"The world is turning into a cesspool of imbeciles!"
August 29, 2000 9:13 AM   Subscribe

"The world is turning into a cesspool of imbeciles!" "I don't want your input! You wanna input something, write your own goddamn story, moron!" "There's no amount of money in the world that could get me to do a commercial for McDonald's toadburgers." Choice quotes from a hilarious, scathing interview with Harlan Ellison. (From the "AV Club," one of the few non-parody/baloney sections of the Onion.)
posted by Tubes (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Who's Harlan Ellison, again?

Just kidding. His interview reminds of something Kurt Vonnegut said about talk shows, and stuff like that, ruining it for novelists. They spend all this time and effort creating strange, complex, interesting characters ... and then Jerry Springer trundles out drag-queens who use roofies to attract men they can mug in order to get money to support their heroine addiction, but who really have hearts of gold, and whose lives can be turned around in just under 52 minutes or just before the last commercial break, whichever comes first.

It can only get worse for writers in the wake of pabulum like "Survivor."
posted by BoyCaught at 10:08 AM on August 29, 2000


I was brought up by my mommy and daddy in Painesville, Ohio, to be polite, and those who know me will tell you--they'd better tell you, or I'll hurt 'em--that I only go after someone when they go after me. I'm like a snake sleeping on a rock. I won't bother you unless you poke a stick at me.

He is, by the way. Polite, that is.

And that's not because he can hurt me... It's because Susan is the best thing that ever happened to him. :) And, heck, in a strange attenuated way, I got married because of Harlan, so I owe him. (There was a dinner with the four of us, and it's a story for another day...)

What I don't get is, after telling people for 50 years what pisses him off (I'm including his fanzine career here), people are still surprised when they do stuff that he's told them will piss him off. Imbeciles, like he says.

posted by aurelian at 10:57 AM on August 29, 2000


I'm just happy, happy, happy to see that time has not diminished Ellison's edge. Not at all. Some smart, literate cranky guys get kinda soft and mushy as they age (Vonnegut springs to mind). Not our Harlan. He's just as incisive and jarring and funny - and right - as he was thirty or forty years ago. Makes ya kinda not mind getting older, knowing ya got a role model like that...
posted by m.polo at 11:54 AM on August 29, 2000


Seems Ellison is not alone... I also came across an interview with Ellison regarding the PC game based on 'I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream.' The interviewer is J. Michael Straczynski, creator and Executive Producer of Babylon 5, who lashes out that in today's escapist world "you don't ever have to really notice that all around you, you got the self-named Generation X, that are basically butt-heads, who don't know diddly squat about anything, and they're going to be running the country ten years from now."
posted by Tubes at 12:15 PM on August 29, 2000


Gee, Tubes... Ya think that might be related to the fact that Joe was one of the guys Harlan lent money to, back when Joe was starving, and that Joe later hired Harlan to be creative consultant on B5? :)

Best investment Harlan ever made...

(In other words, to connect the dots for those that need it, JMS and Harlan are longtime friends, and Harlan's been a big influence on Joe's thinking. Harlan's main job on B5, near as I can figure out, was to be the guy who had enough gravitas and chutzpah to tell Joe when he was being silly. This is a big thing in TV, where sycophancy is an art... almost as much as in DC. :)

posted by aurelian at 12:36 PM on August 29, 2000


God, the copyediting on that interview sucks. "Intellectable" for ineluctable, punctuation squirrelling around all over the place... yech. You can tell it's a tape that was transcribed by someone who wasn't, um... prepared. :)

Good points, though.

posted by aurelian at 12:45 PM on August 29, 2000


Good points indeed. The pull quotes alone are tremendous:

But now... what with the Internet, the greatest disseminator of bad data and bad information the universe has ever known... it's become impossible to trust any news from any source at all, because it's all filtered through this crazy yenta gossip line.

... "crazy yenta gossip line" would be a great MeFi tagline. Or the name of a band.
posted by dcehr at 2:37 PM on August 29, 2000


C'mon; you *really* expect people to know what ineluctable means these days? :-)

Matt; you listenin to dcehr?
posted by baylink at 2:41 PM on August 29, 2000


Wow. That was the most truth I've read in a long time. The whole thing about the 'net is fascinating to me, too. There is so much crap but amongst the crap there are some real gems. Reminds me of Parenti's idea of Media Literacy, where we have to translate the feed into a message. I think what Mr. Ellison is pointing out is that most of society has forgotten to do the filtration of media message.
I'm going to be carrying a copy of that interview in my back pocket for a few weeks now.


posted by norm at 3:13 PM on August 29, 2000


aurelian - thanks for connecting the dots. I figured there was some relationship there (H.E. - J.M.S.) but I didn't know the details. I'm not well-versed in Ellisonomy but these interviews have me intrigued and looking forward to reading his work.
(And yeah, the copyediting on the game interview was very bad and distracting. Sigh.)
posted by Tubes at 3:52 PM on August 29, 2000


And yeah, the copyediting on the game interview was very bad and distracting. Sigh.

Not bad enough to cancel out the effects of that horrible white text on black background. Ohhh, my eyes hurt now, but I just had to keep reading.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:55 PM on August 29, 2000


When does "The Last Dangerous Visions" ship?

And is "Susan" wife number seven or eight?

I lost my respect for Ellison a long time ago. And I have no urge to read an interview with him for the simple reason that I don't give a damn what he thinks about anything.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 5:34 PM on August 29, 2000


I know very little about the guy except that he seems, well, kind of crochety, but I've read A Boy and His Dog so many times over the years, since the first time I stumbled across it when it first came out, that I actually have parts of it memorized. It's a perfect story, perfectly written and realized, and that alone is reason to respect him, because he delivered that perfect little package intact, and any writer knows how hard that is. I know it's the cliche story everyone's read, but I had to bring it up, because I still remember the way I felt during the first reading and just afterwards, and how rare is that? It's surprisingly painful and beautiful and hilarious and dark and true somehow, it's oddly still one of the most touching love stories I've read, and with the perfect title. So I don't really care about Harlan the smelly guy with the malevolent hairdo, or whatever he is.
posted by whirly at 7:15 PM on August 29, 2000


I know very little about the guy except that he seems, well, kind of crochety, but I've read A Boy and His Dog so many times over the years, since the first time I stumbled across it when it first came out, that I actually have parts of it memorized. It's a perfect story, perfectly written and realized, and that alone is reason to respect him, because he delivered that perfect little package intact, and any writer knows how hard that is. I know it's the cliche story everyone's read, but I had to bring it up, because I still remember the way I felt during the first reading and just afterwards, and how rare is that? It's surprisingly painful and beautiful and hilarious and dark and true somehow, it's oddly still one of the most touching love stories I've read, and with the perfect title. So I don't really care about Harlan the smelly guy with the malevolent hairdo, or whatever he is.
posted by whirlygig at 7:19 PM on August 29, 2000


His whole point is a lamentation of lost authority in media. Harlan's tastes don't mesh with the majority of the population and he whines about it. Most people like cheesy sci-fi. Most people online like to babble about trivial BS without paying attention to grammar.

The days where the only media commentary came from "expert" opinion (which when applied to the arts is completely irrelevant to most people) are dead. Now everyone can voice their opinion. This is going to accelerate everything. Soon when a movie comes out you will get opinions/reviews within hours from the sources that you know share your views. The weekend box office will be condensed to opening night When a new restaurant or club opens they will experience big booms or horrible turnouts based on networked opinion/review.

posted by john at 8:51 PM on August 29, 2000


Steven, LDV will ship about two years after Harlan dies, edited by both Harlan and his literary executor, Robert Silverberg. :) (Well, OK, mebbe Martin Harry Greenberg will be brought in to work his juju on the rights.)

Susan is wife number six, yes (I think)... But they've been married for at least thirteen years now. This is by far Harlan's longest-ever relationship, and from observation I'd say they're likely to stay together for the indefinite future.

People change. Unless they perceive their ego is at stake in not changing. Harlan's ego is vast, it contains multitudes, but I really don't think that's one of his hangups.

YMMV, obviously.

posted by aurelian at 12:46 AM on August 30, 2000


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