- ELLISON, Harlan (Jay)
- (1934-)US writer, the most controversial and among the finest of those writers associated with sf whose careers began in the 1950s. He was born and raised in Ohio, attending Ohio State University for 18 months before being asked to leave, one of the reasons for his dismissal being rudeness to a creative-writing professor who told him he had no talent. HE had already become deeply involved in Cleveland fandom, producing material for and later taking over the Cleveland SF Society's magazine, Science-Fantasy Bulletin (later Dimensions). In a profile contributed to the FSF Special Harlan Ellison Issue (July 1977), Robert SILVERBERG, his near contemporary, vividly portrayed the young HE as insecure, physically fearless, extraordinarily ambitious and hyperkinetic, dominating any room he entered. Much the same could be said about the short stories which made him famous (initially in sf circles, later outside them) and won him a remarkable number of awards - 7 HUGOS and 3 NEBULAS - for these tales have almost unfailingly reflected and magnified their author's character and concerns.By 1955 HE was in New York, living in the same rooming house as Silverberg and producing numerous stories. His first professional sf appearance came early in 1956 with "Glowworm" for Infinity Science Fiction, and he soon began to publish very prolifically indeed, with well over 150 stories and pieces in a variety of genres by the end of 1958. Much of this initial production is coarse and derivative, mixing strong early influences like Nelson Algren (1909-1981) with models derived from successful magazine writers of the time. In these years, HE used a number of pseudonyms: in fanzines, Nalrah Nosille; for short stories in crime, sex and other genre magazines, Sley Harson (in collaboration with Henry SLESAR), Landon Ellis, Derry Tiger, Price Curtis and Paul Merchant; in sf magazines the house names Lee ARCHER (one story), E.K. JARVIS (one story) and Clyde MITCHELL (one story) and the personal pseudonyms Jay Charby, Wallace Edmondson, Ellis Hart, Jay Solo and, from 1957, Cordwainer Bird, a name which after 1964 he used to designate material that (generally through conflict with tv producers) he partially disclaimed.Not long after reaching New York, HE assumed a false identity and ran as a member of a gang from Red Hook, Brooklyn, called the Barons. This 10-week stint gained him material which he used directly in the first of his infrequent novels, Rumble (1958; vt Web of the City 1975), which early demonstrated, in the vigour and violence of its urban imagery, the ambivalent hold of the city on his imagination. HE is one of the relatively few writers of his generation to deal constantly and impassionedly with the turbulent complexities of the modern US city (an engagement furthered in sf, decades later, by the CYBERPUNK movement). More material drawn from contemporary urban life may be found in The Deadly Streets (coll 1958; exp 1975), The Juvies (coll 1961), Gentleman Junkie and Other Stories of the Hung-up Generation (coll 1961; rev 1975) and Rockabilly (1961; rev vt Spider Kiss 1975), as well as in the autobiographical street-gang study Memos from Purgatory: Two Journeys of Our Times (1961). None of this material is technically sf, but HE has consistently deprecated the making of distinctions between generic and non-generic writing in his own works.After serving in the US Army, HE moved to Chicago in 1959 as editor of Rogue Magazine, where later he was also involved in the creation of Regency Books. By 1962 he was in Los Angeles, where he has remained. During this time, while continuing to write for many markets, he was beginning to establish a maverick reputation within sf, though his first sf books - The Man with Nine Lives (fixup 1960 dos) and A Touch of Infinity (coll 1960 dos) - display an uneasy conformity to the constraints of late-1950s magazine sf. Ellison Wonderland (coll 1962; vt Earthman, Go Home 1964; with new introduction and with "The Forces that Crush" deleted and "Back to the Drawing Boards" added, rev 1974; rev 1984) is likewise uneasy, containing stories whose conventional premises are shaken apart by the violent rhetoric of their telling. HE was still very much feeling his way; of major sf writers, he was among the earliest to find his voice-raw thrusts of emotion rattle even the most "commercial" of his early stories - but among the slowest to find forms and markets through which to project it.After much struggle, by 1963 HE had established himself as a successful tv writer, contributing scripts to such series as Route 66, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and The Untouchables, with considerable work for Burke's Law as well as two scripts for The OUTER LIMITS in 1964 - one of these, "Demon with a Glass Hand" (1964), won the Writers' Guild of America Award for Outstanding Script - two scripts for The MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. in 1966-7, and a STAR TREK episode, "The City on the Edge of Forever" (1967), which won a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1967 and a Writers' Guild of America Award for Most Outstanding Script, Dramatic Episode, of 1967-8. A later foray into tv - his attempt to create a series based on the concept of a GENERATION STARSHIP - was something of a fiasco. The series, The STARLOST, was Canadian-made and lasted only one season, 1973; and so many changes were made to HE's original concept that he disowned the programme, signing the pilot episode Cordwainer Bird. The original script (not the one filmed) received a Writers' Guild of America Award for Best Dramatic Episode Script (HE is the only scenarist to have won the award three times), and was later novelized as Phoenix without Ashes * (1975) with Edward BRYANT. A thinly disguised account of the whole affair formed the plot of a roman a clef by Ben BOVA, The Starcrossed (1975). More recently, HE served as creative consultant for the first season of the revived The TWILIGHT ZONE. In the introduction and ancillary material appended to I, Robot: The Illustrated Screenplay (1987 IASFM; rev 1994) with Isaac ASIMOV, he recounts in considerable detail a later imbroglio with Holywood filmmakers, though the screenplay itself makes clear how difficult it would have been to translate Asimov's archaic concepts - including the exploration of the solar system by mannish though obedient robots - onto the contemporary screen.At around the same time that he began his tv career, HE began publishing the short stories that have made his name. Many of them appear in his books of the late 1960s: Paingod and Other Delusions (coll 1965; with "Sleeping Dogs" added exp 1975) and I Have No Mouth \& I Must Scream (coll 1967; rev 1983), both assembled as The Fantasies of Harlan Ellison (omni 1979); From the Land of Fear (coll 1967); Love Ain't Nothing but Sex Misspelled (coll 1968; with 9 stories removed and an intro, 1 story and 2 articles added 1976), which mixes sf and non-sf, though the 2nd edn retains mainly non-genre material; The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World (coll 1969; with "Along the Scenic Route", "The Place with no Name" and "Shattered Like a Glass Goblin" cut 1976 UK), the US edition being a corrupt text; and Over the Edge: Stories from Somewhere Else (coll 1970). Alone Against Tomorrow: Stories of Alienation in Speculative Fiction (coll 1971; UK edn in 2 vols as All the Sounds of Fear 1973 and The Time of the Eye 1974, the latter containing new intro) represents HE's first attempt (of several) to re-sort his material, and provides a good summary of his best 1960s work. Further attempts at sorting include Approaching Oblivion: Road Signs on the Treadmill toward Tomorrow (coll 1974), which contains a moving autobiographical analysis of the roots of his writing; and the superb Deathbird Stories: A Pantheon of Modern Gods (coll 1975; rev 1984), which reassembles many of his best stories into a kind of cycle about Man's relation to the GODS and horrors within and without him. ("Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes", maybe his most moving tale, is again reprinted here, finding at last a fit context. This story of the quasidelusional rapport between a gambler and a female spirit trapped within a slot machine definitively expresses what might be called an Ellisonian pathos about the sadness and rage of men and women, lovers, victims, users: solitaries all, in a gashed world.) But Deathbird Stories was not a true retrospective, and the confusion caused by the release of many and frequently revised titles, often with overlapping contents, was cleared up only with the publication of THE ESSENTIAL ELLISON: A 35-YEAR RETROSPECTIVE (coll 1987; rev 1991), a huge and gripping overview of his entire career.From the mid-1960s on, HE began to amass a large number of Hugos and Nebulas: both were awarded in 1966 for "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" (1965), later published with James STERANKO as "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman (graph 1978 chap); a 1968 Hugo (Short Story) for "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" (1967), a most scarifying expression of the true dehumanizing consequences of nuclear war; a 1969 Hugo (Short Story) for "The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World" (1968); a 1974 Hugo (Best Novelette) for "The Deathbird" (1973); and a 1969 Nebula (Best Novella) for "A Boy and his Dog" (1969). This last was made into a successful film (A BOY AND HIS DOG), itself awarded a 1976 Hugo, shared by HE, for Best Dramatic Presentation. He also won a 1975 Hugo for Best Novelette for "Adrift Just off the Islets of Langerhans, Latitude 38deg 54' N, Longitude 77deg 00' 13" W", an Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America for "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" (1973), a 1978 Nebula and Hugo for Best Short Story for "Jeffty is Five" and a 1986 Hugo for Best Novelette for "Paladin of the Lost Hour" (1985).It was during these prime years that HE also began editing his famous series of NEW-WAVE sf ANTHOLOGIES with DANGEROUS VISIONS (anth 1967; vt in 3 vols Dangerous Visions \#1 1969, \#2 1969 and \#3 1969) and Again, Dangerous Visions (anth 1972; vt in 2 vols Again, Dangerous Visions I 1973 and II 1973); these books were striking for the general excellence of their contents and for the extensive, deeply personal annotations supplied by HE. For this success - and self-exposure - he was to pay. A third volume, The Last Dangerous Visions, was announced at the start of the 1970s but still (1995) awaits publication. A series of illnesses impaired HE's fitness for the huge task of annotating what had soon become an enormous project; and an inherent stubbornness seemed to prevent him from closing the enterprise down after its time - the high tide of the 1960s New Wave movement, created in part by the first volume of the series - had inevitably passed.For several years, HE had in addition to his fiction and his screenwriting activities begun to produce a considerable body of nonfiction - essays, reviews, polemics, culture cartoons, memoirs. Much of this material has now been published in book form. The Glass Teat: Essays of Opinion on the Subject of Television (coll 1970) and The Other Glass Teat (coll 1975) engage trenchantly with their subject; Sleepless Nights in the Procrustean Bed (coll 1984) collects general essays, as does An Edge in My Voice (coll 1985), both containing severe assaults on hypocrisies of government (and individuals); Harlan Ellison's Watching (coll 1989) contains film criticism; and The Harlan Ellison Hornbook (coll 1990) is a sequence of sometimes fairly ratty confessional essays.From about 1970, though the quality of his work was by no means inferior, HE began to publish markedly fewer stories; and from about 1980 an understandable inclination to cultural melancholia began to be noticed. New titles, some as distinguished as anything from earlier decades, were assembled in Strange Wine (coll 1978), Shatterday (coll 1980), Stalking the Nightmare (coll 1982), Angry Candy (coll 1988) and Mind Fields: The Art of Jacek Yerka/The Fiction of Harlan Ellison (coll 1994), generating a sense of the painful maturity of an author passionately engaged not only with himself - an engagement whose dangerous allure he has never denied - but with the essential gestures of rage and love and self-betrayal that mark our species. He has increasingly engaged his large energies as a writer in creating parable after parable - only some of them couched in anything like a conventional sf idiom - that illuminate the late years of the century, sometimes luridly, always with a genuine and redeeming pain. For all the scattershot rawness of his wilder work, at the end of the day - as All the Lies that Are My Life (1980) and Mefisto in Onyx (1993) tormentedly expose - HE is a representative speaker of the things that count.JCOther works: Sex Gang (1959) as by Paul Merchant; Doomsman (1958 Imagination Science Fiction as "The Assassin"; 1967 chap dos); Partners in Wonder: Harlan Ellison in Collaboration with . . . (coll 1971), collaborations with various writers; No Doors, No Windows (coll 1975); The City at the Edge of Forever * (graph 1977), a Star Trek fotonovel; The Illustrated Harlan Ellison (graph coll 1978); The Book of Ellison (anth 1978) with Andrew PORTER, publication of which HE claims was "unauthorized"; Medea: Harlan's World (anth 1985), one of the earlier SHARED-WORLD anthologies, and perhaps the best; Night and the Enemy (graph 1987) with Ken Steacy; Eidolons (1988 chap); Footsteps (1989 chap); Vic and Blood: The Chronicles of a Boy and His Dog (graph coll of linked stories 1989) with Richard CORBEN; Run for the Stars (1957 Science Fiction Adventures; rev 1991 chap dos), in a TOR BOOKS Double published in anthology format; Dreams with Sharp Teeth (omni 1991) containing I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, Deathbird Stories and Shatterday, all texts corrected.About the author: FSF Special Harlan Ellison Issue (July 1977); Harlan Ellison: Unrepentant Harlequin by George Edgar SLUSSER (1977); Harlan Ellison: A Bibliographical Checklist (1973; 2nd edn in Fantasy Research \& Bibliography \#1-\#2 1980-81) compiled by Leslie Kay Swigart - the latter title is unusually thorough and comprehensive and, given its coverage of HE's intensely productive early years, remains useful.See also: AMAZING STORIES; AUTOMATION; BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION AWARD; CHILDREN IN SF; CINEMA; COMICS; COMPUTERS; CYBORGS; ESCHATOLOGY; FANTASY; GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION; GAMES AND SPORTS; HITLER WINS; HOLOCAUST AND AFTER; INVISIBILITY; MACHINES; The MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION; MESSIAHS; MILFORD SCIENCE FICTION WRITERS' CONFERENCE; MUSIC; MYTHOLOGY; NEW WORLDS; OPTIMISM AND PESSIMISM; RELIGION; SEX; TABOOS; The TERMINATOR; TRANSPORTATION; WOMEN SF WRITERS.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. Academic. 2011.