Ellison’s No-Holds-Barred Writing Advice

The 'SF' designation is visible on the lower right corner.

The ‘SF’ designation is visible on the lower right corner.

How unhappy was Harlan Ellison that a 1982 reissue of his rock ‘n’ roll novel Spider Kiss had been labeled SF? Unhappy enough that went into the office and slam-dunked the CEO of publisher Grosset & Dunlap – a story he retells with advantages in the May 6 LA Times:  

“I put him in a hold that I had learned from Bruce Lee. I took him to his knees. Then I duck-walked him back to his door,” on his knees all the way, Ellison recounts. The typing pool, all women then, stopped work and watched the show, he says, “with enormous pleasure.”

When they got back to the man’s office, the publisher on his knees, Ellison says he banged the man’s head into the door until he opened it. They went inside — the publisher, Ellison and Ellison’s editor, a woman he remembers fondly, who soon was huddling on a couch.

“I picked up a chair and threw it,” Ellison says. Rather than shattering the windows, “it bounced around the room.” The publisher had scrambled behind his desk and was dialing the phone.

“I jumped onto the desk and ripped the phone out of the wall,” Ellison says. Back in 1982, that’s how phones worked — they had cords, attached to walls. “He tried to crawl through the desk’s kneehole. I grabbed him by the collar and threw him across the room.”

Who needs SFWA when you have Bruce Lee’s moves?

Video excerpt from Dreams With Sharp Teeth.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

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6 thoughts on “Ellison’s No-Holds-Barred Writing Advice

  1. I don’t believe this for one moment. Not even Harlan Ellison is worth so much to a publisher that he wouldn’t used the secretary’s phone to have the cops down on Ellison before he got out the front door! Just think of the concessions that could be wrenched from him in exchange for not pressing charges … A ten year contract. Smaller advance and lower royalties. No colour photo of the guy leering at his readers from the back cover. Or you could jut prosecute for the bloody-minded satisfaction of it.

  2. Ellison has always written how mankind is vile and cruel and stupid and he brags about crap like this. Every now and then I realize he speaks in the heat of the moment and his views are contrary to what he has done to others. And sometimes I just don’t believe his stories. I even question the dead gopher story.

  3. Yes, Harlan. You bested him with your awesome ninja skills you learned from watching cheesy martial arts movies while all the pretty girls cheered. Yet you are so modest you waited 30 years to tell this story.

    The man is literally 13 in an 80 year old man’s body, and you’d have to be 13 to buy his schtick. Fortunately the man appears to mostly fufil his unpleasant needs by writing /about/ sociopathic adolescents, sometimes inserting himself into his fantasies.

    Like Taral Wayne said, Ellison wouldn’t get away with that without a string of charges, even in 1982. Plus had it gone down like he said, it would get back to Locus and every other fanzine on the planet the next day, and it didn’t.

    It is just possible he did pull the phone cord out of the wall, though. Sounds like him. The free speech advocate is even capable of sucker-punching people who’ve wounded his ego (Charles Platt after the Nebulas in 1984 — everyone agrees that happened) but I doubt anyone more powerful than him or who signs his paychecks.

  4. Would Ellison’s behavior also be appropriate for writers to respond to an editor who takes their stories for an anthology, then breaks promises to actually publish them for 40 years? Again, truly a dangerous vision……

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