Harlan Ellison: Who is He and Why Should We Care?

Harlan Ellison is easily agitated. You can’t really be sure of what will set him off on a tirade – but you can be sure that his reasoning will be sound.

So we will introduce him as a writer/author – and occasional hell raiser. Hopefully that cautious and broad intro will not incite a verbal attack from him. To the literati, Harlan Ellison is the author and/or editor of countless, much lauded short stories, novels, novellas and anthologies. To the couch-potato clickers of the world, Harlan Ellison matters to you because he served as creative consultant for the 1980′s version of The Twilight Zone, as conceptual consultant for Babylon 5 in the 1990′s and wrote one of the most popular episodes of Star Trek (The City on the Edge of Forever) among his vast body of television credits.

And, finally, to artists of all genres – Harlan Ellison is a loud, irascible and vehement voice for respect and payment. He is the rare combination of a well-developed artistic mind combined with exquisite business smarts and an innate sense of unwavering justice. Ellison dares, in one of his rants, to speak out against a major film studio who wanted to re-release material involving him on DVD. When asked to be paid for his participation, the young assistant seemed shocked. A highly unfortunate reaction on her part – as she then became the target for a giant Harlan Ellison emotional whipping. Did she expect her gas station attendant to give her free gasoline? Her doctor to perform surgery for free…and did SHE, in fact work for free?

Artists are sick to death of trying to pay their bills off of jobs that “offer great exposure.” Harlan Ellison laments the fact that professional writers are constantly being undercut by amateurs these days… and he’s right. It might behoove all of us to listen to Harlan’s rants in DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH and re-inspire ourselves as a nation to “get what we pay for” and maybe bump up our standards a little.

Harlan Ellison matters because whether in his work or in his life, he delves into specifics… deep details that – whether describing a stabbing victim in one of his stories or discussing his own lawsuits and finances – make us all a little uncomfortable when we face the deep truths uncovered.

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