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Harlan Ellison Passes Away

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Award-winning writer Harlan Ellison, who always eschewed the term “science fiction writer” but who was for many one of the kings of speculative fiction, passed away on June 28, 2018.

His death was announced via Twitter by a family friend, who wrote, “Susan Ellison [his wife] has asked me to announce the passing of writer Harlan Ellison, in his sleep, earlier today. ‘For a brief time I was here, and for a brief time, I matter.’ – HE, 1934-2018. Arrangements for a celebration are pending.” He was 84.

Harlan Jay Ellison was born on May 27, 1934 in Cleveland, Ohio. Throughout his formative years, Ellison was a bit of a wild child. Often running away from home to work odd jobs such as tuna fisherman, crop-picker, short-order cook, lithographer, book salesman, cab driver, door-to-door brush salesman, and even actor for a few productions at the Cleveland Play House.

For a time, Ellison attended The Ohio State University before being expelled for hitting a professor who had criticized his writing ability. Over the next 20 years or so, the snarky writer allegedly sent that same professor a copy of every story he published. Around this time, Ellison published stories in Cleveland News and EC Comics before moving to New York to pursue a writing career full-time. In just two years, Ellison published more than 100 short stories and articles, primarily in the genre of science fiction.

After serving in the army from 1957 to 1959, Ellison relocated to California and focused on selling his writing to Hollywood. His credits at this time included writing the screenplay for The Oscar, and selling scripts to shows such as The Loretta Young Show, The Flying Nun, Burke’s Law, Route 66, The Outer Limits, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Cimarron Strip, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and Star Trek. His screenplay for the latter on the episode “The City on the Edge of Forever” is considered the best of the entire 79-episode series.

Along with his work in Hollywood, Ellison continued publishing short stories in various publications. Some of his best known pieces include “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” and “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream.” His story, “The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore” was selected for inclusion in the 1993 edition of The Best American Short Stories.

Further titles written by Ellison included the nonfiction novels Memos from Purgatory, The Glass Teat, The Book of Ellison, Sleepless Nights in the Procrustean Bed, and An Edge in My Voice. Plus his short stories “The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World,” “The Deathbird,” “The Diagnosis of Dr. D’arque Angel,” “From A to Z, in the Chocolate Alphabet,” “Grail,” “Jeffty Is Five,” “Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World,” and “The Whimper of Whipped Dogs,” and “How’s the Night Life on Cissalda?” His short story “Shatterday” subsequently served as the inspiration for an episode of The Twilight Zone, where he served as a creative consultant.

Ellison also served as creative consultant on the TV series Babylon 5, where he provided voices and made an onscreen appearance in the episode “The Face of the Enemy.” Additional voice work for the Screen Actors Guild member included The Pirates of Dark Water, Mother Goose and Grimm, Space Cases, and Phantom 2040. Outside of television, Ellison has lended his voice to the audiobook versions of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, Return to Mars, Ender’s Game, Through the Looking-Glass, Honeymoon in Hell, and Night Ride to list a few.

Throughout his decades-long career, Ellison won eight Hugo awards, two special awards from annual World SF Conventions, four Nebula Awards, five Bram Stoker Awards, two Edgar Awards, two World Fantasy Award, two Georges Méliès Awards, several Lifetime Achievement awards, the Silver Pen for Journalism, the “Defender of Liberty” award from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. His voice work on Through the Looking-Glass also earned Ellison a Grammy nomination for Best Spoken Word Album For Children.

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