him at The Harlan Ellison Record Collection PO Box 55548 Sherman Oaks, CA 91413.

    I don't know if the words will change your life, but you can't read him without provocation of a thought or two.
    • CommentAuthorStefanJ
    • CommentTimeAug 31st 2010
    Ellison was a recurring guest at the SF convention my friends and I ran in college. This is going back . . . oh, CHRIST, twenty six years. His stage appearances -- a bit of reading, a bit of audience razzing, and a crazy-ass Harlan story -- were sheer kick-ass entertainment.

    When I cleared off my book shelves least year, one of the few authors whose books I kept all of was Ellison.
      CommentAuthorJohn Skylar
    • CommentTimeAug 31st 2010 edited
    Brave, tough, principled, and of legendary skill.

    There's too few people like him who put words to pages.

    Thankfully it seems there's a couple round here, and one of them runs the place.

    Mr. Ellison is the sort of man whose actions beyond writing are often also inspiring. I think of his successes and famous defenses of his work when I need to remember to stand up for myself and my science.
  6.  (2731.12)
    Back in the 70s, he sat for a week in the front window of L.A.'s late sci-fi bookstore, A Change Of Hobbit, writing stories. My college friends and I put a sign on the window saying 'Portrait Of The Artist as A Young Manakin". We filmed the event on a cheap Super 8 camera. He and the store staff rushed out. He read the sign, he laughed, took down the sign and whacked the camera with it. Then he went back inside. I captured the whole thing on film. When he briefly hosted KPFK's sci-fi program "Hour 25", he said some nice things about some audio work of mine (at least to my answering machine while explaining that he couldn't use any of it on the air). And he led a great UCLA Extension Class "10 Tuesdays Down A Rabbit Hole" that was exceptional.

    With all that, I haven't read nearly enough of his work.

    I admire the man greatly to this day.
    • CommentAuthorJECole
    • CommentTimeSep 1st 2010
    I must report, much to my shame, I have yet to read a single thing written by Harlan Ellison. Though, his interview for Dark Dreamers was the straw that broke the camel back and got me writing. And I never looked back.

    I deeply admire his ferocity, his integrity and principles.

    Any suggestions on which of his works I should pick up as a matter of urgency?
    • CommentTimeSep 1st 2010
    @JECole: "Sleepless Nights in the Procrustean Bed" for nonfiction, "Deathbird Stories" and "Slippage" for fiction.
  7.  (2731.15)
    An Edge In My Voice was the book that made me want to write. Made it impossible for me to want to do anything else, in fact.

    And Repent Harlequin, Said The Tick Tock Man is probably my all time favorite short story, by anyone.
    • CommentAuthorStefanJ
    • CommentTimeSep 1st 2010
    ". . . mrmee, mrmee, mrmee"
    • CommentTimeSep 2nd 2010
    I really got to know Ellison by virtue of growing up in the small-town Midwest. The local library had a science fiction collection that had at one point been pretty decent, but had more or less frozen in time around 1979. Lots of New Wave stuff in there, large doses of Jose Farmer, Silverberg, Zelazny, Harrison, and Ellison. Specifically, Ellison's /Dangerous Visions/ series, of which I found a signed first edition paperback in the used book bin.

    I think the breadth and impact of the stuff the New Wave put out in that period really has yet to be fully evaluated. There's a lot of potential from that time in the 70's and early 80's that just got repressed during the Regan/Thatcher era and the crushing wave of extreeeeme and cyberpunk in the 90's.
  8.  (2731.18)
    I could be sickeningly verbose about all that Ellison Means To Me - that I have over 75 signed first editions, that I've seen him speak and shook his hand about fifteen times, listened to nearly all his "Hour 25" broadcasts (even had a letter read on the air), that I sacrificed a signed first edition of Beast That Shouted Love to him (he wanted the edition to cut apart and reform for White Wolf [he replaced it with a signed and personalized second edition {FTW!}]), that I ended up on an ACLU mailing list for ten years because I pledged to KPFK just so's I could get a copy of his "canary second copies" of what eventually became "Eidolons", that he spent half an hour on the phone with me once talking about having shingles while doing one of his bookstore window writing gigs. Yeah, I've been a fan for awhile....

    Suffice to say, what struck me about his work, the resonance of his work that continues to reverberate for me even from the ancient times of the 1980's, was the connection of the Author to the Work, that the foundation of everything he stood for, and still stands for, is apparent in his writings, and that everything that will be left of him once he is gone will be his words. That I could truly feel empathetic to the protagonist of a given work, because I knew that it came from the heart of the author. That to stand up against that which is Not Right will give you no immediate reward, but folks who are of that like mind will find themselves eventually, and once they do, they will find their strength.

    So yeah. I concur with the recommendations. I recommend getting him in audio, for any reason - even his reading of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea was pretty nifty. Essential Ellison is always a good start, Deathbird Stories, Angry Candy, Strange Wine, Shatterday, Harlan Ellison's Watching is great for film criticism, second for the Glass Teat books, finding his work is the first of many reasons I make a run through the local used bookshops on a regular basis.

    Yeah. Thanks. Now I'm gonna be spending the next two weeks in my bookcase....
  9.  (2731.19)
    Absolutely fearless writer. And yes, "Repent Harlequin, Said The Tick Tock Man" is the best short-story I've ever read. Only problem with Harlan is that after I read a book of his short stories I write in his style for the next six months.
    • CommentTimeSep 3rd 2010
    The Glass Teat books, definitely. Before I went to Sao Paulo last year, I got the first one off the shelf and re-read the part about Brazilian TV. Silvio Santos is still alive but retired, there's plenty of TV, most of it shit, but that's true of TV just about anywhere else. There's good stuff too.

    Those books are great because the happy horseshit Ellison documented back then never really went away. Cop shows, doctor shows and lawyer shows still dominate programming on the big networks. But there's so much TV now that there's enough time to see all of the really good stuff.