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Writer Harlan Ellison dead at 84

| June 29, 2018 | Reply
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Legendary writer Harlan Ellison died happy yesterday at the age of 84. Notice I said “writer,” not “science fiction writer.”

“I’m a writer,” Ellison said in 1993. “Call me a science fiction writer and I’ll come to your house and I’ll nail your pet’s head to a coffee table. I’ll hit you so hard your ancestors will die. I’ll hit you so hard your grandmother will bleed. I’m a writer, there’s no adjective in front of it. I’m just a writer.”

Call him a science fiction writer and he may well come back to haunt you. Or sue you from beyond the grave, if that’s possible. (With Johnnie Cochran already in the afterlife, I wouldn’t put it past the litigious Ellison to try.)

I was first introduced to Ellison’s work in the early 1990s through his “Harlan Ellison’s Watching” commentary segments on the 1993 to 1998 Sci-Fi Channel series Sci-Fi Buzz, a program which coincidentally became my own first appearance on national television.

Perhaps best described as a cross between Andy Rooney and Ebeneezer Scrooge channeling Howard Cosell, Ellison’s commentaries were like nothing I’d ever seen before. An irascible personality with a razor sharp wit, he called things like he saw them, sometimes to his own detriment.

“I’m sort of the opposite of somebody like, say, Rush Limbaugh, who, in my perception, has a brain that has turned to puree of bat guano,” Ellison said in his first segment, aired in 1993. “Or the various other talk show hosts who don’t really tell you what they stand for. My opinions are mine own; they don’t reflect the show, they don’t reflect the network.”

In his 1965 collection of short stories Paingod and Other Delusions, Ellison wrote “I know that pain is the most important thing in the universes. Greater than survival, greater than love, greater even than the beauty it brings about. For without pain, there can be no pleasure. Without sadness, there can be no happiness. Without misery there can be no beauty. And without these, life is endless, hopeless, doomed and damned.”

“I’m not afraid of death,” Ellison said in a 2010 interview, “and there is not one iota of suicide in me. All I want to make sure is that when the paper comes out, it says, ‘Harlan Ellison died in his sleep.'”

His pain is over, as is a beautiful, finite life.

How do I know he died happy? Because the man who claimed to never lie told us so himself — and getting his final wish, Harlan Ellison died in his sleep.

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I'm a Mid-South photojournalist, Kentucky writer and digital media consultant (or eNinja™). Circle me on Google Plus at Plus.BillySuratt.com, follow me on Twitter at @surattb and Instagram me at @BillySuratt. Got a news tip or suggestion about some journalism that needs committed? Email blog@billysuratt.com (discretion is always guaranteed).