I just found out that Harlan Ellison has died. He marked his 84th birthday a month ago. Ellison was one of my favorite writers, and his work earned the respect and admiration of his peers. As much as anyone, he was responsible for dragging speculative fiction out of the critical ghetto and into the realm of Literature. He was — and is — one of the writers who inspired me to do what I do, and I’m grateful for that.
His life was the sort of thing that spawned legends, for good or ill, but was marked by a ferocious integrity (or an integral ferocity) that he brought to everything he did, from marching at Selma to walking away from a high-paying Twilight Zone gig. His commitment to his vision and to the creator’s freedom sets a frighteningly high bar, but it’s one I try to keep in mind as I work.
When I finished BGW, I thanked the writers who have guided me into the dark country where I choose to work — Lawrence Block, Harlan, and Jim Thompson. I made sure to send copies to Larry and to Harlan, but I don’t know if Ellison ever read it, or even ever saw it. But that’s OK; I acknowledged the debt, and I try to pay it in my own small way when I sit at the keyboard.
He frequently said that he woke up angry every morning, and went to bed angrier each night. I hope he rests easily now — either in the nowhere he expected, or better, with the mother, and especially the father, he missed for so much of his life. And I hope they have Hydrox and old radio shows there.
Goodbye, Harlan. You were a man in full. Thanks for the stories — including the one you lived.