Harlan Ellison, who has had more influence on my writing than any other writer, has died. If I had a flag in front of our house I’d be lowering it to half-mast today.
Even though I have been influenced over the years by the writer/social critic, I know that on my best day I’ll never come close to his skill, but I try. God knows I try.
I have had an appreciation for Ellison going back to the 1970s. My friend Sandra Stokes once gave me a sage bit of advice, when she told me that a writer should write the way they talk, and I always suspected that Harlan Ellison may have believed the very same thing.
In the 1980s, in the midst of one of my Ellison-inspired reveries about his writing – I had just bought and listened to his recording of “Shatterday” – Paula, my girlfriend at the time, suggested that I call him and tell him how much I admired him.
Today, on occasion, I’ll email or send a Facebook message to someone whose work I enjoy, but in those days, the very idea was something which had never simply never occurred to me.
And hey, Information had his number! Nervously I tapped it in, and after a couple of rings came the voice of the man who will always live on in the pantheon of my personal gods, a voice I recognized from various TV interviews I had watched.
And just like that, my nerve left me. I slammed the phone back down on the receiver. Gutsy little me.
BEven though I lost the nerve to talk to him, my respect for Ellison and his work has only grown over the years. And I expect it will continue to grow, as I discover writings I have never read before.
If you haven’t discovered Harlan Ellison, well, it’s not too late. Get thee to a bookstore or a library. Oh, and write to your favorite writers, and let them know how you feel. It’s the least you can do in exchange for what they do for you.
Dan Fogelberg is helping me deal with the reality of a world without Harlan Ellison today.
Quote of the Day
“ . . . to true believers, those who believe in other faiths are a much greater threat than mere unbelievers. Unbelievers, after all, are just sinful people who refuse to hear the word of God. But the adherents of other faiths claim they have heard the word of God! They claim they have heard it saying different things, laying down different rules, dictating different holy books . . .” – Chris Beckett, “The Holy Machine”