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28 June 2001

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THE NEWSPAPER OF THE SCIENCE FICTION FIELD


Ellison on Ellison July 2001

Harlan Ellison is the author of stories and books too numerous to list; among them are Hugo Award winners "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" (1967), Star Trek teleplay ĎĎThe City on the Edge of Foreveríí (1967) , "The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World" (1968), "The Deathbird" (1973), "Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans: Latitude 38į54íN, Longitude 77į00í13"W" (1974), and "Paladin of the Lost Hour" (1985), as well as stories which won both Hugos and Nebulas, "ĎRepent, Harlequin!í Said the Ticktockman" (1965) and "Jeffty Is Five" (1977). Other awards include the Milford for lifetime achievement in editing; Life Achievement World Fantasy and Bram Stoker Awards; 18 Locus Awards; an unprecedented four Writers Guild of America Awards for solo teleplays; two Edgar Allan Poe Awards; two P.E.N. International Silver Pen Awards; and most recently, a SFWA Bradbury Award for the NPR radio series 2000X -- Tales of the Next Millennia. He's the editor of the Dangerous Visions anthologies, and his own story collections range from Ellison Wonderland (1962) to Deathbird Stories (1975) to Slippage (1997) , with a 50-year edition of The Essential Ellison due out in June. He lives in Southern California.
Photo by Beth Gwinn

Official site:
Harlan Ellison Webderland

Search Amazon.com for books by Harlan Ellison

Excerpts from the interview:

ĎĎI refuse to write the same story twice. I keep experimenting. I keep learning how to work. Iíve been at it pretty much 50 years, and Iím now beginning to learn how to do the job well. Iím not like Robert Silverberg, who came full-blown out of the egg. The man wrote brilliantly right from the git-go. I had to learn. My earliest stuff is painful to read! Now, 50 years later, Iím at a point where I write pretty damn okay. I need to keep learning, and I need to keep pushing the envelope. And yet people are still talking about my work as if I were still writing ĎA Boy and His Dogí — ĎOh, his stuff is violent. Oh, his stuff is downbeat.í When they do parodies of me, ferchrissakes, theyíre parodying me in 1965! Iím so fuckiní far past that, I havenít written like that in decades! The most perfectly written story Iíve done in years is the one in the January 2001 Hemispheres, the United Airlines inflight magazine: ĎIncognita, Inc.í I finally got a glimmering of what I was capable of producing when I wrote that story. But because it isnít mean and because it isnít screaming, Iíll bet most readers will discount it as an aberration by the otherwise strident, rabid Ellison."

*

"I just turned in Troublemakers, my first book directed toward young adults. The introduction is called ĎThat Kidís Gonna Wind Up in Jailí. Itís about the things I did wrong as a kid. I was a smart kid, and that was the problem. I taught myself to read when I was four years old. I ran away from home when I was 13. At 15, Iím driving a dynamite truck in North Carolina. Iíve been on the road, off and on, since then. I learned to take care of myself, to fight my fights. When I was a little kid, the only Jew in town, they beat the crap out of me. I learned about bullies, about being the underdog, from the ground up. It was ingrained in me. I was a scrapper from the word go. My parents were two of the sweetest people who ever lived. I only heard my father raise his voice once in his life, and it shocked me. He only spanked me once with a belt, and I had been outrageously bad! And it literally hurt him far worse than it hurt me — not that it stopped me from being a demento."

*

ĎĎT. Coraghessan Boyle is one of my favorite writers, absolutely brilliant. He uses fantasy in exactly the right way — the way Carol Emshwiller uses it, Kit Reed uses it, even Dan Simmons uses it. But no one categorizes him in the sci-fi ghetto. The terrible truth is: we won, and itís a pyrrhic victory. Foundation magazine in England said, ĎLook around. The movies that have been the biggest money-makers in the last 15 or 20 years have all been fantasy and science fiction.í The best parts of science fiction and fantasy have all been subsumed into contemporary fiction. We won, in that respect. But all the crap is now called Ďsci-fií — Battlestar Galaxative, Independence Day, and all these dumb movies. (But then, movies are almost always dumb.) I suppose itís like catching a downfield pass for 75 yards and running into the end zone which is at the lip of an abyss, and as you make the touchdown, you fall over and go directly to the innermost circle of Hell and burn forever. The winning has been absolutely no value to people like Brian Aldiss, J.G. Ballard, Tom Disch...."

*

ĎĎIím not afraid of death; Iím afraid of dying. And Iím less afraid of dying than I am of running down — senility, Alzheimerís, incapacitation. You learn about what your life has been in retrospect. I know the things that go into my stories right after Iíve written them. I go back and read it and say, ĎJesus, how did I know that?í Iíll tell you how weird that is. Iíll be writing a story, and suddenly I say, ĎWait a minute, thereís something missing here.í Iíll go back into my file of snippets and pieces and starts and false beginnings, and Iíll find a piece that I wrote 20 years ago — a page, two pages, a paragraph — and Iíll put it down, and not only does it fit, it fits exactly! The character may be different, but it will fit to the word. I donít know how I knew that. I trust the onboard mechanism absolutely."

The full interview, and bibliographic profile, is published in the July 2001 issue of Locus Magazine.



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