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Harlan Ellison

Harlan Jay Ellison (born May 27, 1934, Cleveland, Ohio) is a prolific speculative fiction writer of short stories, novellas, and criticism. His work is influenced by a number of literary genres, especially science fiction, fantasy, horror, and psychological drama.

Ellison left home in his youth and became a drifter, working various jobs. He briefly attended Ohio State University. In the mid 1950's, he began to sell science fiction stories to pulp magazines. He was drafted into the army and served 1957 to 1959. Afterward, he briefly edited Rogue magazine. He subsequently began to sell scripts to television and publish short pieces, fiction and nonfiction, in various publications. He moved to California in the early 1960's.

Ellison has written for several science fiction television series, including the 1980s revival of The Twilight Zone, the original Outer Limits series, and Star Trek. He has received many awards for both his fiction and television work. He served as creative consultant to the science fiction TV series The Twilight Zone (1980s version) and Babylon 5. The screenplay for his projected television series The Starlost was given a Writers Guild Award, though the actual series was so altered by the producers that Ellison had his name removed from the credits.

One of his most famous stories is "'Repent, Harlequin!' said the Ticktockman", a celebration of civil disobedience against repressive authority. He has also written large amounts of non-fiction, including a book about his experience joining a gang (as research for a novel) in the late 1950s, Memos from Purgatory (that was adapted as an episode of the Alfred Hitchcock Hour in the early 1960s and featured Walter Koenig, later of Star Trek fame), and several collections of essays about the TV and film industries. For many years college media studies programs have used The Glass Teat in television criticism classes.

He also edited the extremely influential science fiction anthology Dangerous Visions (1967), which collected stories commissioned by Ellison, accompanied by his commentary-filled biographical sketches of the authors. He challenged the authors to write stories at the edge of the genre, and Dangerous Visions is widely considered the greatest and most influential SF anthology of all time. Many of the stories broke past the traditional boundaries of science fiction pioneered by respected old school editors such as John W. Campbell, Jr As an editor, Ellison was influenced and inspired by the experimentations in the popular literature of the time, such as the Beats.

A sequel, Again Dangerous Visions, was published in 1972. And yet a projected third book in the series, The Last Dangerous Visions, became something of a legend in science fiction as the genre's most famous unpublished book. Ellison himself has come under harsh criticism for his treatment of writers who submitted their stories to him, of which there are estimated to be well over 100, and many of whom have died in the subsequent three decades since the anthology was first announced. Noted British SF author Christopher Priest has become Ellison's most prominent critic over the book, extensively cataloguing Ellison's dubious editorial practices in a widely-disseminated article titled The Book on the Edge of Forever.

Ellison has a reputation for being outspoken and abrasive. His friend Isaac Asimov remarked of Ellison that, "he has no sense of tact whatsoever." As many people and Ellison himself have said, he does not suffer fools gladly. His reputation got him a spot on the fledgeling Sci-Fi Channel where he was given a soapbox on international television to express his views on (presumably) whatever he wanted. It was eventually dropped.

In the 1980s, there was a widely-publicized incident in which Ellison physically assaulted author and critic Charles Platt at the Nebula Awards banquet over some critical commentary of Platt's. Platt did not pursue legal action against Ellison, and the two men signed a "non-aggression pact" later, promising never to discuss the incident again or have any contact with one another. In later years, however, Ellison often publically boasted about the incident.

Ellison is active in the science fiction community, sometimes appearing at science fiction conventions.

Ellison has on occasion used the pseudonym "Cordwainer Bird" to alert members of the public to situations in which he feels his creative contribution to a project has been mangled beyond repair by others, typically Hollywood producers or studios. (See, e.g., Alan Smithee.) The "Cordwainer Bird" moniker is a tribute to fellow SF writer Paul M. A. Linebarger, better known by his pen name, Cordwainer Smith.

Ellison recently gained attention for his April 24, 2000 lawsuit against Stephen Robertson for posting four of his stories to the Usenet newsgroup alt.binaries.e-book without authorization. Included as defendants in the lawsuit were AOL and RemarQ, ISPs whose involvement was running Usenet servers carrying the group in question and for failing to stop the alleged copyright infringers in accordance with the "Notice and Takedown Procedure" outlined in the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Robertson and RemarQ settled the lawsuit with Ellison, though he pressed on with his suit against AOL. The suit is ongoing as of November of 2003.

Books of Short Stories


Published screenplays and teleplays

See also Phoenix without Ashes, the novelization by Edward Bryant of the screenplay for the pilot episode of The Starlost, which includes a lengthy afterword by Ellison describing what happened in the production of that series.


Anthologies edited

Selected Short Stories

Awards won

Bradbury award

The Bradbury Award in 2000 went to Harlan Ellison and Yuri Rasovsky.

Bram Stoker Award

Hugo award

Locus poll award

Nebula award

Additional reading