Gary Kurtz (1940-2018)

Gary Kurtz

[[Editor’s note: Reposted by permission.]]

By Craig Miller: Devastated. Bereft.

Gary Kurtz has died.

For over 40 years, Gary Kurtz has been my friend and colleague. We have continued working on projects all this time. There’s a film project Gary was slated to produce that I brought him into and he’s been involved with my Star Wars book. But we were friends beyond work.

Gary was an amazing man. Very private. He never wanted to be the center of attention. Even when I was working for his production company, he didn’t want publicity about him, just the film projects. That’s why he’s not as famous as he should be, for all he’s accomplished, and most people didn’t know he’s been ill for some time.

Gary, of course, produced Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. He also produced American Graffiti and The Dark Crystal, among other films and TV projects.

He was the most knowledgeable producer I ever worked with. Always on top of whatever his films needed, able to answer any questions or solve any problems that came up.

He and George Lucas met at USC Film School but started working together, on American Graffiti when Francis Coppola got the two of them together.

Gary served in Vietnam as a filmmaker, taking a camera into combat. He was required to carry a gun but, as a Quaker, went on combat missions with no bullets in that gun. That’s a lot braver (and faithful) than I think most people would be.

We’ve been friends throughout the years, as well as colleagues. Gary’s been living in England since the late ’70s so we didn’t get to spend a lot of time together but we did whenever we could.

I can’t believe he’s gone. It really hasn’t sunk in. He was 78 years old — older than George by a few yeas, well older than me — but he was always tall and robust and, until recently healthy. He seemed like someone who would always be there. It doesn’t seem possible.

Burt Reynolds (1936-2018)

Burt Reynolds and John Williams in a scene from the Twilight Zone episode “The Bard”.

By Steve Green: Burt Reynolds (1936-2018): US actor, died September 6, aged 82. Genre appearances include The Twilight Zone (one episode, 1963, “The Bard”), Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972), Frankenstein and Me (1996), Universal Soldier II, Universal Soldier III (both 1998), The X-Files (one episode, 2002, as God).

Reynolds appeared in more than 90 feature films – most notably, Deliverance, The Longest Yard and Smokey and the Bandit – and 300 television episodes (Darren McGavin’s sidekick in Riverboat, 50 episodes as Gunsmoke’s blacksmith, and the lead in Evening Shade).

The Hollywood Reporter’s obit also reveals this bit of showbiz lore, that he rejected a role that would have changed science fiction history:

Reynolds’ career also is marked by the movies he didn’t make. Harrison Ford, Jack Nicholson and Bruce Willis surely were grateful after he turned down the roles of Han Solo, retired astronaut Garrett Breedlove and cop John McClane in Star Wars, Terms of Endearment and Die Hard, respectively

Margit Sandemo (1924-2018)

By Ahrvid Engholm: The Norwegian-Swedish – born in Norway, lived in Sweden and wrote in Swedish – fantasy author Margit Sandemo passed away September 1 at age 94.

She wrote the long-running Sagan om Isfolket (“The Ice People Saga”) paperback series, 47 books in total, as well as other long book series like Häxmästaren (Witch Master) and Legenden om Ljusets Rike (The Legend of the Realm of Light). Her different series would sometimes connect to each other, in a genre described as “magic romance”. Despite beginning to publish only at the age of 40, she authored at least 185 books, including an autobiography.

The Wikipedia entry about Sandemo says:

Her books, which weave supernatural themes with historical facts, have made her well-loved throughout Nordic countries and beyond. Her books can be read in Danish, Finnish, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish and Swedish.

Sandemo is reputed to have sold nearly 40 million books worldwide.

Her work is available in English with half a dozen titles, the first being Spellbound (The Tagman Press, 2008), the beginning of the Ice People Saga.

But her books are very popular and she has her own fan club, Sagan om Isfolket-föreningen (“The Ice People Saga Association”) and there are several fan sites on the Net (e.g. https://www.facebook.com/SaganomIsfolket/ ).

Being widely read and able to entertain readers isn’t the worse fate for an author.

Jacqueline Pearce (1943-2018)

Jacqueline Pearce as Servalan

By Steve Green: Jacqueline Pearce (1943-2018): British actress, died September 3, 2018 aged 74. Most famous for playing the villainous Servalan in 29 episodes of Blake’s 7 (1978-81). She also appeared in The Plague of the Zombies and The Reptile (filmed back-to-back) and one episode of The Avengers (all 1966), one episode each in the anthology series Haunted (1967), Dead of Night (1972), Leap in the Dark (1977) and Shadows (1978), plus three episodes apiece of Doctor Who (1985) and Dark Season (1991), as well as providing a voice for a 2001 episode of the audio webcast Doctor Who: Death Comes to Time.

There was allegedly a plan at one point for her and Paul Darrow to cameo in Doctor Who as two unnamed characters who would clearly be Servalan and Avon from Blake’s 7. For her appearance in the CD mini-series The Actor Speaks, she performed a piece written for her by Tanith Lee.

Remembering Ray Bradbury on his Birthday

By Steve Vertlieb: Here is my affectionate tribute to cherished friend Ray Bradbury, whose loving presence occupied my world and my heart for nearly four decades. Born August 22, 1920, Ray would have turned 98 years young today. Ray was one of the most distinguished writers of the twentieth century and, with H.G. Wells, perhaps the most influential, legendary science fiction writer of the past one hundred years.

More importantly, however, Ray was a gentle little boy whose love of imagination, fantasy, and stories of other worlds influenced hundreds of writers and millions of admirers all over the world. His monumental presence upon this planet warmed and inspired all who knew him, and I was honored to call him my friend for thirty-eight years. Here, once more, is my loving remembrance of the life and world of Ray Bradbury, “I SING BRADBURY ELECTRIC” at americanmusicpreservation.com“A Ray Bradbury Remembrance (Film Music Review 14th Anniversary Special”).

He was a kindly, gentle soul who lived among us for a seeming eternity. But even eternity is finite. He was justifiably numbered among the most influential…

Our historic first meeting with the immortal Ray Bradbury in his West Los Angeles living room during the joyous Summer of 1974. His chronicles, and legend, eclipsed mere humanity, burning his manuscripts with searing imagination.

Steve Vertlieb, Ray Bradbury, Erwin Vertlieb

My final get together with beloved friend, Ray Bradbury…a last and lasting hug from August, 2011. A fabulous writer, and wonderful friend. Oh, how I miss him. Remembering my beloved friend, and wishing you a joyous, Happy Birthday among Heaven’s celestial stars, Ray, where your genius continues to burn at “Fahrenheit 451.”

Ray Bradbury and Steve Vertlieb

Remembering Wes Shank

Wes Shank died August 13 at the age of 72.

By Steve Vertlieb:  We were lifelong friends, survivors, and part of a proud, if vanishing brotherhood of adoring movie fans. Dick Klemensen (crusading editor and publisher of Little Shoppe of Horrors Magazine) is pictured on the far left. I’m next to Dick. Next to me is the “Citizen Kane” of monster magazine publishing, Gary Svehla (founder and publisher of Midnight Marquee Press, and creator of the beloved “Fanex” film conventions in Baltimore, MD). On the far right is Walter (Wes) Shank.

Dick Klemensen, Steve Vertlieb, Gary Svehla, and Wes Shank.

I met Wes fifty-three years ago at Forry Ackerman’s very first “Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine” convention in New York City in September, 1965. Wes was a renowned film, and film memorabilia collector, as well as the owner and “curator” of “The Blob.”

When I lost my job in television many decades ago, Wes offered me a job working with him at his film lab in Rosemont, Pa. He saved me when I most needed a helping hand.

Wes and I shared a history…a history of both laughter and tears. We didn’t always see eye to eye but, in the final analysis, he was my friend. He was a gentle soul, and loving husband of Judy Shank, and father to David Shank. I just received the terrible news that Wes passed away yesterday. I am in shock and denial. I cannot fathom the shocking reality of his passing. Wes made his mark in the world of fandom, and was a legendary, beloved figure to all who knew him.

Wes was a gentle soul, and avid film memorabilia collector, known largely for being the owner and keeper of “The Blob.” Pennsylvania’s Blob Fest was always enlivened by Wes’s appearance in the company of his famed gelatinous friend. He was also responsible for locating the infamous censored scenes from the original King Kong, which were then loving restored by Janus Films, and incorporated back into all modern prints of the film. Wes was simply a good guy, and a loving family man. My heart goes out to his wife, Judy, and his son, David. May God Bless his gentle soul.

I cannot imagine a world without Wes Shank. May you rest in peace, old friend. I shall always love you.

Steve Vertlieb, left. Wes Shank, right.

June Moffatt Remembered at LASFS

By John Hertz:  June’s local club was, and mine is, the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. She died on May 31st. She was my longest-time friend in fandom.

LASFS (to me and many, pronounced “lahss fahss”; to June’s late husband Len rhyming with sass mass) was founded in 1934.  Our memorial for her was June 28th.  We meet every Thursday; it was our 4,220th.  No one could take Our Gracious Host’s place, but I told him that if he couldn’t attend I’d take notes.

On the way I found classical-music radio Station KUSC broadcasting Chopin’s Waltz No. 9 (Op. 59 No. 1, 1835) “L’adieu” played by Garrick Ohlsson.

We’ve been renting the Null Space Labs in North Hollywood.  We outgrew our third clubhouse, sold it, and are looking for a fourth.  Our meetings start at 8 p.m.  This time we thought we ought to serve snacks, so we did that starting at 6.

We’d had another blow that day: Harlan Ellison. He would have a separate memorial.

Club business didn’t take long.  Usually a lot is monkey business.  We left that out and went on to what the unusually large attendance had come for.

June’s oldest son Bob Konigsberg had been able to visit her from his home in Los Gatos three hundred fifty miles away.  I’d sometimes found him at Moffatt House, serenading her.  Tonight he told us she loved railroad songs, like “The Wabash Cannonball”.

A gadget in Bob’s hand, coupled with one Matthew Tepper had, let us hear from June’s daughter Caty, still on the road.  It’s called Bluetooth, I muttered to Lee Gold, because you put it in your ear.  You know it’s named for Harald Gormsson, she muttered back, quite rightly shushing me as I started to explain that the Greek dance Hasapikos (Turkish kasap, a butcher) is so called because sailors do it.

Caty told us she’d seen how much LASFS meant to her mom.  As it happened no one broke into “Mutual Admiration Society” but we could have.  June and Len were like that too.  Caty thanked us all and said she heard us thanking her.

Barbara Gratz Harmon had married Jim Harmon about the time June married Len.  They had double-dated.  Len and Jim both died in 2010.  Tonight Barbara talked about June.

Barbara lives in Burbank; the Moffatts lived in Downey.  With Len and Jim gone, June spent Thursday nights after LASFS meetings at Barbara’s, and drove home the next day.  Barbara is a cellist in several orchestras.  When she had to practice late at night, June took out hearing aids and slept jes’ fine. When Barbara was on jury duty for five months, June had a key to the house.  Barbara’s dog Leslie loved her.

June became unable to drive.  She passed the written exam but couldn’t see well enough.  Carol Sperling, among other things founder of the Blustering Gales, a local Sherlock Holmes club – detective fiction was another Moffatt interest – told us about taking June around.

George McUrso did some of that too.  Eventually he had, as regular Thursday night passengers, June, Barbara, Charlie Jackson, and Rowan Dao (who was also the youngest Blustering Gale).

In 1991 George (then using the surname Mulligan) had been given the Evans-Freehafer Award for service to the LASFS; he was one of June and Len’s nominators when they were given the Evans-Freehafer in 1994.

Like Carol Sperling, he had other adventures driving June.  They went to an Edgar Rice Burroughs fans’ Dum-Dum, and the Orange County Museum of Art.  He learned what a great film Oklahoma! was.  Once at Clubhouse III he was looking for The Mouse That Roared. After a while June thought it was time to go home.  Just then our librarian Gavin Claypool emerged calling that he had it, and The Mouse on the Moon too.  June said “Can we get out of here before he finds any more mice?”

Matthew Tepper said June had agented his Lzine when he lived in Minneapolis and San Francisco.  She asked him to find music for Len’s LASFS memorial.  Tonight he began to play it from a gadget he had – “No, that’s Mussorgsky” – then we heard “I Go Pogo”. The Moffatts were Pogo fans.

Barry Gold had found LASFS in 1964.  June’s equanimity and aplomb, he said, had won her the name Mother Jaguar. June and Len made him feel he’d known them for ages.  Near the end while visiting her he’d sung “Bouncing Potatoes” and told Bob Konigsberg how Poul Anderson was driven to write it.

Charlie Jackson said he’d just finished re-reading The Wind in the Willows when she died.  Comments in her APA-L zine were headed “Onion-Sauce” (ch. 1).  With Len and June, he said, as we agreed, seldom was heard a discouraging word.

Ed Green said there was no bigger heart than Len and June’s.  They sponsored people, including him.  A bright light had gone out.

I said – there was more, but I’ll stop here –  Judaism taught that, whatever else after death there may be, the dead live in their good deeds.  And we should take the torch.

                             

Some of this is also in Vanamonde 1308.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #32

Photo by Barbara Alper/Getty images

Remembering: Harlan & I

By Chris M. Barkley

“Awareness and Kindness are the only sacred things.”
– Harlan Ellison

On May 14, 2018, Tom Wolfe died.

Most of you reading this know him as the author of The Right Stuff, a nonfiction chronicles of test pilots like Chuck Yeager and those who came after him to become the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts. Astute fans also know he was on the vanguard of “new journalism” of the 1960’s (The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test) and wrote several novels of note (The Bonfire of the Vanities and A Man in Full).

There were eulogies, obituaries and tributes galore. There is no doubt in my mind that Tom Wolfe’s literary legacy is well assured.

On May 22, 2018, Philip Roth died.

Mr. Roth had an extraordinary literary life; a winner of the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle awards twice each, the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Awards three times. His 2004 novel, The Plot Against America, was given the Sidewise Award for Alternate History In Time in which American hero and Nazi collaborator Charles Lindbergh defeats Franklin Roosevelt to become the President in 1940, with dire results. The waves of accolades and praise for Roth and his works came, all well deserved.

And then, on June 28, Harlan Ellison died.  And to me, seems as though the entire world just suddenly STOPPED in its tracks to pay tribute to this man, this splendid wordsmith.

It had been a very busy day. I woke up at 3 a.m. to take over the counter meds for the slight rotator cuff tear in my right shoulder (and NO, I will not be back in time for the playoffs, thank you very much for asking!).  At 7:20, I was up and listening to NPR’s Morning Edition (which my partner Juli and I have humorously nicknamed “Damage Report”), preparing the morning coffee, chai and a cat food feast for four hungry faces.

I was watching that day’s first World Cup match (Senegal vs Columbia) when I received an urgent call from my neighbor, Lillian. If you were to google a casting call image of a little old lady, ninety-five year old Lillian’s face would likely appear; frail, five foot one, probably ninety pounds soaking wet with the sweetest smile and a New York accent to die for. She adamantly insists on living by herself and manages to do so under the watchful eyes of Juli and I and her numerous in-laws and grandchildren.

“Oh, I hate to bother you,” she said, “but could you come over and have a look at the blinds upstairs? I think they might be broken.”

Well, of course I could. Because that’s what good neighbors do. And besides, I am a former Boy Scout of America and I have been mostly home since I stopped working at the bookstore over a year ago. So while Columbia was busy fending off Senegal, I was measuring her blinds to be replaced because the plastic inner mechanism had finally become so brittle and dry, it gave up the ghost. She fretted about replacing all three sets of shades in the room (because she wanted them to match) but I assured her that when she and her granddaughter returned from Home Depot later in the day, I could easily handle them.

After watching Columbia defeat Senegal 1-nil, it was time to pick up my two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, Lily, from pre-school. As many of you have seen from photographs posted here, she is a lively, smart-for-her years imp of a little girl. When I picked her up and bundled her into the car, she demanded her toys that are usually littered about the back seat, a pair of plastic dinosaurs (a stegosaurus and velociraptor), a tiny albino Bengal tiger and a small waterless coloring board. And once we’re underway, as she is regularly wont to do, she deftly removes her socks and shoes and settles back in her car sear for some serious singing, playing and some occasional comments about my driving abilities.

Thirty minutes later, Lily was protesting being put down for her nap, even though this has been a part of her daily routine for the past year and a half. But she’s more tired than she realizes and is soon fast asleep. And in the meantime, I asked the household’s Alexa to dial up NPR’s Here and Now for the latest news. Now it’s my turn to fret; the border crisis, the upcoming tariffs on foreign trade and the continuing analysis of the Supreme Court decisions and the speculation on who will replace Justice Anthony Kennedy dominate that day’s show.

Lily’s mom Beth came home an hour and a half later. I headed back to the house and had settled into watch the evening match in Kaliningrad between England and Belgium when I get the call from Lillian about her blinds. I went next door immediately. “I don’t want to keep too long,” she said, so she insisted I only replace the broken blind and the rest could wait until tomorrow. It took less than ten minutes and  she pronounced the work, “beautiful”.

I had just sat down on my mushroom-shaped chair to check my email when I saw it.

Right above an announcement about breaking news event about a mass shooting at a newspaper in Annapolis, there was an email from Variety with the headline: “Harlan Ellison, Sci-Fi Writer Who Contributed to ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Babylon 5,’ Dies at 84.”

My heart shuddered.

The world fell away.

I took my glasses off and openly wept.

It had finally happened and for several minutes I tried to take it in and comprehend what I had just read.

He was gone.

I had contemplated calling Harlan on his birthday in May but demurred, first because I truly did not know the state of his health and did not want to bother him unduly. I discarded the idea completely when I heard that his good friend, fellow author and editor, Gardner Dozois, had died earlier in the day. There was no way Harlan nor could his lovely wife Susan entertain the idea of a call from me. It felt like a terrible idea. So, I let it go I have no regrets.

I noodled around online looking for more information but after a while, I became fatigued with grief. I went to lie down on the bed and did so until my sweetheart and partner Juli came home from work. She had heard the news, too.  She had never met him but she knew only knew of him by his reputation and stories that she had read about him over the years. Her opinion of Harlan was quite neutral but she also knew how deeply I felt about him. “What do you want to do?,” she asked in a soft, knowing voice.

It was Thursday, which was trivia night at one of our favorite brew houses, The Casual Pint. I asked myself, what would Harlan and Susan do? They would probably say that life was the living and that moping around wasn’t going to do the dead or you any good.

So I chose to get off my ass. “Let’s go,” I said.

On the way down the highway, we received a text from Juli’s son-in-law, Tim; he wanted to go out that evening with our granddaughter Lily but couldn’t because Beth accidentally took his car keys with her to work. Since we both knew he loved craft beers, we called him, changed course and picked them up.

We arrived at The Casual Pint just in time; our team leader, a retired insurance adjuster named Ed, had already submitted our usual team name, “Mr. Peabody’s Way Back Machine.” Tater tots, cider, beer and brats were ordered and the game was on.

There are six rounds of general knowledge questions, with each question separated by a soundtrack of cheesy rock and pop songs that lasted around three to four minutes. Cheating with smart phones was not allowed.

We were playing against an overwhelmingly millennial crowd. Between Juli, Tim, Ed and I, we kicked their little tushes back to grade school with 93 total points, thirty more than our nearest opponent, “Mr. Peabody’s Way Forward Machine.” Our prizes were $25 in gift cards shared among us, a brand new FC Cincinnati t-shirt for me and two tickets to the Saturday game with the Ottawa Fury, which we gave away to a couple who just moved to Cincinnati from Washington state just days earlier.

That felt good. And I felt alive, well and connected to the world once more.

My first encounter with Harlan Ellison’s work began in the summer of 1971. That was when my geeky new friend, Michaele, came home from college. I was heavily in to comics and loaned her some essential issues from my DC and Marvel collection. She, in turn, gave me a hardcover book club edition of the World’s Best Science Fiction 1970, edited by Terry Carr and Donald Wollheim. It was (and still is) filled with fine stories by Richard Wilson (“A Man Spekith”) Fritz Lieber (“Ship of Shadows”), Ursula K. Le Guin (“Nine Lives”), Robert Silverberg (“After the Myths Went Home”), Norman Spinrad (“The Big Flash”), James Tiptree, Jr. (“Your Haploid Heart”), Suzette Haden Elgin (“For the Sake of Grace”) and Larry Niven (“Death by Ecstasy”), among others.

But as I perused the table of contents, my eye was drawn to a singularly titled story, “A Boy and His Dog” by one Harlan Ellison, a writer I had never heard of before. Out of all the titled stories, for some unknown reason, I chose the story with the simplest, least ornate title.

Curious, I began to read. And damn, I was richly rewarded.

There may be some of you reading this have never had the pleasure of reading Harlan’s Nebula Award winning novella. I have no intention of recapping the plot of this well-known story. From its deceptively benign beginnings to its jaw dropping ending, I will only state that I was not the same person who began reading that story. And I must say, before I read “A Boy and His Dog”, my fourteen-year-old brain could not contemplate the possibility of sex being written in a prose style that could be interesting, arousing or heart-rending in ANY way.

Soon thereafter, I discovered that this remarkable writer had written some very memorable stories; “’Repent, Harlequin,’ Said the Tick-Tock Man”, “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”,  “Delusion For a Dragon Slayer” , “Paingod” and “The Beast That Shouted Love at The Heart of the World.”

If I were to compare Harlan to a baseball pitcher, I couldn’t do it, it would have to be at least a minimum of THREE; the fastball of the Cleveland Indians’ Bob Feller (of whom I have no doubt Harlan followed as a kid), the self-assured goofiness of journeyman knuckleballer Jim Bouton and the determination, cunning, intelligence, sheer skill and intimidation factor of the St. Louis Cardinals’ Bob Gibson, who would throw at your eye teeth if you tried to dig in at the plate.

The day after Harlan Ellison died, I saw a Facebook post in which the writer (whom I am protecting from the wrath of the internet by not naming), praised him as a writer but then turned around and stated that due to his manic behavior and explosive personality, his collective works were probably the product of a “idiot savant”.

What?

Oh, HELL NO!

These were the works of a restless and assertive man, always striving to be better, do better and most importantly, DEMAND better of himself, his friends and acquaintances and the world at large. And if this worldview did not coincide with your interests, you were going to have problems with Harlan Ellison. And he had problems with a lot of people.

Harlan and I were born at the opposite ends of Ohio; him in Cleveland in 1934 and me in Cincinnati twenty-two years later. And although each city has a long, adversarial history of sniping at each other, I never got a negative vibe from him about that. In fact, Harlan spent many a summer in the 1950’s attending Midwestcon, a relaxacon (a non-programmed convention) based in the Cincinnati area.

This convention, coincidently, is also where, in the summer of 1976, I discovered fandom (a full account, 13,000 plus word account of which was previous published in File 770 in 1997) but Harlan had long since stopped attending.

I found out that Harlan drew from his boyhood memories and experiences from glancing at a map of Ohio the other day. He grew up in the small town of Painsville (oh, the irony), which is approximately thirty miles northeast of Cleveland.

Now (unfolding the map), starting from Painsville, follow Ohio State Route 2 southeast twenty-six miles to the southwest, where it merges with I-90, past Euclid…Do you see it?

Bratenahl. That happens to be the last name of Harlan’s reporter protagonist in his richly vivid screenplay adaption of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot. A coincidence, you say?  Not a chance!

And there, to the south, running right through US 422, is Solon. I’m pretty sure he used that town’s name somewhere in his corpus of works. Are there more little gems out there waiting to be discovered by literary detectives and scholars decades from now? Most assuredly, I think.

Reading Harlan Ellison was one thing. Encountering Harlan Ellison in person was like stepping through a portal into an alternate, whirlwind dimension…

One of the people I met and befriended at that first Midwestcon was now Professor Emeritus Joseph Patrouch of the University of Dayton. He was also instrumental in bringing Harlan to town in November of 1977 for an event on campus. Not only did Joe send me an invitation, I also got to tag along to have dinner with him beforehand at a nearby restaurant.

Much of that evening has become a hazy blur over the years but I do remember him being very friendly and gracious to me when I was formally introduced to him (I saw him previously in May at Kwintus Kublius, a sf convention in Nashville) and the dinner was punctuated with stories and laughter.

The event itself was electrifying; a reading from a story he had just completed, punctuated by some searing commentary about America, the evils of contemporary television, some rather pointed statements about abysmal state of students and youth culture he was encountering during the lecture tour and the somewhat tenuous state of the world  at that moment.

Harlan spoke loudly, forcibly and most importantly, with an enormous amount of vigor and passion. Anyone who has ever witnessed his lectures, signings or public performances knows EXACTLY WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.  To anyone who was receptive, his speeches, observations and pronouncements left you in turns, angry, sad, amused, shocked and overwhelmed. And informed, always informed. (Well, at least to his point of view; merely agreeing with him was, in my estimation, lazy thinking.” Don’t believe me”, he would always say, “find out for yourself and forge your own, informed opinions.”) .

Harlan’s enthusiasm was infectious. If anyone in that audience that night had an inkling of becoming a writer, they were certainly given a powerful impetus to do so that evening. At least, I hope they did. I know that is was true for me.

In his 1980 non-fiction tome on horror Danse Macabre, Stephen King invited Harlan to describe his work in his own words. He said, “My work is foursquare for chaos. I spend my life personally, and my work professionally, keeping the soup boiling. Gadfly is what they call you when you are no longer dangerous; I much prefer troublemaker, malcontent, desperado. I see myself as a combination of Zorro and Jiminy Cricket. My stories go out from here and raise hell. From time to time some denigrator or critic with umbrage will say of my work, ‘He only wrote that to shock.’ I smile and nod. Precisely.”

Over the years, I have tried to emulate his code of ethics; if you see something wrong, speak up, help if you can help, do not suffer fools gladly, never settle for the mediocre in yourself or anything you do, don’t be a slave to what’s fashionable, do vote in elections and, if you accept help, pay it forward to the next person.

To be sure, Harlan didn’t always follow his own sage advice; I have read and heard about his infamous temper, which sometimes got the better of him with his dealings with fans, television and film executives, fellow authors, editors, publishers and just plain folks. I have never truly felt his wrath mostly because I closely listened and learned. Over the first few years that I knew him, I learned that there were certain odious subjects and red zones that I was never going to broach with him; his previous marriages, Richard Nixon, Star Wars (the films or the missile defense “scheme”), Gene Roddenberry and The Last Dangerous Visions.

By now you have either heard of, read or re-lived some of the more infamous true incidents; the dead gopher, the slugging of tv producer Adrian Samish, the testy encounter with Frank Sinatra, being dismissed from the Walt Disney studio after less than a day on the lot, the Starlost debacle, the I, Robot debacle, what the pseudonym “Cordwainer Bird” really means when he uses it, the bricks that were mailed to a publisher (intentionally sent with postage due, mind you), the physical assault on author Charles Platt at the 1985 Nebula Awards banquet, forcing James Cameron to admit that some of the story material in the making of the Terminator films were actually Harlan’s and the successful settlement of a lawsuit against AOL for infringement and the illegal distribution of his works online by its users.

And then there was the 2006 incident with Connie Willis at the Worldcon, which I’ll delve into that a little further along.

Over the past forty-one years, I had the privilege of experiencing a parade of encounters with Harlan Ellison.

In early May of 1977, I was sitting in the audience of Harlan’s Guest of Honor speech at the aforementioned sf convention in Nashville. He read his soon to be published (and future Hugo Award winning short story), “Jeffty Is Five” and soon after, was regaling us with stories about running away with the circus in his youth and the entertainment of that era, that included the last vestiges of the vaudeville era and minstrel shows. Several in the audience called out for him to sing a song and he was about to do so when his eyes swept to room and came resting directly on me, the only African-American person in the room. He stopped, raised his hand and said, “No. Sorry folks, I can’t do that. We have a gentleman in the audience who might object.” And everyone then expectantly turned to me.   I, in turn, said, “Hey, well, you know…”

Silence.

And Harlan smiled and put an end any thought of doing a THAT kind of song and that was the end of it. And I was grateful, then and now, that he had taken the time to notice me and took time to take my feelings into account.

The very next year Harlan was the GoH of the Iguanacon, the 36th Worldcon that was held in Phoenix, Arizona. This was my second Worldcon and the journey by air was the furthest I had ever been from my home by myself. I remember that stepping from the Hyatt Regency entrance onto the street was like entering a blast furnace. The convention center was several hundred yards away across an open plaza and there were several times that I was sure quite sure the gym shoes would melt from the walk on the pavement.

Parked just outside the hotel there was a huge mobile home Harlan had rented for the occasion. He was ensconced there as a protest against the Arizona state legislature for not passing the Equal Rights Amendment (which, as of July 2018, the Republican majority in both houses were still actively blocking).

At one point during the proceedings, wandered into the hotel lobby where Harlan was sitting in a transparent tent, writing a story for everyone to see.  As I sat down to watch this spectacle, unfold, I found myself sitting next to and becoming acquainted with one of Harlan’s close friends, author Norman Spinrad. It was an unforgettable experience.

In 1994 I was in the midst of my first go round working at my dream job as an employee of Joseph Beth Booksellers, one of the best independent retail book outlets in the country. When Harlan’s illustrated version of his 1978 screenplay for Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot was published later that year, I immediately chose it as my staff pick. To further promote the book, I called Harlan and set a time for him to call the store for a phone conference book club. Twenty-five people showed up as Harlan patiently explained his lifelong friendship with Asimov, the genesis of the project and detailed why the script would probably never be put into production.

(Note: The abominable 2004 version starring Will Smith, directed by Alex Proyas and mostly written by Akiva Goldsman over the vigorous objections of the original screenwriter, Jeff Vintar, had NOTHING to do with Asimov’s book. The late film critic Roger Ebert wrote, ”The plot is simple minded and disappointing, and the chase and action scenes are pretty much routine for movies in the sci fi CGI genre.” Ebert was also an ardent sf fan, had read I, Robot  and it’s more than likely he knew about Harlan superior screenplay. I tried watching it once on cable and turned it off after ten minutes. One day, I would like to ask Smith, who took an executive producer’s credit, whether or not he read or knew about Harlan’s script with the same name…)

A few days after the event, I got a call from Harlan thanking me again for the opportunity to talk some intelligent fans of his work. He also wanted to ask a favor; could he order a book on dinosaurs that had just been published? Not only did I order it, I gave him a 20% discount and free shipping to boot. Because that’s what friends do for each other.

Friends also help friends get nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.  In 2004, I did just that.

I have held a longstanding grudge against the Swedish Academy’s Literature Committee, for not only snubbing American writers like the late Philip Roth and the very much alive Joyce Carol Oates, but brilliant fantasy and sf writers like Jack Vance, Guy Gavriel Kay, Margaret Atwood, Samuel R. Delany, Ursula K. Le Guin and…Harlan Ellison.

I was going to send each of the fifteen sitting member of the Literature Committee a copy of the thirty-five year retrospective of The Essential Ellison to get their attention but it proved to be very cost prohibitive and also out of bounds, rules wise.

The rules as it turned out, were very simple:

Qualified Nominators

The right to submit proposals for the award of a Nobel Prize in Literature shall, by statute, be enjoyed by:

1. Members of the Swedish Academy and of other academies, institutions and societies which are similar to it in construction and purpose;
2. Professors of literature and of linguistics at universities and university colleges;
3. Previous Nobel Laureates in Literature;
4. Presidents of those societies of authors that are representative of the literary production in their respective countries.

Harlan was not out of the loop; I called him very early in the process and when I told him what I was up to, there was an incredulous cry of “WHHAAAAAAT!” on the other end of the phone. But once he calmed down, he was very much on board to make it happen.

Somewhere in my National Archive-sized rental storage unit, I have a copy of a letter from a professor (whose name, alas, I cannot remember at this moment) who taught at Northern Kentucky University and was a huge fan of Harlan’s. I found him by querying around local writer’s groups and schools for a volunteer to contact the Swedish Academy.

He readily agreed to write an official letter and simultaneously email the Swedish Academy with the nomination. When that was done, I would send out an officially approved press release announcing the nomination to all of the major newspapers

Well, the morning the professor sent word that the email had been sent, I first alerted the gang with a detailed post at Unca’ Harlan’s Art Deco Dining Pavilion with the good news. For a good long while, this website was the only place to contact him or his legions of friends and acquaintances online. I was within minutes of sending out the press release when I received several emails begging me NOT to.

Puzzled, I asked why and several correspondents explained that the Academy frowns upon public displays or announcements about nominations. So sending out that email would have practically ended any consideration of Harlan’s work for a Nobel Prize.

With a heavy heart I called Harlan later in the morning with the news. “I know kiddo, I know,” he said with some sadness in his voice. “But,” I said, “you still have the nomination. You just can’t talk about it.”

He gave a chuckle and thanked me profusely for my efforts. I’d like to imagine that at the very least he called up Robert Silverberg exclaiming, “Hey, GUESS WHAT I HAVE that you don’t?”

I celebrated my 50th birthday at two years later at L.A.con IV, the 64th World Science Fiction Convention. It was memorable in many, many ways. For good and for naught, as it turned out.

I met up with Harlan and Susan in the Green Room just before his first panel of the day. I came in part to present him with a signed and framed copy of the professor’s Nobel Prize nomination. Susan accidentally spilled some coffee on me and Harlan was mortified even though there wasn’t too much damage done to my pants or leg. As he graciously signed a few books I brought with me, actor Robert Picardo came by to see them. I stepped aside, said farewell and went about my assigned duties in the Press Office.

I met UK author Paul Cornell and gave him an embarrassingly long hug for writing this Hugo nominated Doctor Who episode, “Father’s Day”. The dealer’s room and art show were enormous. There was a marvelous dinner at a Bucca di Beppo’s , a franchise I had never heard up until then of and seemed to me to be solely dedicated to killing off its customer base several thousand calories at time.

At the Business Meeting, Tor editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden and I shook hands as the members voted to split the Best Editor award in two; a Long Form category for the editor of at least four novel-length works and a Short Form category for the editor of at least four anthologies, collections or issues of magazines. (This turned out well for Patrick; he won the first Long Form award a year later at Nippon 2007 and received a wondrous award that featured the traditional Hugo rocket, Mt. Fuji and Ultraman!)

Then there was the Hugo Awards Ceremony on Saturday night. As a staff member of the Press Office, my primary job that evening was wrangle the group 30 or so journalists covering the event. I had them seated in several rows in an area just to the left of the stage. No more than forty feet away from the elevated stage.

I remember that the ceremony was going very well. Connie Willis was the Mistress of Ceremonies. When it was time for the Best Short Story to be awarded, Harlan came ambling on stage to present it.. Mind you, his appearance was not much of a surprise because the short story was his favorite medium to work in and the award has near and dear to his heart.

What happened next…

When I watched a You Tube video of the incident for this tribute was painful and took a great deal of effort because having seen it live and in person once was quite enough for me. It felt surreal. Harlan comes out. They start a humorous exchange and then Harlan puts the head of the microphone, foam and all INTO HIS MOUTH and goes into a weird “babyman” shtick, babbling and well, then, see for yourself:

As I was sitting there, I my mouth gaped open and I said to myself, did I just see what I just saw? There were some audible gasps from around me but, as you can see, it happened so quickly and as you saw Connie Willis left the stage without further incident and Harlan went on to present the award.

Needless to say, things got crazy. Harlan was roundly pilloried and condemned. Everyone had an opinion. A day after the convention closed, I had not read nor heard anything from either party about the “incident”.  Then, on the following Tuesday, the following query was posted on the Unca Harlan’s Art Deco Dining Pavilion:

Anne Batik, Aberdeen, UK – Tuesday, August 29 2006 7:43:46
WorldCon awards ceremony
For the record: I’ve met Mr. Ellison, had a conversation with him, and liked him. I found him intensely funny. I respect his work –a lot– the man is a great writer.

But grabbing Connie Willis’s breast is NOT ok, and people being upset over it is perfectly legit, not just “a bunch of fen in a snit.” Grabbing any woman’s breast, uninvited, much less a professional author of equal stature, in public, just because he wanted to I guess — is **NOT OK**. He really ought to issue Ms. Willis an apology. Period. He has no excuse. That is not how you treat women and not how you treat a colleague.

The man I met ten years ago had more class than that, even though he enjoyed being abrasive. What the heck happened?

Harlan responded a few hours later:

  • – Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:19:50
    REPLY TO LYNNE BATIK:

Would you believe that, having left the Hugo ceremonies immediately after my part in it, while it was still in progress … and having left the hall entirely … yet having been around later that night for Kieth Kato’s traditional chili party … and having taken off next morning for return home … and not having the internet facility to open “journalfen” (or whatever it is), I was unaware of any problem proceeding from my intendedly-childlike grabbing of Connie Willis’s left breast, as she was exhorting me to behave.

Nonetheless, despite my only becoming aware of this brouhaha right this moment (12 noon LA time, Tuesday the 29th), three days after the digital spasm that seems to be in uproar …YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!!

iT IS UNCONSCIONABLE FOR A MAN TO GRAB A WOMAN’S BREAST WITHOUT HER EXPLICIT PERMISSION. To do otherwise is to go ‘way over the line in terms of invasion of someone’s personal space. It is crude behavior at best, and actionable behavior at worst. When George W> Bush massaged the back of the neck of that female foreign dignitary, we were all justly appalled. For me to grab Connie’s breast is in excusable, indefensible, gauche, and properly offensive to any observers or those who heard of it later.

I agree wholeheartedly.

I’ve called Connie. Haven’t heard back from her yet. Maybe I never will.

So. What now, folks? It’s not as if I haven’t been a politically incorrect creature in the past. But apparently, Lynne, my 72 years of indefensible, gauche (yet for the most part classy), horrifying, jaw-dropping, sophomoric, sometimes imbecile behavior hasn’t–till now–reached your level of outrage.

I’m glad, at last, to have transcended your expectations. I stand naked and defenseless before your absolutely correct chiding.

With genuine thanks for the post, and celestial affection, I remain, puckishly,

Yr. pal, Harlan

P.S. You have my permission to repost this reply anywhere you choose, on journalfen, at SFWA, on every blog in the universe, and even as graffiti on the Great Wall of China.

  • Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:26:56

CONNIE WILLIS’S LEFT BREAST, REDUX

Did I fail to mention, I am 100% guilty as charged, and NO ONE should attempt to cobble up mitigating excuses for my behavior? As with everything else I REALLY DO (as opposed to the bullshit that is gossiped third-hand by dolts), I am responsible for my actions 100% and am prepared to shoulder all consequences, instead of shunting them off to Vice-President ScaryGuy.

Adultly said, Yr. pal, Harlan

HARLAN ELLISON
– Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:28:31
REDUX, REDUX’D

This may be what killed vaudeville.

he

  • HARLAN ELLISON
    – Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:31:1
    REDUX TERTIUS

How’s chances of me playing either the “I’m an old man and my brain is leaking out of my ass” card … or … even better …

“I’m an old Jew and this is just another example of anti-Semitism because all you goyim are pissed that Jews really DO control the whole world.”

I can go either way.

Yr. pal, Harlan

  • HARLAN ELLISON
    – Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:43:2
    ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH

On a more serious note: if, in fact, Connie (or Courtney, or Cordelia) were/are/might in any way be offended by this latest demonstration of give’n’take jackanapery between Connie and Harlan (now in its longest-run on Broadway), you may all rest assured I will apologize vehemently, will crawl to Colorado through broken glass and steaming embers, and beg her (their) forgiveness. I need no one to prompt me.

Harlan Ellison, a friend of Connie Willis

Connie Willis has never (to my knowledge) ever publicly made a statement about what happened.

You have seen the video. You have read Harlan Ellison’s apology. So much has been said, written and pontificated upon that my opinion won’t mean much of anything in the critical maelstrom that has followed in the wake of Harlan’s passing. I’ve given my testimony. I believe that it just an accident. You can form your own opinions. Harlan would.

A little more than a year later, it was my turn to take a little tour of hell.

My marriage was on the rocks; my then wife moved from Middletown, Ohio where we were living, to Dayton twenty miles away to pursue a degree in medieval history full time. Without her income, I just could not make ends meet on the part-time salary working at the local Sears outlet. Over the preceding year, I started selling my extensive book collection on eBay. As the months went by the bills began accumulate and I sold nearly everything, including all of my signed Ellison editions.

In desperation, I began calling friends in and out of fandom to beg for assistance. When I reached the end of that list, I thought very hard about calling Harlan and Susan for help. I knew they had a done a bit of a philanthropic assistance to others but on the other hand, I hated to impose on them.

One evening, I took a deep breath and I called. Harlan answered.  “Hey, howzit going,” he asked enthusiastically.

For the next few minutes, I then laid out my tale woe. When I finished there was a few moments of silence then, he asked, “How much do you need?” I am embarrassed to say I asked for five thousand dollars.

“Oh, I’m sorry, that’s not gonna happen. I can’t help you that far, buddy, I just can’t.” I was crestfallen. He then said, “I will help you as far as I’m able to right now. Will a couple of hundred tide you over?” I pushed down my disappointment and said yes indeed, I would be incredibly grateful for anything right now. Harlan also said, “ I’m going to do you a favor, too; I’m not gonna come after you for a payback, it’s just an open loan. Just pay me back when you can.”

A few days later, a personal check for two hundred dollars arrived in the mail. That money did not solve my problems. But here’s what it did do; it put food on my table, gas and oil in the dilapidated wreck I was driving and most importantly hope that I could extract myself from the quagmire I was floundering in.

By the end of 2007, I successfully declared bankruptcy, saved some money and with the help of my daughter Laura and some friends I had made in Middletown, moved back to Cincinnati and into a large, cheap apartment carved out of a nineteenth-century tenement house that was located, ironically enough, in the neighborhood I grew up in as a child.

I survived on a grueling series of temp jobs (including a three-month stint at a Amazon.com warehouse which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy) and extended unemployment benefits from the kindly state of Ohio for four long years until I finally landed back at my old dream job Joseph Beth in the fall of 2011.

During that period I also found Juli, my partner and true love. I persuaded her to move up from her warm and comfortable home in South Carolina to brave somewhat intemperate climate of southwestern Ohio, with only the promise of my undying love for her.

Flash forward to 2015. Juli and I live comfortably in an integrated community on the outskirts of the city. She is working in a very sales lucrative position for Verizon and I am holding the position of periodicals manager in the best bookstore in Cincinnati. My work at the store was recognized by CityBeat, the weekly alternative newspaper and Cincinnati magazine as being the Best Magazine/Newspaper outlet in the tri-state area for past three years.

During those years, Harlan and Susan were always on my mind. There had been a heart attack back in the 90’s and a bout of clinical depression in 2011. Then there was Harlan’s stroke two years later. From most of the reports I had heard, Harlan was still his cantankerous, biting self, still writing and editing works, just a little less so than usual.

So, one summer’s day, I went to my credit union and withdrew two sequentially numbered one hundred dollar bills. I went to the book store and chose a small thank you card with a quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which I thought they might find pithy and wise:

Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.

I signed the card with my best wishes, placed the two crisp bills and mailed it. I never heard back from them and frankly, no response was needed. Because sometimes you pay forward and sometimes you pay it back, gladly.

Over the decades that I have known Harlan Ellison, he has done hundreds, maybe thousands of small favors like mine. His stories, novels, teleplays, essays and deeds have inspired millions of people around the world. I am privileged to be one of them.

The afternoon after Harlan died, I received a call from my neighbor Lillian, who asked me to come by and put up the two matching blinds in her bedroom. It took about fifteen minutes. I also loaded the two good blinds in the car so they could be donated to Goodwill. She clapped her hands in delight when I finished, which is all the reward I would ever want from her.

I did not share my grief over Harlan’s passing with her; I had heard about her own stories of grief, tragedy and death from her in-laws and grandchildren. So I chose not burden her with mine.

Lillian is a subscriber to the New York Times, something else that endears her Juli and I. But there is no railing beside the two steps leading up to her front door. So, soon after we moved in next to her, we took it upon ourselves to make sure the paper was on the top step, leaning against the door. This is not only a courtesy, it also tells us on a daily basis that she is still with us. This was yet another lesson Harlan taught me, try never trouble the people you love unnecessarily, offer them comfort and familiarity instead.

Were Harlan and I ever truly friends? We never spoke of it over the years that we knew each other it but I’d like to think to think so. He was certainly there when I needed him and him for me. Even more so now that all we have left are our memories and his work.

Over breakfast this past week, my partner and true love Juli said it best; “He was a man of great knowledge and talent. To some he was a god, to others he was the devil incarnate. So, I guess, in the end, he was a just a man.”

To me, he was quite a man, whom I knew ever so briefly but who will always matter to me.

Goodbye, Harlan.

“My mantra is this: I am engaged in the noblest, most honorable profession that the human mind has ever conceived. I am a storyteller. That’s what I am. I tell stories. I am a writer. Not a famous writer, not a literary writer, not a blah-blah-blah writer. I’m a writer. That’s all I ever aspired to be and, at core, is all I am. I am a very content man. I have spent my life doing what I wanted to do.”

Harlan Jay Ellison, 1934-2018

Harlan Ellison Tribute Roundup

Acclaimed speculative fiction writer Harlan Ellison died today at the age of 84. Here is a selection of tributes and reactions posted in social media immediately following the announcement.

Stephen King

Samuel Delany on Facebook

Here’s the guy who started the notable part of my career. At the Tricon, he ran up to me and demand a story: I wrote it at the upcoming Milford–Aye and Gomorrah, which won the following year’s Nebula Award.

Patton Oswalt

Arthur Cover on Facebook

As most of the planet knows, Harlan Ellison passed away in his sleep last night. I am seriously bummed. Little did I know when I bought the first volume of the paperback edition on Dangerous Visions when I was a sophomore at Tech did those two words would have such a profound impact on my life. Harlan was responsible for my first sale, to the mythical Last Dangerous Visions, at a Clarion Workshop.

He became a big brother figure to me, and I stayed at Ellison Wonderland on and off during the many times when I was *ahem* between places in LA. I knew his dog Abu, who used to sneak out of the house to get some Hungarian Goulash from a couple down the street. I knew his maid Yosondua, a wonderful person. And I missed meeting his mother by a couple of weeks. There’s so much to remember about him that I can barely stand it.

I met a whole bunch of interesting people thanks to him. Forget the famous ones like Erica Jong; thanks to him, I met Pam Zoline, author of “The Heat Death of the Universe.” We saw Borges together. Thanks to him, I discovered Mahler and Bruckner. I turned him on to Kalinnikov. We both read comics and he liked to impersonate the Hulk with the voice of Ronald Coleman. (Try it.) He tried to set me up with young women; usually I ignored them, thus driving him stinking bonkers. And that was just the 70s.

Then there’s that Dangerous Visions thing – a whole bunch of autograph parties just for starters. (And let’s not forget the time he streaked A Change of Hobbit.) He was immensely supportive throughout the entire frustrating, rewarding enterprise. True, he had his faults; usually I ignored them too. But the exception of my family and friends from Tazewell, I wouldn’t know any of you today were it not for his generosity and friendship. He was a helluva guy, and I have been proud to be his friend forever.

Barbara Hambly on Facebook

Just got word that my friend Harlan Ellison passed away last night. An amazing man to know. I knew he was very ill – he’d never really recovered from a stroke a couple of years ago. So I feel no surprise. Just very, very sad.

Michael Cassutt on Facebook

A talented writer for sure, a self-made writer for absolutely sure…. I so remember “Repent, Harlequin” and “On the Downhill Side” and THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER… and his columns that became THE GLASS TEAT, which sent me here to LA…. and more, the friendship that developed in the past decade or so, where I would pop up to Ellison Wonderland and have coffee with HE in his kitchen…. telling tales of George O. Smith and who else. I am actually bawling right now…..Harlan was my big brother and while his passing now, given his stroke three years back, is not a surprise…. it’ s still a shock.

Jaym Gates on Facebook

Harlan Ellison has died. My sympathies to those who will miss him. His voice was powerful, sometimes for good.

As a woman, I am not sad that there will be one less person who thinks it is funny to grope a woman on stage, and who was often used as a smoke screen for bad behavior by creative men.

Wil Wheaton on Twitter

Rest in Peace, Harlan. You always treated me like I was a person whose voice mattered, and I will cherish that memory for the rest of my life.

David Gerrold on Facebook

Harlan didn’t drink. I rarely drink.

Today I will drink.

Today I will toast a man who was a role model, a mentor, a critic, a friend — and ultimately my big brother.

He knew how much I loved him. I told him more than once.

The one thing he said about me that I cherish the most was shortly after I adopted Sean. He said, introducing me to someone else, “David Gerrold is the most courageous man I know.” Actually, it was Sean who needed the courage, but I understood what he was saying. He was acknowledging that I had finally grown up.

Harlan had a great public persona — but it was the private soul I loved the most. And goddammit, I’m going to miss that man.

Charles de Lint on Facebook

I’m very sad to have to write this but Harlan Ellison has passed away. He was a voice of reason, if somewhat contrary, and one of the best short story writers this field, or really any field, has known. He wore his “angry young man” persona lost after he was a young man but behind that bluster was a kind and generous man who would do anything for a friend. He will be greatly missed.

Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing

Ellison’s voice was infectious and has a tendency to creep into his fans’ writing. When I was 19, I attended a writing workshop at a local convention taught by Ann Crispin, who told me that I would be pretty good writer once I stopped trying to write like Harlan Ellison (I went on to sell that very Ellisonian story to Pulphouse).

Harlan was one of my Clarion instructors in 1992. He taught us remotely, by speakerphone, from his hospital bed in LA where he was recovering from angioplasty. I had attended that year because I couldn’t miss the opportunity to learn from Harlan Ellison, whom I held in highest regard (“hero worship” is not too strong a phrase to use here).

Ellison was not a good teacher (that year, at least). In fact, I think it’s safe to say that his instructional methods, which involved a combination of performative bullying and favorite-playing, were viewed as a disaster by all of my classmates, at least in hindsight.

Confronting the very real foibles of the object of my hero-worship was the beginning of a very important, long-running lesson whose curriculum I’m still working through: the ability to separate artists from art and the ability to understand the sins of people who’ve done wonderful things.

John Scalzi in the Los Angeles Times

…My second Harlan Ellison story was from 2011, the last time he was a finalist for the Nebula Award, given out by SFWA. Traditionally, SFWA contacts the Nebula finalists by phone to see if they’ll accept being on the ballot, and knowing of Harlan’s sometimes irascible phone manners, I was the one to call.

Harlan was not irascible. He wept into the phone. He had been ill, he said, and he wondered if what he was writing now still resonated and still mattered to people. To have his professional peers nominate him for one of the field’s most significant awards, he said, meant everything to him.

In that moment he wasn’t a giant of the field, a figure equally loved and loathed, a man about whom everyone had a story, or an opinion, about. He was simply a writer, happy to be in the company of, and remembered by, other writers.

Jeff VanderMeer on Facebook

He was a monumental personality who was influential in his day and to some extent today. He dove into the style and issues of his times with vigor, which sometimes makes his work feel dated but also resulted in classics that feel timeless. As an anthologist, he pushed boundaries in ways that, like his fiction, risked looking silly or actively terrible to modern audiences, but because of that also published a ton of innovative material and furthered the careers of writers who were quite experimental.

In erratic and sporadic fashion Ellison tended to be immensely helpful to some beginning writers and actively not helpful to others for no particular reason. Sometimes, I think, because he was too caught up in his mythology. Sometimes because he had a chip on his shoulder and was mercurial. I have mixed feelings about him for that reason, not to mention others, but there’s no denying he was a protean creative talent. I did learn to take risks in my writing from him, while also learning who I did not want to be as a teacher.

Richard Pini on Facebook

There are no words. He used them all anyway, and far better than most.

Robert Crais on Facebook

We lost Harlan Ellison today. The dedication to THE FIRST RULE reads as follows: “For my friend, Harlan Ellison, whose work, more than any other, brought me to this place.”. He cannot be replaced. He was a giant. He mattered.

David Brin on Facebook

Harlan was wickedly witty, profanely-provocative, yet generous to a fault. His penchant for skewering all authority would have got him strangled in any other human civilization, yet in this one he lived – honored – to 84… decades longer than he swore he would, much to our benefit with startling, rambunctious stories that will echo for ages.

John Hertz

I can’t remember who first remarked that “H.E.” stood equally for Harlan Ellison and High Explosive.

It also stands for His Excellency. Our H.E. being a whole-souled egalitarian would never have stood for that. But if one can break from the bonds of aristocratic associations – which in principle he was always for – it’s true.

I’m glad, not I hope without humility, that what pushed down the Montaigne piece was your notice of Brother Ellison’s death. Although Montaigne and the nature of zeal were two topics I never discussed with him, he might – and he did this sometimes – have approved.

David Doering

I feel a strong sense of loss with his passing. While he and I shared few opinions in common, I always appreciated his ability to stir up discussion.

To be clear, I did not have much personal interaction with Harlan over the years. The first tho was at a Worldcon in the 80s when he asked a large audience who had read a particular book he appreciated. Turned out that only he and I had done so. We chatted for a minute sharing comments, and, as a first encounter, I found him pleasant despite his reputation.

The other time was when Ray Bradbury suggested I call “his friend Harlan” about serving as a guest to LTUE. I can just imagine what must have gone through Harlan’s mind when he got a call from Utah, and from very Mormon BYU at that, asking about being a guest. (Had it happened, it would certainly have stirred things up here!) He was polite, straightforward, and nothing like his public “persona”. I came away appreciating him much more.

The last time was at a LASFS meeting at the old “Hooverville” building. He looked tired, but came to be with fen and seemed to have a good time. I’ll keep that image in my mind as I remember him.

Deadline.com“Harlan Ellison Dead: Legendary ‘Star Trek’, ‘A Boy And His Dog’ Sci-Fi Writer was 84”

Along with the Star Trek episode, Ellison’s 1964 Outer Limits installment “Demon with a Glass Hand” is widely considered among the best of its series. The bizarre, uncanny episode starred Robert Culp as a man who wakes with no memory but an apparently all-knowing glass hand. For years, rumors persisted that “Demon” inspired Terminator, though Ellison was quoted to have said, “Terminator was not stolen from ‘Demon with a Glass Hand,’ it was a ripoff of my OTHER Outer Limits script, ‘Soldier.’” According to a 1991 Los Angeles Times article, Ellison once again sued and settled.

ComicBook.comSci-Fi Writer Harlan Ellison Dies At 84

…Ellison also crafted a script for the Batman ’66 television series that would’ve introduced Two-Face into the show’s canon, but it was never shot. The story recently was turned into a comic titled Batman ’66: The Lost Episode, which officially brings the character into the series.

Variety Harlan Ellison Dead: Sci-Fi Writer Was 84

…When he dealt with Hollywood, he fearlessly said exactly what he thought again and again — often causing fallout as a result. In the wake of the 1977 release of “Star Wars,” a Warner Bros. executive asked Ellison to adapt Isaac Asimov’s short story collection “I, Robot” for the bigscreen.

Ellison penned a script and met with studio chief Robert Shapiro to discuss it; when the author concluded that the executive was commenting on his work without having read it, Ellison claimed to have said to Shapiro that he had “the intellectual capacity of an artichoke.” Needless to say, Ellison was dropped from the project. Ellison’s work was ultimately published with permission of the studio, but the 2004 Will Smith film “I, Robot” was not based on the material Ellison wrote.

Perhaps Ellison’s most famous story not adapted for the screen was 1965’s “Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman,” which celebrates civil disobedience against a repressive establishment. “Repent” is one of the most reprinted stories ever.

Shawn Crosby

[Editor’s note: The evil done to Harlan Ellison’s television scripts by cigar-chomping producers has long been part of his legend. In some of the worst cases he refused to have his name appear in the credits, and they aired with his pseudonym Cordwainer Bird shouldering the blame.]

Harlan’s death is accompanied by the passing of Cordwainer Bird, his writing partner of many years, described as “a short, choleric, self-possessed writer of mystery stories and science-fiction for television”, who “has no compunction about punching directors and producers two foot taller than himself right in the mouth.” Bird’s parents were Jason Bird and Rhonda Rassendyll, and he is nephew to The Shadow and a descendent of Leopold Bloom. As a member of the Wold Newton Family himself, Bird’s illustrious heritage has made him something of a fighter for justice in his own right.

Godspeed, gentlemen…

Mark Barsotti

A great voice silenced.

Until you pick up one of his books…

 

Harlan Ellison (1934-2018)

SFWA Grandmaster and member of the SF Hall of Fame Harlan Ellison died June 28.

A full reminiscence post will follow.

Harlan Ellison at the ABA convention; Larry and Marilyn Niven behind him: Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

[Thanks to ULTRAGOTHA, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for the story.]