The Kid from Cleveland

Of Course, It Helps If You Have Harlan’s Imagination

No, not me, but a much more talented writer. Harlan Ellison (1934-2018) was born in Cleveland and raised there and in nearby Painesville, Ohio. It is a pity that Ellison is almost as well known for his legendary abrasiveness as for his speculative fiction, which ranks with the best ever written. As he himself wrote in Danse Macabre:

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 denigrater or critic with umbrage will say of my work, ‘He only wrote that to shock.’ I smile and nod. Precisely.

On the plus side, I think that he was not only a prophet, but a kind of self-conscious priest of the Brotherhood of the Imagination. The auuthor of literally thousands of stories, mostly speculative fiction (he preferred that to the term “science fiction”), Ellison knew how much it cost to keep churning out stories that succeeded in appealing to the reader’s imagination. Speaking of his famous script for “The City on the Edge of Forever” episode of the original Star Trek TV series, he wrote:

Understand that WRITTEN BY precedes the name of the man who sat long hours alone and concerned, to create a dream for an actor of Leonard Nimoy’s stature to work with. And remember the names of the writers who have done their work well. Honor them. And when the writers have been bad, then condemn them. For a man who mutilates his craft is less than dirt. He is a traitor to all the holy chores Man has ever been entrusted with….

I Am Currently Reading the Revised and Expanded Edition of This Collection

Below is a partial list of the Harlan Ellison collections which I have read and admired:

  • I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream (1967)
  • The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World (1969)
  • Approaching Oblivion (1974)
  • Deathbird Stories (1975)
  • Over the Edge: Stories and Essays (1996). A substantially revised version of the 1970 Over the Edge whose cover is illustrated above

This is only a small fraction of what the man has written. I plan to continue my exploration of his work.