Harlan Ellison Will Fuck Your Shit Up

SHERMAN OAKS — Much like Mark Twain, he’s damning the human race again, but that’s just Harlan. Ellison is the kind of crank that makes for a good feature on a slow news day.

“FEED MY EGO, SUZE! I AM THE GREATEST LIVING WRITER THIS PLANET HAS GOT! LOOK AT MY COPIOUS NOTES. WHY, EVERY SENTENCE IS PURE GENIUS! YOU CAN FIND MY NOTES IN THE FILE CABINET, IN THE FILE MARKED ‘IDEAS THAT PIGEONHEADS CAN’T COMPREHEND.’ THESE IGNORANT FOOLS DON’T UNDERSTAND MY GENIUS!”

Another day, another dollar, another cash-strapped editor conned out of his money. $500,000 for a 24-word Ellison piece of flash fiction, and it’s only Tuesday. Another wing to add to the sprawling Ellison estate. Ellison has chewed out another editorial intern over the phone for mispronouncing Solzhenitsyn’s last name. The intern is sobbing and apologizing, and telling Ellison that she’s on Xanax and that she’s been with a therapist since the age of 12. But Ellison doesn’t budge and wants to hear her whimper some more before hanging up. This is clearly a fight worth winning.

Harlan Ellison’s hubris fed a lot of hungry intellectual minds in their twenties looking for a bombastic figurehead. Unfortunately, most of them grew up, which wasn’t good for Ellison’s midlist standing. But that hasn’t fazed Ellison. These days, he spends his autumn years calling random people at odd hours, getting angry over the important details that most people take for granted. “Damn you!” he cries out to a delivery boy earning minimum wage. “I told you I wanted the California roll, not the Nevada roll! Don’t you understand the difference between Las Vegas and La Jolla? What the hell is a Nevada roll anyway?” High blood pressure hasn’t stopped Harlan Ellison from getting angry or correcting people of these unfortunate mistakes, which he blames on “cultural amnesia” — in this case, the unpardonable errors of a Sherman Oaks sushi bar. A self-made man of privilege should get what he wants. Screw the working class and the moronic masses. It’s justice, Ellison-style.

Harlan Ellison, 70, has been denied his meds again. He’s sitting in an atrium of his own design, pointing out how superior it is to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel. There are many, many, many, many, many strange things here: the Rolodex of credible, perceived and imagined enemies out to get Ellison, the various black helicopters that Ellison insists were manufactured and put into service by the Department of Defense, and an old-fashioned card catalog detailing the people he claims to know or might have known, and the hyperbole he’s built his careeer upon.

On a bathroom wall there’s a Will Eisner drawing of The Spirit, drawn by Eisner in about ten minutes, signed: “To Harlan: Thank you for ripping out my left testicle. I needed to feel unnecessary pain, and I needed a second opinion when the blood clotted. All best, Will.” It’s art, goddammit. Never mind that it was one of about 90 drawings that Eisner made one autumn day in 1982.

All of this is part of how Harlan Ellison gets what he wants. He recently broke the nose of one journalist who liked “his touching little fantasy tales.” But he didn’t just break the journalist’s nose. He lectured the journalist for three hours on genre ghettoization. This was a matter of pride.

While some might contend that Ellison has become a parody of himself, there are still others who will happily kiss his 70 year old ass, despite its many wrinkles. Ellison regularly wards off these fanboys, commissioning hit men to knock them off.

“Their lives are worthless,” he says. “It’s the individual’s responsibility to stop heckling writers. For fuck’s sake, they might start literary blogs.”

© 2005, DrMabuse. All rights reserved.

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