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Acknowledgement to the Works of Harlan Ellison

Science fiction author and all round obnoxious human being Harlan Ellison died on Wednesday, June 27. He was 84.

I'm sitting here with tears on my cheeks wondering what I could possibly say about Ellison. I tried to read a volume of his stories once, and found them so disturbing that I couldn't finish. But his contribution to the science fiction genre in general and to time travel stories in particular is immense.

Only a couple of weeks ago, I posted a review of The Outer Limits episode "The Man Who Was Never Born" in which I referenced my deep love for the movie Terminator and the original Star Trek episode, "The City on the Edge of Forever." What these two works have in common are that they are time travel tragedy at its most poignant. Harlan Ellison wrote "The City on the Edge of Forever" and then he fought how Gene Roddenberry changed it. And James Cameron was legally forced to put a card at the end of Terminator that said, "Acknowledgement to the works of Harlan Ellison."

(I should also mention that Ellison wrote the best episode of The Outer Limits entitled "Demon With a Glass Hand," also a poignant time travel tragedy. I'm currently reviewing The Outer Limits but I'm still in season one and haven't gotten to it yet.)

I don't think I liked Harlan Ellison. By all accounts, he was a difficult human being; James Cameron is quoted as saying, "Harlan Ellison is a parasite who can kiss my ass." But his work was important to me. Acknowledgement to the works of Harlan Ellison. He will be missed.


  1. Thanks for this. He was a notoriously difficult person but a gifted and original writer, and one of the scions of the greatest generation of science writers. Yes, you read that correctly. Screw the golden age. I'll take Ellison, LeGuin, Zelazny, Aldiss, Ballard and the rest over them any day.

  2. magritte, I grew up reading Robert A. Heinlein and Edgar Rice Burroughs. I liked Zelazny, too, and read dozens of volumes of collected sci-fi stories. Science fiction was the only thing I had in common with my father. It meant the world to me.

  3. Here's a write up you'll probably like, from an author who knew him. https://stevenbarneslife.wordpress.com/2018/06/29/rip-harlan-ellison/

  4. Anonymous, thanks so much for the link. That was a lovely, personal, beautifully written RIP tribute.

  5. Harlan Ellison also wrote the Outer Limits episode "Soldier", which is in fact what Terminator was accused of plagiarizing (to which claim I say "eh", but I'm not sorry Ellison got the credit because I don't like James Cameron much).

  6. Hello, Very nice post. I did meet Mr. Ellison once at a book store reading and signing event. During presentation he was very funny and entertaining. Afterwards I and others spoke to him briefly. He was kind and generous, and humble. It was a pleasure to see and meet him.

  7. John Varley, my current favorite sci-fi author, knew Harlan Ellison and just posted a lovely and quite personal obit.


  8. I met HE in the nineties. He was very gracious. I told him his work was the greatest inspiration for my own writing.

    I consider him the greatest American fantasist and certainly the best post-modern writer of short stories. His film reviews were amazing. He was the first critic to call ALIEN "a haunted house movie set in space."

    He often referred to the public as "the great wad." With the proliferation of superhero, dinosaur, space fantasy and other CGI-stuffed turkeys choking the cinemas, I have to agree.


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