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David Gerrold and the Crunch of Ideas, featured interview; 160x263

Harlan Ellison

answers the Usual Questions

photo, Harlan Ellison, credit: Chris Cuffaro; 220x307

Harlan Ellison (photo: Chris Cuffaro)

Harlan Ellison is an icon in contemporary writing. He has written short and long fiction, scripts and essays. To publicise the art of writing he has written award-winning stories while sitting in store windows (in Paris, London, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans and elsewhere) while crowds watched.

He has a reputation for speaking his mind, and has done so to support various causes.

Has your interaction with fans, for example, at conventions, affected your work?

Interactions with fans, readers, critics is always ex post facto. when I write, I write for only one reader, who happens to be cleverer than I. I write for myself and when I reach a juncture in the story where I can see the ending ... I pause. If I can spot the denouement, then so can that one person I'm writing for -- the smartest reader in the world -- myself. On the negative side, if you want to know my deep and unvarnished encounters with fans, find a copy of the long essay I wrote, Xenogenesis. It will tell you more than you wish to know.

Harlan Ellison on his 80th birthday

Is there any particular incident (a letter, a meeting, a comment that stands out?

Yes, one. The protracted lugubrious conversation with a fan/academic at The International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (in Fort Lauderdale, Florida) a decade or two ago. My wife and I were interdicted walking down a hallway, and a tall, gangly guy braced me with the questions, "Is it true you dropped a chandelier on a roomful of revelers at a big Convention?" Both Susan and I were gobsmacked by this rudeness, but I stood there and explained in consummate detail why that bit of oft-repeated legend could not possibly be true, otherwise why wasn't I in prison for assault? He stood and took in all the Holmesian logic proving it was 8th-hand gossip, and all bullshit ... then he asked, "Well then, why did you do it?"

Do you have a favourite author or book (or writer or film or series) that has influenced you or that you return to?

Many. sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Terry Dowling. Shirley Jackson. Donald Westlake. Mark Twain. Clark Ashton Smith. Albert Camus. Franz Kafka. Don Marquis. Gerald Kersh. W. S. Merwin. and on and on and on ...

Who is the person you would most like to be trapped in a lift with? or a spaceship?

Mark Twain.

Who is the person you would most DISlike to be trapped in a lift with? Or a spaceship?

Gary Groth or the never-silent shade of Forrest Ackerman.

What would you pack for space? (Is there a food, beverage, book, teddy bear, etc that you couldn't do without?)

book cover, Deathbird Stories, by Harlan Ellison; 140x215

First, air. Second, Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Third, the photograph of my wife, Susan, to my right as I type this. Fourth, Wm. Irwin Thompson's The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light.

What is the most important thing you would like to get/achieve from your work?

Posterity; being read 200 years hence.

What is the special satisfaction of your work?

Doing what no one else has ever done, nor is able ever to do better. For better or worse, I am the Best Harlan Ellison who has ever sat down to write a Harlan Ellison story.

submitted by Harlan Ellison

Sep 2014

For other answers to The Usual Questions Click here

Just the facts:
Born: 27 may 1934 Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.
Resides: The Lost Aztec Temple of Mars (AKA Ellison Wonderland) in Los Angeles
Within a few months, Subterranean Press will be releasing the complete Harlan Ellison bibliography -- Fingerprints on the Sky -- it took 17 years to complete and an entire section is given to my awards, which outpace every other writer who has ever working in these genres.

Web site:
youtube Harlan Ellison Channel


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