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Harlan Ellison remembered: Friends, fans pay tribute to the Star Trek/Outer Limits writer

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Jun 28, 2018, 5:18 PM EDT

Harlan Ellison, the enfant terrible of the 1960s speculative fiction publishing world who was known for his tempestuous nature as much as his brilliant prose, has died at age 84.

If you don't recognize the name, you may recognize his work: Ellison wrote the famed Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever," the famed Outer Limits episode "Demon with a Glass Hand," and was a consultant on both Babylon 5 and the 1985-1986 version of The Twilight Zone.

He leaves behind his wife Susan and a hole in our hearts the size of a dangerous vision.

Through direct comments to SYFY WIRE, as well as via Twitter, friends and colleagues mourned the literary genius — who in conversation once told this writer he had won more writing awards than any writer alive at the time. We hope these memories will give you a glimmer of Ellison's sharp personality, and why he and his writing will be painfully missed.

From friend and fellow Star Trek writer, David Gerrold:

At the 1976 Worldcon we had a roast of Harlan. I forget who all was on the panel, but it was a star-studded event and there were hundreds of people in the room, maybe a thousand. We were merciless at Harlan's expense and he took it with good grace. My own remark was that it felt like we were all lying down on the train tracks, because Harlan was going to get the last word. He was just sitting quietly, smiling and turning his water into wine and back again.

But when he got up to talk, someone in the audience shouted out something and Harlan turned the full force of his fury on that unwitting fan.

"These people are my friends. They get to say terrible things about me. You're not my friend. You don't."

I might still have a tape of that somewhere. I felt cheated because Harlan never got around to roasting the rest of us in turn.

I probably have in my possession one of the last books (if not the last book) that Harlan ever autographed. And seeing how much trouble he had signing it, I vowed I would never bother him that way again. This happened last year. He needed a ride to the doctor. I was still dealing with a torn rotator cuff, so I couldn't lift him from bed to wheelchair. Instead, I enlisted a couple of young Mormon missionaries (really good guys) and the three of us trekked up to Ellison Wonderland. We got him from bed to wheelchair to car to doctor.

Afterward, we got him from doctor to wheelchair to car to Italian deli. (Pinocchio's on Magnolia in Burbank.) Great meal, great chat. Harlan was in a good mood that day. We got him home safely and he was very grateful for the effort that we had made for him.

He signed some stuff for the two young men (they were fans of his) and a book for me, because I had not asked him for an autograph in at least forty years. A few days later, he called me to express his personal gratitude that I was able to make the arrangements. I told him again, "You're my family. It was a privilege to do it for you."

From Darrell Schweitzer, writer and publisher:

I was his student at Clarion in 1973.... The most amazing performance I ever saw was at the 1974 Worldcon, when he was hosting a premiere of A BOY AND HIS DOG. The projector didn't work. Harlan kept the audience entertained with improvised talk for three hours. The projector still didn't work and they had to give up. The next night they tried again. 1 hour technical difficulties. Harlan kept the audience's attention. Then it finally did work. When it was all over he had something like 2000 rating cards from the "test audience" to show his producers, all of which marked it excellent. That may have been the undoing of the film because those cards all said they should keep the title as A BOY AND HIS DOG, which did not work in the theaters.

From publisher Glenn Hauman:

[At a bookstore signing, a fan] asked him a question about some story about him at a convention that was unflattering and unbelievable.

He said, "No! It's not true! Absolutely not! How do these insane stories about me get started?"

And no less then ten minutes later, he was dropping his pants to show off his Marvin the Martian boxer shorts.

And I thought, "How DO these insane stories get started?"