The Harlan Ellison Links Keep on Coming

The WSJ Speakeasy asks “Would You Pay $40,000 For An Antique Typewriter?”

What if it was the one Harlan Ellison used to write his 1957 short story “Soldier From Tomorrow,” later made into an episode of The Outer Limits?

Speakeasy interviewed Ellison about the sale and his future in an interview that included this exchange:

Cormac McCarthy recently sold his typewriter, a typewriter Jack Kerouac used sold: you are a person who’s had his hand in a lot of popular culture in the last 50 years. Are you vying into that trend as well or is your decision completely independent of that?

No it’s all tied up in the fact that I’m 76 and I’m very ill and like a sage old dog I can smell when certain signs are there. We are trapped in a medical eddy, this mad meat house of medicine where we cannot get the help we need. I’m not a bag lady, I live in a particularly good house that I’ve been living in since 1966, but we don’t have anywhere near the chance of getting Marcus Welby to fix my problems. As a consequence we have to get some money and as time goes by you get more and more famous and less and less wealthy. I literally have to start eating my past and turning into the actually dollar all of the artifacts that have made me who I am. I am eating my past.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

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11 thoughts on “The Harlan Ellison Links Keep on Coming

  1. Thanks for that one, but I think the takeaway quote is this one:

    A friend said “oh gee, you should sell it, they sold Cormac McCarthy’s typewriter.” And I said, “yeah, Cormac McCarthy who ripped off my story “A Boy and His Dog” to do “The Road.”

    and all along I thought McCarthy had been ripping off Miller. I’ve now been corrected by HE who must be obeyed (or at least listened too, otherwise he just keeps right on going until you do listen, so it’s easier just to listen in the first place) and, in briefly thinking about it, I believe HE is right: instead of eating Quilla June, the boy gets eaten by his new ‘family’, euphemistically foreshadowed by that lonely plant at the end.

    Dad and boy even went underground for a while, into a much nicer environment (that they left because it just wasn’t right).

    I guess McCarthy’s publishers figured that adding a telepathic dog into the mix was just too sci fi ee for their nice, clean, respectable, underground-dwelling mundane audience….

    I’m gonna have to re-read both side by side and get back to you

  2. @Steve: Great analysis, and it raises an interesting question. You know, every other time that Harlan believed somebody ripped off one of his stories he’s taken legal action. I haven’t heard anything of that kind happening between HE and Cormac McCarthy. Did I miss that piece of news, or is Harlan not really serious about his complaint, or did the moviemakers take the precaution of buying the rights to HE’s story?

  3. David,

    because it’s much more fun to write and guess whatever we want than it is to find out the reality!

    The questions some people ask, I tell ya….

  4. When somebody asked Harlan in the forum at he replied:

    This is something being — as usual — blown out of all shape or context by people with too much electricity at their command, and too little history to back it up with a smile and common sense. To these frog-croaks, EVERYthing is a cataclysm, not just a casual throwaway line. I said it, in context, and I thought it was fair and true and IN CONTEXT — noting the way the interviewer was trying to lead me — it was mildly impish and funny and … who the hell cares? …I’ll be waiting for Mr. McCarthy’s polite ‘thank you.’

    And he ordered the questioner not to bring it up again.

  5. My thought on reading your story, Mike, was that anyone who has ever looked at the details of Harlan’s suits might note that he’s never sued anyone that I’m aware of where his grounds weren’t sufficiently clear that he was given a good settlement.

    Note, please, that I’m saying it was my “thought,” not that I’m claiming this is a fact; I’m describing my own subjective reaction, and that’s all.

    Said thoughts including that, for instance, in the Terminator case, James Cameron was stupid enough to give a public interview where he said that he’d taken his idea from Harlan, and he also said it another time in front of witnesses.

    This is extremely well-known, and has been written about a bazillion times, and you can watch YouTube videos about it, and this has been so for more than a decade. Similarly so for all the other lawsuits of Harlan that occur to me off the top of my head, like the AOL one, the Bugfuck case, the Gary Groth, and on and on.

    But I certainly make no claims to be privy to the details of private legal settlements, or the range of Harlan’s lawsuits. I’d be curious, though, if anyone has a cite to a case of him losing a case.

    I think it’s quite obvious that there are no such grounds for suit in re Cormac McCarthy, and that he’s just grousing about the idea overlap.

    I write this because all I read was your story, Mike, and that’s what I thought. Then I read the comments, and see that this point is obviously non-obvious.

    Apologies that I’m not making time to put this in gentler fashion, but I hope it isn’t too much of an unreadable loghorreaic rant for anyone.

    Speaking of which, I’d love to think I’d have a nice time if I went to Corflu, but my impression is that various folks would much prefer I stay away.

    Although, myself, I’ve never had anything but the greatest admiration for, say, Robert Lichtman, never other than loved all his fanzines and writings, and if I’ve ever written anything to suggest otherwise, I wish I knew what it was; same goes for a number of other folks in Corflu fandom, whom clearly I’ve alienated long ago, but whom if anyone would ever bother to tell me how or why, I might possibly be able to say “oh, yeah, that thing I wrote then, ten or twenty years ago was moronic of me; I’m so sorry.”

    Or have a similar response.

    I do understand why Harlan has, for decades, been so cranky with much of old time “fandom,” which has a predilection for treating people as if they were unchanged, decades after decades, which for all I know is true of some folks, but certainly isn’t true of others, and which would be very unhealthy of anyone of whom it was true.

    Writing is fixed in print. People are not.


  6. @Gary: No complaints here — besides, these comments of yours are infinitely more gentle than what I’d hear if I called Harlan and asked.

  7. Mike, I’ve now read Sanford’s story, and he’s certainly entitled to his opinion.

    As my time is presently extremely sort, I’ll restrict myself to simply saying that Sanford is provably wrong, doesn’t know what he’s talking about as regards the actual issues and evidence in the case of the Terminator case, but you or anyone will simply have to either look into it yourself, or not, because at the moment, I have no time or sufficient interest to go give the cites that I believe make my statement reasonably demonstrably true.

    So that makes what I say simply my opinion. And that’s what it is.

    All I can say is that while I greatly admire Harlan, and am proud that he’s called me a friend, and this, that, and the other, I would never make the above statement if I didn’t think it were completely true, since Harlan obviously says many things I would never defend. I’m not offering my opinion out of any kneejerk loyalty to the man, but simply because my own knowledge of the facts, which certainly limited, nevertheless makes me confident enough to say that I think Sanford simply is wrong.

    That James Cameron has an opinion is interesting, but nothing more.

    I’ll leave it at the suggestion that anyone who cares and has a few minutes can google up the actual quotes and known facts in the public record, and make up their own mind, and probably that’s what anyone who cares enough should go do.

    Here’s Harlan’s version, for what it’s worth.

    But now I’m falling over of pain, exhaustion, and much more pain, so I’m leaving at that for now.

  8. If you go back to your Sanford link again, you’ll find that some people have pointed to, OMG, actual facts, and just how stupid he was to not, like, google or look at Wikipedia before mouthing off.

    Just a suggestion. 🙂

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