Hatrack River
Home   |   About Orson Scott Card   |   News & Reviews   |   OSC Library   |   Forums   |   Contact   |   Links
Research Area   |   Writing Lessons   |   Writers Workshops   |   OSC at SVU   |   Calendar   |   Store
E-mail this page
Hatrack River Writers Workshop Post New Topic  Post A Reply
my profile login | register | search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Hats off to Harlan Ellison...

   
Author Topic: Hats off to Harlan Ellison...
InarticulateBabbler
Member
Member # 4849

 - posted      Profile for InarticulateBabbler   Email InarticulateBabbler         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Sad news.
Posts: 3682 | Registered: Jan 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
BenM
Member
Member # 8329

 - posted      Profile for BenM   Email BenM         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
One of my favourite writing personalities.
Posts: 920 | Registered: Nov 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Robert Nowall
Member
Member # 2764

 - posted      Profile for Robert Nowall   Email Robert Nowall         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Seems some of his promised projects will never be finished...I wonder if the promised "burning of the works-in-progress" will include The Last Dangerous Visions?
Posts: 8716 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
JamieFord
Member
Member # 3112

 - posted      Profile for JamieFord   Email JamieFord         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Harlan Ellison is my favorite writer. Has been since I was in the 7th grade and I'm 42 now.

I was asked to participate in The Novel: LIVE! in Seattle next month with 30+ other authors. Basically, we're taking turns over six days and writing a novel on-stage in front of a live audience. I was immediately drawn to the project because Harlan used to write live at cons and in storefront windows. (He's written 50 stories live, all around the world).

So I wrote to his wife, Susan, asking for a little something to take on stage as a bit of a tribute. (I'm a member of the Harlan Ellison Recording Collection, a de facto fanclub, so I had an address).

Sure enough, about a week later I get a phone call. It was Harlan. We talked for more than an hour (okay, HE talked mostly, since I was in awe), he gave me all kinds of writerly advice as only Harlan can. It was a pleasure. And last week a box arrive with one of his pipes in it, along with a paperweight and a personalized hardback of Deathbird Stories.

Harlan is who he is. The good. The bad. The ugly. But a part of that is a very magnanimous person, who has been incredibly supportive of the careers of other writers, like Bruce Stirling and Dan Simmons.

And little ol' me...



Posts: 603 | Registered: Jan 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
InarticulateBabbler
Member
Member # 4849

 - posted      Profile for InarticulateBabbler   Email InarticulateBabbler         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Jamie, I did see something of you with one of his pipes. Must have been awesome to have writerly advice from Harlan Ellison! Did you get a heads up?
Posts: 3682 | Registered: Jan 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Lissa
Member
Member # 9206

 - posted      Profile for Lissa   Email Lissa         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Wow. Great thread! What an icon; Jamie what a fabulous experience you had...I am speechless~

Lis


Posts: 111 | Registered: Aug 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Pyre Dynasty
Member
Member # 1947

 - posted      Profile for Pyre Dynasty   Email Pyre Dynasty         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I often think of his ticktockman story as I clean stairs. And I loved Babylon 5. (Which he often got special consultant credit for.)

Wouldn't that just be a perfect addition to his legend if he dies on stage?

I hope his wife pulls a Max Brod so we can read the unfinished works.


Posts: 1895 | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
JamieFord
Member
Member # 3112

 - posted      Profile for JamieFord   Email JamieFord         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
He seemed genuinely touched by the homage I was planning and was delighted that I wrote an actual (insert expletive here) letter.


Posts: 603 | Registered: Jan 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
History
Member
Member # 9213

 - posted      Profile for History   Email History         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Harlan.... >smile<
A wordsmith and a story sage.

Having suckled on the Milky Way adventures of Asimov, Clarke, Del Rey, and Heinlein, I luckily had a protective coating in my stomach before Harlan and his "New Age" crew skipped the food and went directly to gastric acids and bile. What a trip. Whether it was the 60's or merely a swing of the pendulum, Harlan & Co. brought my head back from the stars and into the stinks and slimes of reality, the controversial issues of the day artfully crafted in stories of speculative fiction. Whether the simple act of a boy feeding his injured dog in the eponymous story [and not a bad film starring Don Johnson], or the Kafkaesque world of pain and despair in the guts of the machine, being unable to scream.

Whatever, this is not about me... well, yes, it is... but in this I am just mimicking Harlan.

For decades I admired and, when I later had the means, collected Harlan's works. His cleverness to the point of not only being brash but rude in his tete-a-tete's with Isaac Asimov as sanitized and presented on THE HUGO WINNERS collections first amused me but later no longer seemed new and fresh. Reading of acts of outrage by Harlan would make me shrug, though admittedly smile, and think, "That's just Harlan."

And I was still smiling when I received an interesting phone call from Harlan one winter evening.

I don't know why he, the great Ellison, bothered to track me down, a small town physician living along the sleepy coast of Maine, as far away from the lights and hustle of L.A. as an American could get, except... "that's just Harlan."

You see, Harlan had asked his readers in I, ROBOT: THE ILLUSTRATED SCREENPLAY [DEC 1994, Warner Books] to "write to... Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California. "Tell (them) you've read this book. (Tell them) to get this film made..." followed about how Isaac loved this film, to do it for him, for Isaac to posthumously live on. Etc. [Personally, I think Asimov's writings, not Harlan's screenplay, will be his lasting legacy--but this was pure Harlan chutzpah].

His plea was very heartfelt. Harlan, beneath the poison spines, is truly a mensch, a term he'd use often [Yiddish: a person of integrity and honor. But don't get me started on his "Jewishness," for despite his wonderful understanding of Jewish angst and his wonderful stories with Jewish words and themes, to claim to be a Jew who denies God is like claiming to be the Pope and deny Jesus--just my opinion, of course. I did say this was about me].

Anyway, Harlan inspired me to write Warner Brothers. So I did.
I, too, wanted to "get the film made."

There was just one thing.
I did not like one element of the screenplay.

In this book full of robots, U.S. Robotics, robomeks, robopsychologists, one character observes another not aging and concludes, "He's immortal!" Not, "He's a robot!"
And as much as I praised the screenplay and asked it to be made into a film, I mentioned this one dislike as unbelievable.

And the Powers That Be at Warner Brothers read my letter.
And they read it to Harlan at a meeting on the Lot.
And Harlan tracked me down and called me.

I'd just gotten home with my wife and six-year-old daughter on a snowy February Maine evening. The phone was ringing. I didn't even have the time to take off my coat. Picking it up, the caller asked for me by name, and I asked who was calling but I recognized the voice. "This is Harlan Ellison..."

His voice was very pleasant, quite personable. I settled myself in a comfy chair in the living room, but didn't bother to turn on the lights. I just had the light from the streetlamp outside casting shadows in the room. I felt a knowing smile on my face. I'd debated for days whether to send that letter, you see; and I had received a reply from WB thanking me but unfortunately stating they "had no plans at this time to proceed with a filmed version of the script."

Harlan continued to talk amicably, confirming I had written Warner Brothers, etc., that I had read his screenplay and thought it would make a great film...

And I just waited.
Finally, I said, in effect, "Just go ahead and say it, Mr. Ellison. I know why you called."

And for the next few minutes he reamed my ass half-way to Tuesday for having the gall to negatively critique his work. He, Harlan Ellison, multiple-time winner of the Hugo award, Nebula award, Bram Stoker award... and WB execs had held up my single letter to balance against his screenplay and the greatly respected body of his work...

And I sat there and enjoyed it.
I could add my name to the list of "a$$holes" reamed out by Harlan Ellison.
...until he said, "This is what I do for a living."

Then the guilt hit.
This was his livelihood.
If my one ignorant comment (truly ignorant, as I was then completely naive to the strange business of Hollywood) actually was the cause for not green-lighting his I,ROBOT screenplay...

Well, I apologized profusely and meant every word. I promised to write WB again (I did), and verbally groveled for about a minute. I was appropriately humbled.
And Harlan knew it.
Then a strange thing happened.
Harlan became subdued. Almost apologetic. Almost.
We spoke calmly for another minute before he said goodbye.

I wrote a second letter to WB, effectively saying Harlan was God and I was wrong for ever questioning his brilliance. They should not have misconstrued my first letter as in anyway suggesting the screenplay would not make an excellent film that would earn them buckets of money. "It is good to belong." I was Everett C. Marm from "REPENT, HARLEQUIN!" SAID THE TICKTOCK MAN [which I own in a wonderful oversized signed collectors'edition], and I received a second reply from Warner Brothers. It read, "Please be assured that we recognize and appreciate your enthusiasm for the screenplay, and your original intentions have not been misconstrued. Although we have no plans at this time to proceed with a filmed version of this script, we appreciate hearing from you and will keep your enthusiasm for your project in mind" [Feb 13, 1995].

In short, Harlan knew the film was not going to be made regardless of my critique of that one point in his script. But I, a hapless hick from Maine, was a good outlet for his ire.

Here's to you, Harlan. Some may love you, some may hate you, some may do both, but they will never forget you. The good news is your legacy will be your literary work, not your personal idiosyncrasies--though both have given thousands, if not millions of us both pleasure and food for thought. May the God you deny greet you warmly and with love and set you at a table of your few peers and many friends.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob
Yarmouth, ME

P.S. Not that it matters, but it is ironic that a childhood and close family friend of mine is now the President of Warner Brothers Pictures.


Posts: 1471 | Registered: Aug 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
rich
Member
Member # 8140

 - posted      Profile for rich   Email rich         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The criticism about the I, Robot screenplay by History is valid. But that's not the reason the movie wasn't made, and, frankly, for Ellison to call up someone (a person who did not have the ability to greenlight the movie) and yell at him for voicing criticism is petty.

But that's just me. And Ellison and his "fans" don't like me anyway so take what I say with a grain of salt.


Posts: 840 | Registered: Aug 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
InarticulateBabbler
Member
Member # 4849

 - posted      Profile for InarticulateBabbler   Email InarticulateBabbler         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Hey, Dr. Bob, you're not so far from me. I'm in Bath. ME.
Posts: 3682 | Registered: Jan 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
History
Member
Member # 9213

 - posted      Profile for History   Email History         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Rich,
I recall the phone call fondly.

After reading stories by Harlan, and stories about Harlan, and following his career since [if you haven't seen the DVD DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH, please do], I enjoyed having the thread of my life briefly woven with his.

Our mutual faults, inclusive of my acting without considering potential consequences and his need to vent, I find an affirmation of our flawed humanity.
And this was mutually humbling.
A moment we shared.
And worthy of rememberence.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

P.S. Hi, Inarticulate Babbler. I work in Brunswick and, at one time, in the old Bath Memorial Hospital. There is something about being from Maine and writing strange fiction, eh?

[This message has been edited by History (edited September 26, 2010).]


Posts: 1471 | Registered: Aug 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
rich
Member
Member # 8140

 - posted      Profile for rich   Email rich         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Our mutual faults, inclusive of my acting without considering potential consequences and his need to vent, I find an affirmation of our flawed humanity.

I'm sure you do recall his conversation with you with much fondness, but you had a valid point in your criticism. And let's all try to remember that when one puts the work out there, it's a target for criticism (valid or not, by the way). To suggest that your reaction to his work, and his reaction to your reaction, that it's somehow an affirmation of one's humanity is kind of stretching it.



Posts: 840 | Registered: Aug 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Robert Nowall
Member
Member # 2764

 - posted      Profile for Robert Nowall   Email Robert Nowall         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I can't say Ellison is one of my favorite writers, though a surprising amount of his stuff does "stick with me." There's this story, "Crotoan," where...well, never mind. (Didn't think much of the Ellison "I, Robot" screenplay, though it would've made a better movie than the one they finally made.)
Posts: 8716 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
WouldBe
Member
Member # 5682

 - posted      Profile for WouldBe   Email WouldBe         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I have a copy of a literary mag from the 70s from my alma mater with an interview of Harlan. He was in black leather then, very young looking. (It was a studio picture, I think; it was a telephone interview.) I'd thought last year to see if he'd want to comment on his young self. It would still be interesting.

Posts: 746 | Registered: Jun 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MartinV
Member
Member # 5512

 - posted      Profile for MartinV   Email MartinV         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Please don't kill me but I never heard of Harlan Ellison until someone at this forum posted a link to a video with him a few months ago. I did hear about Babylon 5 but never watched it. Now I kind of wished I did.

God, I have to get out of this backwater place where they still think Clarke, Asimov and Heinlein are the only sci-fi writers!

[This message has been edited by MartinV (edited September 29, 2010).]


Posts: 1271 | Registered: May 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is not enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.
UBB Code™ Images not permitted.
Instant Graemlins
   


Post New Topic  Post A Reply Close Topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Contact Us | Hatrack River Home Page

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2