Ellison Bio “A Lit Fuse” Available for Pre-Order


The NESFA Press will release a limited edition of A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, An Exploration by Nat Segaloff in late Fall 2016, followed by a general hardcover edition in early Spring 2017.

Written over the course of five years, consisting of exhaustive and exclusive interviews with Ellison, his colleagues, his family, his friends, and his enemies, A Lit Fuse will be published in a 500-copy limited special edition this fall (2016). The limited edition is now available for pre-order at $75 from NESFA Press. A general hardcover edition is expected by early Spring, 2017. The slipcased special limited edition will include features not available in the general edition.

A Lit Fuse is authorized, but that doesn’t mean it’s a hagiography,” says Segaloff. Of course Ellison wouldn’t want a hagiography. If you clean up and smooth over all the controversy, the face-to-face throwdowns, the litigation, all the let-me-show-you-who’s-in-charge-here moments in his career, while you’d still have a lot of really fine stories to talk about, Harlan Ellison the human being would have disappeared in the process.

Those interviewed for the bio include Neil Gaiman, Patton Oswalt, Peter David, David Gerrold, Robert Sawyer, Michael Scott, Edward Asner, Leonard Nimoy, Ed Bryant, Alan Brennert, J. Michael Straczynski, Robert Silverberg, Paul Krassner, and Walter Koenig. Segaloff also conducted the Emmy Legends interview with Harlan Ellison for the Archive of American Television.

The press release, following the no-hagiogrphy theme, says, “Of particular note are an analysis of the Connie Willis controversy, the infamous dead gopher story, allegedly pushing a fan down an elevator shaft, and the final word on The Last Dangerous Visions.” But mentioning the Connie Willis episode leads me to say, if it’s going to be anything but a faithful recitation of Ellison’s version of events I’ll believe it when I see it. As for Last Dangerous Visions, what else can the last word be than, “Nevermore”?

If I am not an uncritical Ellison fan, I have certainly enjoyed the decades of drama and entertainment he has delivered. Therefore, the kind of bio I want to read about him isn’t going to be a relentless ideological ripping, or a literary deconstruction. Judging from Nat Segaloff’s resume, he seems likely to strike the balance where I want it. He’s written bios of entertainment industry figures like Arthur Penn, William Friedkin, and Stirling Silliphant, and produced documentaries on Stan Lee, John Belushi, Larry King, and Shari Lewis & Lamb Chop.

Tracing the fractious Ellison’s life and career – and including, for the first time with permission, excerpts from his work –  the biography explores his fears, his demons, and his doubts as well as his principles, his hopes, and his triumphs. “It is, without question, the most vulnerable and intimate he has ever allowed himself to appear in print,” Segaloff says. “This is a portrait of the man and his intensely personal creative process, not the usual list of lawsuits, melees, or tantrums, although they’re in here, too.”

By the way, it’s the NESFA Press that calls this a biography. In Michael A. Ventrella’s interview with author Nat Segaloff, Segaloff coyly emphasized that his title does not include the word biography.

VENTRELLA: Tell us about the Harlan Ellison book!

SEGALOFF: It was after he read my Arthur Penn book that Harlan (whom I had known since I directed my Stan Lee documentary) asked me if I would be interested in writing his. He barely finished the question when I said Yes. It’s due out later this year from NESFA Press – the New England Science Fiction Association – and will be a very different book than people are expecting. Everyone who knows Harlan Ellison knows that he is combative, precise, relentless, and brilliant. My book probes the roots of those traits and led both of us into highly personal areas that reveal him as few have ever seen. We’re calling it A LIT FUSE: THE PROVOCATIVE LIFE OF HARLAN ELLISON, AN EXPLORATION BY NAT SEGALOFF. Note that it doesn’t have the word biography in the title. I don’t know what kind of book it is. Yes I do. It’s Harlan.


Table of Contents

  • Foreword
  • Preface and Acknowledgments
  • Prologue
  • Chapter 1: Morning in the Sunken Cathedral
  • Chapter 2: First Contact
  • Chapter 3: Harlan in Wonderland
  • Chapter 4: Marriage Ain’t Nothin’ But Love Misspelled
  • Chapter 5: Science Friction
  • Chapter 6: Teats for Two
  • Chapter 7: All the Lies That Are His Life
  • Chapter 8: The Cordwainer Chronicles
  • Chapter 9: Aye, Robot
  • Chapter 10: The Snit on the Edge of Forever
  • Chapter 11: The Voice in the Wilderness
  • Chapter 12: The Collector
  • Chapter 13: Repent, Harlan!
  • Chapter 14: The Rabbit Whole
  • Chapter 15: The Lost Dangerous Visions
  • Chapter 16: The Flight of the Deathbird
  • Epilogue
  • Afterword
  • Appendix A: Harlan Ellison on Writing: A Conversation
  • Appendix B: Unrealized Projects (Unproduced Teleplays, Screenplays, and Treatments)
  • Appendix C: Awards
  • Appendix C: Interiews
  • Selected Bibliography
  • Index


16 thoughts on “Ellison Bio “A Lit Fuse” Available for Pre-Order

  1. I wonder if the “many other notables” referred to in the NESFA press release include any women.

  2. I wonder if the book gives any credit to the true source of Ellison’s success, that idea service in Schenectady.

  3. MrDalliard — Thanks to you it’s not anymore. Appertain yourself the beverage of your choice!

  4. I’m trying to decide if the title of Chapter 15 is a typo. If it is, it’s a damned fortuitous one.

  5. I’m sure that I’ll want to read this. It will be interesting to see whether other peoples’ perceptions of events will be presented alongside Ellison’s perceptions of them.

  6. I’m also sure I want to read this. I’ve always been a fan of Ellison, particularly his essays. In his disembodied writerly voice, I find him interesting, difficult, and unique and often charming.

    I just need to figure out whether I want to wait until 2017.

  7. I’ll probably read it without buying it, depending on what I hear from other fen.

    But ain’t no way he’s going to get away with whitewashing the public assault on Connie. He’d charmed the hell out of Worldcon the day before with the gopher story (which is damn funny!), plus other anecdotes and then THAT. You could have stored dry ice in the auditorium for a minute there.

    I wonder, like Vicki, if any prominent women were interviewed, and if so, why aren’t they named in the press release?

  8. Well, no one interviewed me. If the book has stuff about a vast conspiracy involving me, Chris Priest, Gary Groth, etc. against poor innocent waif Harlan Ellison®, I will be really unhappy.

  9. Having read 312 pages of the currently 495 pages, I have found it fascinating so far. With the book coming out in a limited edition in 2016, assuming it can be nominated, it is on my short list of must nominate for non-fiction Hugo. And, yes, I am deliberately not commenting on specific content.

  10. Rick Katze: With the book coming out in a limited edition in 2016, assuming it can be nominated, it is on my short list of must nominate for non-fiction Hugo.

    Unfortunately, since most people won’t get to read it before March 2017, I would say that its Hugo chances are slim and none. It’s a shame — but I guess they weren’t thinking about that when they set the publishing schedules.

  11. I want to thank everyone who commented on this thread. I know that the book will please some and piss off others, but, as Super Chicken says, “Fred, you knew the job was dangerous when you took it.” I spoke to many people, were turned down by many others, and never got a response from still others. In the end I chose to include people who could drive forward the narrative of Harlan’s life. There is already a wealth of intelligent writing from the sf community, both fan and professional, about Ellison that I didn’t need to duplicate it. In the end, I just don’t want to bore.

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