How to get sued part [n] : Post about Harlan Ellison
May 19, 2009 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Dreams With Sharp Teeth – clips from a Sundance Channel documentary on science fiction writer (and somewhat litigious colourful character) Harlan Ellison. Harlan says pay the writer. (via)
posted by Artw (101 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh now you've gone and done it.
posted by hal9k at 12:25 PM on May 19, 2009


Christ what an &c.
posted by dersins at 12:25 PM on May 19, 2009


I'm getting increasingly worried that Harlan Ellison cannot die.
posted by The Whelk at 12:26 PM on May 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


Ooh, can't wait to get home and watch this!
posted by Mister_A at 12:26 PM on May 19, 2009


This makes me totally want to go sit on Harlan Ellison's lawn.
posted by GuyZero at 12:28 PM on May 19, 2009


The Whelk: "I'm getting increasingly worried that Harlan Ellison cannot die."

He's only 74, he could have a couple of decades left in him.
posted by octothorpe at 12:29 PM on May 19, 2009


Wait, when is The Last Dangerous Visions coming out again?
posted by aught at 12:31 PM on May 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm getting increasingly worried that Harlan Ellison cannot die.

Still a lot of women he hasn't groped yet.
posted by tommasz at 12:32 PM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I did like that one story he wrote, what was it called? Deeper That the Ticktockman said the Flowing Tears that Had No Mouth? Something like that.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:33 PM on May 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ellison sure can conjure up some classy metaphors.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:35 PM on May 19, 2009


Repent Harlan!
posted by The Whelk at 12:35 PM on May 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


...somewhat litigious...

Heh. What's the count up to now? 300 lawsuits for copyright infringement?
posted by zarq at 12:36 PM on May 19, 2009


That Nebula grope is crap - it's more like he's absentmindedly clawing at her cleavage, and lacks the true commitment of a full grope.
posted by Artw at 12:36 PM on May 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


I love the guy to death but we backed out of a comic adaptation of "Hows The Night Life On Cissalda?" out of sheer, bottomless fear.
posted by The Whelk at 12:40 PM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sure, he's an asshole. But he wrote "The City on the Edge of Forever" and you didn't.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:40 PM on May 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


I did write the gay porn version, The City on the Edge of Four Trevors.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:43 PM on May 19, 2009 [9 favorites]


I saw that, actually, at the Ass-Bandit Repertory Theater. I was offended–that shit is not really rep at all!
posted by Mister_A at 12:45 PM on May 19, 2009


Heh. I remember he gave a talk at the college I was teaching at, just a couple of weeks after 9/11, and told the following joke:
The World Trade Center? Face it, the buildings weren't the greatest examples of architecture. We used to say they were like the boxes that the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building came in.
There were definitely a lot of shocked faces around the room after that joke. Too Soon, Harlan! Also got to hear some choice ranting on the horrors of his fiction distributed in violation of copyright on AOL and he read aloud a story of his about finding an afterlife Deli in Shangri-La or something.
posted by Schmucko at 12:45 PM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sure, he's an asshole. But he wrote "The City on the Edge of Forever" and you didn't.

Big deal. I wrote this comment and he didn't. And which has more favorites, this comment or "City on the Edge of Forever?"
posted by dersins at 12:47 PM on May 19, 2009 [24 favorites]


Needs more Schenectady.
posted by localroger at 12:48 PM on May 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have no mouth and I must eat things.
posted by grobstein at 12:52 PM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


In other news, The Last Dangerous Visions is due to be published any day now, seriously, for real this time, honest.


suckers!
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:54 PM on May 19, 2009


I have no lawyer and I must sue.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:54 PM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


dersins: "which has more favorites, this comment or "City on the Edge of Forever?""

Touché.

But has Shatner named your comment "Captain's Pick"?
posted by Joe Beese at 12:55 PM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Big deal. I wrote this comment and he didn't. And which has more favorites, this comment or "City on the Edge of Forever?"

First, Wikipedia says the original Ellison script was edited to be "more Star Trek-like" (in essence), so he can't get all the credit. Ignoring that, the episode currently has 411 votes on YouTube, and an average of 5 stars. Then there's the IMDB page, with 618 votes as I write this, and an average of 9.3/10.

dersins, we like you, but not that much. You really need to work on your cult following.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:55 PM on May 19, 2009


Harlan Ellison is merely a quonsar for the world beyond MetaFilter.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:56 PM on May 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Always found him to be one of the most irritating people on the planet. Puts the "ug" in "smug."
posted by littlerobothead at 12:57 PM on May 19, 2009


... who is this guy?
posted by indiebass at 1:11 PM on May 19, 2009


Great talent, ego to match, and absolutely no tolerance for anyone who does anything differently. If I have to hear his little hissy over Collins one more friggin' time ...

Harlan Ellison is one of those writers where I do my best to present that a room in a castle somewhere has HARLAN ELLISON written on the door in faded letters, just above a miserable slot through which food passes in and great stories come out. The less I know about what is in the room, the better off I am.
posted by adipocere at 1:14 PM on May 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Heh. What's the count up to now? 300 lawsuits for copyright infringement?

I nearly got sued by him, but then after a few brief talks found him to be an exceptionally reasonable and downright cool dude. I got to keep selling my design that was a based on his work and all he charged me was a few copies of the shirt in question, one of which he even wore at his next convention appearance.

I think the internet is naturally filled with rampant IP theft, he tends to come out guns blazing in his first contact. In my experience with him if in your response to his aggressive first contact you prove yourself to be a decent person looking for a solution (rather then the usual internet tough guy 'bring it on' mentality) he'll be decent right back.

*shrug*
posted by Jezztek at 1:22 PM on May 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


Read one collection of his stories. Publish something that remains in print for a few decades. Then I'll listen to your commentary.
posted by asfuller at 1:25 PM on May 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


... who is this guy?

I only know him because he did some voice work on Pirates of Dark Water.
posted by ND¢ at 1:25 PM on May 19, 2009


Read one collection of his stories. Publish something that remains in print for a few decades. Then I'll listen to your commentary.

Get 19,000 favorites; then I'll listen to yours.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:31 PM on May 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Not really. I'm just always puzzled when people put those sorts of preconditions on criticism. There is a moment in the Star Trek parody Galexy Quest where one of the characters says "You don't have to be a great actor to spot a bad one," or something along those lines.

We may never be as successful as writers as Ellison, but that doesn't mean he is without faults and they can't be mentioned.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:34 PM on May 19, 2009


GalAxy Quest.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:34 PM on May 19, 2009


Get 19,000 favorites; then I'll listen to yours you can trade that and a dime in for two nickels.
posted by ND¢ at 1:35 PM on May 19, 2009


SOLD!

Ooh, I can almost get coffee!
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:37 PM on May 19, 2009


"Naomi Campbell" is now my new answer for any MeFi thread I don't understand.
posted by jbickers at 1:38 PM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


He may be cranky, but it's worth watching the film to see what his house looks like. Trust me.
posted by greatgefilte at 1:45 PM on May 19, 2009


There's no rule that says you can't be both a tremendous writer and a tremendous jerk. If Ellison didn't prove he was both when he grabbed Connie Willis's boobs at a convention a couple years ago, he's certainly proven it amply in other ways.
posted by Jeanne at 1:46 PM on May 19, 2009


That Nebula grope is crap - it's more like he's absentmindedly clawing at her cleavage, and lacks the true commitment of a full grope.

His regular wet-nurse missed the flight and he was getting hungry.
posted by jamjam at 1:51 PM on May 19, 2009


I liked Mr. Ellison's work better before I knew much about him. It's always unfortunate to find out that authors one likes - whose books are full of likeable people - turn out to be angry jerks (or wingnuts, or loopy trustafarians, or whatever).
posted by Fraxas at 1:54 PM on May 19, 2009


How did he know my grandmother was ass f*cked by Adolf Hitler?
posted by tkchrist at 1:54 PM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


If Harlen weren't such a sweet puppy dog of a man, I'd be able to pick up any of his books without once doubting that I'll be vastly entertained. But this Saint, this Fischer of Fantasy, only disappoints.

Lo, e'er this rose ne'er blooming gets one more scrap of lovely lucre from my frustrated fists, I'll recant my religion and dash my dreams in Dove.
posted by Twang at 2:09 PM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Twang, did you bring enough for everyone?
posted by The Whelk at 2:14 PM on May 19, 2009


…be eating our own babies for breakfast.
“Sure, he's an asshole. But he wrote "The City on the Edge of Forever" and you didn't.posted by Joe Beese at 12:40 PM on May 19 [2 favorites +] [!]”
Dude, I totally wrote “The City on the Edge of Forever.” Wrote it again there just now.

“If I have to hear his little hissy over Collins one more friggin' time ...”

Actually, I quite like it. I thought that some of the metaphysical imagery was really particularly effective. And er ... interesting rhythmic devices too, which seemed to counterpoint the ... er ...
People often go on tirades if the people they want to have sex with won’t have sex with them. (Del Close, I understand, hated Joan Rivers).

I remember reading some of Ellison’s old essays as a kid on gangs in the 50’s and 60’s and how dangerous they were because they would make improvised weapons like sticking double edged razor blades in a potato.
Struck me as sort of quaint and a neat idea at the same time. But it was pretty hyperbolic, and I’m a pretty hyperbolic guy (I’m f’ing Smedleyman for God sake!) Can’t say I really enjoy his work. But then perhaps my perspective is skewed.
Someone was pushing his stuff on me (Vhat? Again with the Dangerous Visions?) along with Perry Rhodan. Still, nice to see someone speaking on behalf of writers. A group, I understand, is getting screwed over fairly constantly.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:29 PM on May 19, 2009


"I get so pissed about this, because you're undercut by all the amateurs. It's the amateurs who make it hard for the professionals..."
- Harlan Ellison

MetaFilter - Making it Hard for the Professionals.
posted by markkraft at 2:50 PM on May 19, 2009


See also...

MetaFilter - Like Unpaid Fluffers For Words.
posted by markkraft at 2:53 PM on May 19, 2009


19,000 favorites. Holy shit!
posted by cavalier at 3:00 PM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm grateful for Harlan Ellison.

He wrote the movie review column for Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine in the early-to-mid-80's. At one point he spent at least three or four of those columns, month after month, using the column for nothing other than an ongoing rant at how much he hated the Gremlins movie.

This was important, because I was twelve or thirteen at the time, and it showed me that there are people out there who will never, ever, ever, let anything go. Looking back, it was also an important lesson that, often enough, people who rant angrily from an assumed position of authority are best laughed at and then walked away from to once again fruitlessly attempt to train the family dog to fetch.
posted by Drastic at 3:04 PM on May 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also,

Metafilter: Our Grandmothers Got - yeah, no, that won't work.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:06 PM on May 19, 2009


Who expects to get paid for an interview? It's a privilege not a job. What an ass.
posted by cazoo at 3:34 PM on May 19, 2009


Alright, I'll be the second one to comment on the video. Has he seen any TV lately? Or does he just casually flip through shitty sitcoms and bad game shows so he can make fun of them later?
posted by P.o.B. at 3:35 PM on May 19, 2009


Or does he just casually flip through shitty sitcoms and bad game shows so he can make fun of them later?

And why is he not a MetaFilter user?

Oh, right, we don't pay.
posted by GuyZero at 3:36 PM on May 19, 2009


P.o.B.: "Has he seen any TV lately?"

Not sure. But in his collection of TV reviews, The Glass Teat, he professes a slavering lust for Peggy Lipton.

Just thought I'd put that out there.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:56 PM on May 19, 2009


And what's the point of actually checking out the link?

Oh, right...
posted by P.o.B. at 3:56 PM on May 19, 2009


Remember that part in "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" where Sinatra has a run-in with Ellison? It's amazing the world didn't end in a galactic ego implosion that day.
posted by Rangeboy at 4:02 PM on May 19, 2009


Just watched his "Demon with a Glass Hand" on YouTube... which was pretty cool, made even better by the fact that he didn't get any royalties for me doing so.
posted by markkraft at 4:44 PM on May 19, 2009


Wow. As an unrepentant fan of Ellison, I realized long ago that some of the most interesting/creative/renowned people I've ever heard about are, in their real life, outrageous assholes. And I got over it.

Ellison has written some of the best short fiction I've read, or ever will read. He turned me on to Borges, as well, for which I'm forever grateful. It saddens me that when I mention him to people who might like his stuff, they've never heard of him. It's even worse when his name comes up here, and it's a calvalcade of "who can shit on Ellison fastest?"

I got the news, the guy is a dick. He has opinions, which he's very passionate about, which most people don't agree with. That doesn't change the fact that he also happens to be a great writer, and has written, as I said, some of the best short fiction around.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:05 PM on May 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


So assholes can't be made fun of if they can write?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:09 PM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not in the least. It's just that the only thing that comes out of any post having to do with Ellison is "who can make fun of the asshole the most." I'm sure a great post could be made listing all of the creative people who were truly assholes in their personal lives. The thing is, I doubt many people would spend a post on, say, Picasso (off the top of my head, and no, I'm not comparing their work, so just stop) making snarky jokes about what an ass he was.

Sure, as I said, he's a jerk. But that's the only thing that gets focused on. Upthread, there are even people wondering how soon he'll die, as if his continued existence is an affront to their daily lives. Try reading Angry Candy, Shatterday, or Stalking the Nightmare. Read the Glass Teat. Is he a jerk? Yes, he is. I'm glad we got that off our chests. Is there any chance, at all, that we can move on?

Oh, yeah, probably not.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:20 PM on May 19, 2009


Tonight on the Sci-Fi Channel: Kickin' It With Harlan Ellison. Er, rather I remember when I learned just how much condensed rage one man can fit into three minutes of television. And, at that age, I had no idea who Harlan Ellison was; I thought he was a mirror universe Andy Rooney.
posted by AzraelBrown at 5:22 PM on May 19, 2009


Is there any chance, at all, that we can move on?

Trust me, plenty of my favorite writers and musicians are collosal pricks, and I can't say I blame people for not being able to see past the bad behavior and/or complete lack of tact to the talent within. But I understand your frustration. If it helps, I've never read anything by Harlan Ellison and this thread has intrigued me enough to give him a shot.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:26 PM on May 19, 2009


MStPT, it's good to hear that you'll try giving his stuff a shot. In fact, it does help.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:36 PM on May 19, 2009


Has he written anything in the last 20 years that isn't a new introduction to a collection of previously-published works? Seriously. His last credit in IMDB was as a "conceptual consultant" ten years ago (I'm ignoring the 2007 writing credit, which is for a short story he wrote in 1959), and I can't think of anything new in print since 1988's "Angry Candy".

It's getting harder and harder to to think of him as "that brilliant author", when his most recent and memorable body of work is his performance as Harlan Ellison, Professional Asshole.

That said, I look forward to going home and watching the linked clips.
posted by hades at 5:55 PM on May 19, 2009


It's not just that he's a jerk, Ghidorah. It's that it's a somewhat a chosen pose. Harlan Ellison is not some naive country mouse puzzled by how they do things downtown. He knows full well that people aren't usually paid for interviews. His reaction isn't spontaneous anger -- it's cultivated spleen. And it's not vented at some CEO who barely knows Ellison's name, but at some poor production assistant. The situation can't be unusual for him, so this isn't an immediate emotonal reaction -- it's a stored up response that he chooses to unleash on some $20k/year assistant who doesn't get to live in a house like his, or make speeches at award banquets.

If the story had gone "...so I told her that her bosses were using her. I told her she should go ask them if they expected to get this or that for free..." I think people would be a bit more sympathetic to him. If he'd cooled down and sent her tickets to something and a note that said "Sorry. I was mad at the company, not at you" people would think him a great guy.

This image is his by choice, because he cares more that people talk about him than about what they say. And of course, here I am playing right into it.
posted by tyllwin at 5:58 PM on May 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


know who else was a colossal asshole?

newton.

and so what? what does it matter. really.

ego.
posted by jettloe at 5:59 PM on May 19, 2009


Oh, I forgot 1997's Slippage. And I guess he's had a few short stories published in F&SF since then. Still, I considered myself a fan of his for a long time, and when I hear his name now, "science fiction master" isn't the first association I come up with.
posted by hades at 6:03 PM on May 19, 2009


I got the news, the guy is a dick. He has opinions, which he's very passionate about, which most people don't agree with. That doesn't change the fact that he also happens to be a great writer, and has written, as I said, some of the best short fiction around.

Yes, but he's not the only great writer. And other great writers somehow manage to negotiate their lives without pawing anyone, without the ill-informed ranting, and without constantly whining about how they are not still getting paid for some work they did 40 years ago. It's those writers that deserve our attention, not Ellison.
posted by Ritchie at 6:15 PM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whew. Ever since I read about the Penny Arcade guys' falling-out with him, I kinda wondered, in the back of my mind, whether they might have been to blame, or were embellishing the story. Now, my concerns are assuaged.
posted by blenderfish at 6:44 PM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


The world needs guys like Harlan Ellison. Not sure why, something to do with balance I suppose. And he is a wonderful writer. That helps.
posted by Mister_A at 7:20 PM on May 19, 2009


Ben Franklin, Ezra Pound, Dave Sim, T. S. Eliot, Orson Scott Card, blah blah. Lots of people think lots of writers are dicks. They are often good writers regardless. and dicks.

(I had dinner with Ellison at a convention many years ago. The person who was serving him spilled something on his lap, and he was really pissed. But then, I'd be pissed too. Other than copious cursing at this development, he was entertaining and funny, if curmudgeonly. but that was long ago.)
posted by exlotuseater at 8:03 PM on May 19, 2009


hades, aside from Slippage, he really hasn't. I have a theory, and it goes with the names of people that he lists in the introduction to Angry Candy, of the people who died (usually upwards of two a month) during the time he was writing those stories. If you check the names, a large number of them were the people who, along with Ellison, were at the forefront of the speculative (rather than science) fiction movement. If you read their stuff, if you read interviews with them (or, well, just about any group of young idealists from the mid-sixties) it seemed like they felt they were going to change the world with what they wrote. Ellison, in particular, seems especially guilty of this mindset.

But with Angry Candy, with all of those people who died, I think, to some extent, he realised that they were all dead, and he was pretty much the only one of his cohort still around. Not only was he alone, but the group as a whole hadn't changed the world, by and large. He was alone, and he'd, essentially, failed.

To some extent, (at least by my theory) his descent into the cartoon he's become stems at least a little of that. It might also possibly have something to do with his lack of output in the last 20 years.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:05 PM on May 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ever since I read about the Penny Arcade guys' falling-out with him,

Oh shit! Please link!
posted by P.o.B. at 8:31 PM on May 19, 2009


http://www.penny-arcade.com/2005/09/26/,
a little ways down.
posted by blenderfish at 9:59 PM on May 19, 2009


When I was like, 10 years old, back in ye olden dayes, the two writers I most wanted to write like were Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury. I think the mental tug of war that resulted broke my brain.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:12 PM on May 19, 2009


Heh. If someone tried to get me to wear one of those ridiculous rave-style jester hats I'd tell them to fuck off as well.
posted by Artw at 10:12 PM on May 19, 2009


I wouldn't want to be put on the spot either, especially if someone wanted me wear something ridiculous but I wouldn't tell them to fuck off.
Actually the last time I was asked to put on a ridiculous hat, it was one of the Frag Dolls that asked me. I just gave her an odd look, a laugh, and said that wasn't happening.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:42 PM on May 19, 2009


The only thing worse than someone upselling himself is someone upselling how badly he burned others. He's a great writer but abhorrently disgusting. I remember about the time he started firing off lawsuits into the theretofore wild Internets seeing him in a satin jacket and that was about all I needed to know about Harlan Ellison.

Also, what's up with that watch in his sweater-wearing pieces?
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:52 PM on May 19, 2009


"The thing is, I doubt many people would spend a post on, say, Picasso (off the top of my head, and no, I'm not comparing their work, so just stop) making snarky jokes about what an ass he was."

Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:22 AM on May 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


know who else was a colossal asshole?

Is the answer Naomi Campbell?
posted by panboi at 12:54 AM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Not in English, perhaps, but I'm sure Dora Maar had a few choice phrases handy.
posted by Minus215Cee at 1:41 AM on May 20, 2009


Ellison is one of my favorite writers. Like, ever. And he's often (in print, I mean; this is not someone I, like, hang with) a fucking infuriating human being until his opinions on something match yours, whereupon you're glad someone's saying what he's saying so forcefully, so passionately, and so well. Anyhow, for me Ellison's someone who isn't always easy to like, but is always easy to love, and that's about all I got here.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:33 AM on May 20, 2009


Hazier memory from his time at F&SF Magazine: at one point, they published a short story he wrote, starring himself, in which he saves the Earth from alien invasion by being an asshole on a call-in radio show. It was a pretty entertaining story.
posted by Drastic at 6:36 AM on May 20, 2009


Read the Glass Teat.

The Glass Teat is really fucking funny and an excellent account of the televisual pop culture of the late '60s. In High School, I read everything by Ellison. He was like a god to me. I even went to a SF convention just to see the "City on the Edge of Whatever" slide show. Over the years I've become less enamored of his work--his fiction especially is too often marred by mawkish sentimentality in spite of the brilliant conceits, but I think his memoirs and essays are still as entertaining and delightful as ever and his critical work--his pieces on TV and film and SF--will continue to be an irreplacable record of what the media business was like in the late 20th century. That's why Ellison will remain a fascinating figure, in spite of (probably) being as unpleasant as the reputation that follows him. He was there, in the business, in the 20th century, and he wrote about it. My Ellison is akin to a West, or a Welles, or a Thalberg, or a Sammy Glick who could write. None of that makes him a nice person (though the stories of his generosity are probably at least as true as the stories of his dickishness) but it does make me grateful for what he'll leave behind.

Also, I ran into Ellison on an elevator once. I said "Good morning," he said "Good morning," and that was that. Also also, Picasso was a colossal asshole.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:09 AM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't really care if he's a jerk or not but he does seem to have been coasting on his reputation for a long time. He seems to be a bit like science fiction's Orson Welles or Truman Capote where their best work is long behind them but they stay around because their personalities are so entertaining and you feel some hope that they might do something else brilliant before they kick off. (obviously in Welles's and Capote's cases, they never did do much else).
posted by octothorpe at 7:20 AM on May 20, 2009


Also also wik, having watched the clip, I can't say I blame him in this instance: Warner Brothers (or Time-Warner, or whatever the hell it is) expects someone like Ellison to work for free? Go ahead, pull the other one.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:29 AM on May 20, 2009


I visited Harlan in LA when I went down with a friend. My friend and Harlan have worked together in the past, and because of this, I was given the privilege of having a tour of his weird house. During this tour, Harlan mentioned that there was a movie being made about his life, and he was just given an advance copy.

I had to help him set up his DVD player, because he had no idea how to set it up, and the three of us watched the first few scenes. Harlan had never seen the movie as it was cut and he mentioned that there were a few scenes he hadn't realized were filmed. Harlan got a bit misty eyed watching these scenes, so I stopped the DVD. Harlan bounced back and showed us some more unusual crap in his giant house.

It was weird watching a movie about a guy in his house, sitting in the room the movie was filmed in, hearing his distinctive voice on TV being drowned out by his actual voice right next to me. To top it all off, Harlan told me the chair I was sitting in was sat in by “a lot of famous ass” which kind of creeped me out. During the visit Harlan was a pretty nice guy, but he wouldn’t want me to mention this, so I will say that he pushed me down an elevator shaft later.
posted by joelf at 9:25 AM on May 20, 2009


I can't say I blame him in this instance: Warner Brothers (or Time-Warner, or whatever the hell it is) expects someone like Ellison to work for free? Go ahead, pull the other one.

They wanted to use a promotional interview he'd given to Flesh out the extra materials on a DVD box set. Granted, they should have included DVD rights in the original release, but come on-- the budget for putting together most DVD box sets is pretty minimal, and paying for additional usage is kind of a non-starter in most cases. But really, if he'd wanted to be paid for the promotional interview, he probably should have mentioned that at the time it was filmed, rather than berating the poor PA or intern who drew the short straw when the time came to call that asshole old guy who worked with the writers.
posted by dersins at 9:35 AM on May 20, 2009


Well, you know, Ghidorah, here's the thing. It's not that Ellison is the worst person in the world, or for that matter the worst person in the arts; as far as I'm concerned, he hasn't passed beyond that ill-defined threshold that the likes of Orson Scott Card and Mel Gibson have crossed, where the sheer egregiousness of the artist's personal failings have ruined their work. I can still read his fiction, at least, with some pleasure and with the same sort of appreciation (if not perhaps the intensity thereof) that led me, as a teenager, to make a stop by the Es in the fiction section of my local library every week to see if they'd gotten any more of Harlan's work in.

The thing that makes Ellison so irritating to many of us is the astonishing degree to which he will go to create and maintain his cult of personality. He's extremely good at it; he schmoozes, he sucks up, he ingratiates himself with any number of people, and in some cases he may even deserve some of the adulation that he receives in return--cartoonist Colleen Doran credits him with getting one of her stalkers to leave her alone, at least for a while, when she was starting out in the comics field. Gary Groth, publisher of Fantagraphics and a former friend of Ellison (who was sued, and almost lost Fantagraphics as a result, after Ellison said some unflattering things about a comics writer in The Comics Journal; Ellison has since sued Groth a couple of times for publishing unflattering things about him) said once that Ellison makes these friends and allies with a combination of incredible efforts on their behalf and moments of incredible weakness that somehow further endears him to them and inspires them to defend him. There are a number of other people that have run this shtick (Warren Ellis, in particular), but Ellison has pursued this so assiduously for so long that one could argue that that is his career, and the writing is just a sideline.

And that, I think, is why you have so many people that reflexively piss on Ellison--the real outrage is that there are so many people who think that Ellison is not only an exemplary writer, but an exemplary human being all around. And he's not. He's an asshole. The thing with Connie Willis was not some sort of inexplicable neurological blip on the part of someone who is otherwise a wonderful fellow; it's Ellison being more obviously Ellison than usual, but not that much more.

Here's a good example of what I mean: in the comments on a blog post about Ellison's settlement of his latest suit against Gary Groth, someone characterizes it as "Ellison lost." Ellison shows up in the comments and sneers at the idea that he lost. Someone named Kevin Greenlee responds with a detailed description of how Ellison got almost nothing that he asked for in the suit; Ellison responds by calling Greenlee a "water-carrier" and "a minuscule status bloviater", which is kind of weaksauce for someone who's supposed to be a legendary insulter (Greenlee does an admirable job of keeping his cool). And yet there are still people who think that Ellison is some sort of demi-god, just as there were people who defended him after the Willis incident.

Hope this helps.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:42 AM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


BTW, the movie is pretty damned entertaining. I really liked the "Shakey the TNT driving jew" story.
posted by joelf at 9:56 AM on May 20, 2009


Hats off to the Penny Arcade guys, "I really enjoyed the Star Wars stuff you wrote." is quality baiting.
posted by Artw at 10:01 AM on May 20, 2009


obviously in Welles's and Capote's cases, they never did do much else

I don't understand this?

So what? They didn't have to.

Not that these writers are above criticism but I don't think "oh yeah, what have you done lately." is in any sense a reasonable or valid criticism of people who have written undisputed brilliant classics that will stand the test of time for hundreds of years. ESPECIALLY in a field that is notoriously fickle and notoriously ageist (this goes double for anything related to movies or TV).


How many things purely brilliant are you supposed to produce in a life? I'd like to get just one, personally.

Wells could have done Kraft Macaroni commercials with the Muppets for the rest of his life for all I care. He earned his place.
posted by tkchrist at 10:37 AM on May 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


There are a number of other people that have run this shtick (Warren Ellis, in particular), but Ellison has pursued this so assiduously for so long that one could argue that that is his career, and the writing is just a sideline.

I'd be close to saying that about Ellis these days.
posted by Artw at 11:04 AM on May 20, 2009


Someone asked Joseph Heller (I think it was him or maybe this story comes from pre-1974) why doesn't he write anymore books and he said something along the lines of "I said what I needed to say."
posted by P.o.B. at 4:25 PM on May 20, 2009


Don't forget Welles was MOTHA-F***ING UNICRON!
posted by P.o.B. at 4:29 PM on May 20, 2009


Halloween Jack, it seems this thread is kind of dead, but since you addressed me directly, I'm in no way defending Ellison's jackass-behavior. He's a dick, especially if he gets challenged. He's amazingly full of himself, and his standards for considering someone worth talking to (let alone an equal) are ridiculously high, as well as horribly outmoded (neither you nor I likely have direct experience with the things he considers necessary to living an enlightened life, and we're not exactly weeping over that).

He can be, and often is, an ass. I don't deny that. What I don't care for is people who focus on that to the exclusion of all other things. Could he have made different choices? Sure. Has he become Andy Rooney? Sure as shit. That sucks, because it tarnishes what he did. A lot of the time though, it seems the people who slag on him have never read anything by him, which, again, sucks. All they know of him is this asshole they've heard bad stories about.

And while Pablo Picasso was never, I'm assured by the great musicians of our day, called an asshole, it doesn't mean that he wasn't...
posted by Ghidorah at 7:38 PM on May 20, 2009


Musicians?
(forget it, he's on a roll)

"Also also, Picasso was a colossal asshole."

*Some* people try to pick up girls, and get called assholes. This never happened to Pablo Picasso.
He could walk down your street and girls could not resist his stare.
Subsequently, Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:16 AM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


The life of a self-mythologizer is always intense.
posted by Artw at 11:30 AM on May 22, 2009


Oh, and he's announced that he doesn't really write science fiction, presumably because that always gets a rise out of people.
posted by Artw at 8:21 AM on May 30, 2009


The life of a self-mythologizer is always intense.

As is the life of a repo man.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:32 AM on May 31, 2009


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