American writer (1934-2018). He was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He had to quit Ohio State University halfway through his sophomore year after he punched a professor who told him he had no talent. That professor was wrong, and if he didn't deserve the punch, you'd hope he'd look back on it and reconsider trying to crush out talent in the future. 

When he was 21 years old, he passed himself off as a 17-year-old and joined a street gang for ten weeks, solely to write about the experience. He completed his first book, "Web of the City," while serving in the Army.

Ellison was the author of classics like "I Have No Mouth, Yet I Must Scream," "Repent, Harlequin! Said the Tick-Tock Man," "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs," "Xenogenesis." and many, many more. Some of his best essays can be found in "The Glass Teat" and "The Other Glass Teat," which collect a series of columns he wrote about Hollywood and the television industry. His much-beloved "Dangerous Visions" and "Again, Dangerous Visions" anthologies have helped fuel his popularity, though his inability to get "The Last Dangerous Visions" assembled and published earned him some enemies. Many were offended by his outspoken attitude and formed an anti-Ellison organization called "Victims of Ellison" (originally "Enemies of Ellison"). A bunch of Ellison fans formed "Friends of Ellison" in response, and the two groups brawled on the Internet and quarreled at conventions for years. 

Even then, he won so many awards. Hugos, Nebulas, Stokers, Edgars, you name it. And pretty much everyone agreed he deserved 'em. Harlan Ellison was a hell of a writer. 

One of the things Ellison did best is irritate people, and even though I liked Harlan a lot, sometimes he irritated the hell out of me. He was, by many accounts, a total sweetheart in private, and unswervingly loyal to his friends, but more often than not, his public face was angry, snarling, even hateful. In his later years, his most frequent targets were the Internet (and everyone who uses the 'Net). He said the Internet was a time-waster and helped spread disinformation, which is often true, but hardly enough reason to reject all who use it. He also got angry about young people. He said they are almost universally stupid and uneducated, which is sometimes true, sometimes false -- and certainly, you'd never expect a counterculture gadfly like Harlan to go condemning people because of their age.

In a lot of ways, he was a rotten person. He sued way too many people, often for bad reasons. He threatened or attacked way too many people, often for bad reasons. He actually groped sci-fi grandmaster Connie Willis on stage during the Hugo Awards in 2006, which made it damn hard to defend him for a long time. 

And yet he was still one of the greatest sci-fi writers ever. 

For some reason, his books are almost impossible to find in most bookstores.

Ellison wrote one episode for Star Trek, called "City on the Edge of Forever". This was very well received and he won a Hugo for it. However the finally transmitted version was very different from the original script, which was published a few years ago. It involved a drug dealing member of Star Fleet and was thought unsuitable by Gene Roddenberry.

Recently Harlan Ellison has amongst other things served as Technical Consultant on the science fiction TV series Babylon 5. He has also appeared in the series:

  • As the voice of Sparky the very irritating computer in the season 3 story "Ceremonies of Light and Dark".
  • As a Psi Cop in a season 4 story when Garibaldi is on Mars (Thanks to Lord Brawl for reminding me of this).

Another earlier foray into television science fiction was the Canadian series "The Starlost" (1973) for which he wrote the pilot script. It was so badly hacked about that he insisted that they credit his Cordwainer Bird nom de plume instead of him. The original script I believe won a Screen Writers Guild award or something. Ben Bova was also involved in this and has written a novel "The Starcrossed" based on the experience.

Ellison is not a tall person but he is very self-possessed and confrontational (Thank you to Gorgonzola for telling me this may be due to a rough Indiana childhood). When he stood up to give a reading at a convention a voice drifted to his ears "Isn't he short." To which Mister Ellison's immediate reply is reputed to have been (through gritted teeth). "I may be short, but I'm very tall when I stand on my ego." The disembodied (and much chastened) voice did not reply.

There are a multitude of stories told about Harlan in the science fiction community (some of which may have some basis in fact). There is a particular story involving chandeliers and chainsaws that is either apocryphal or there was a cover-up on a Watergate scale. Another involving a model he was hitting on at a convention and a bag full of jellybeans that end up scattered everywhere is in Bjo Trimble's book "On the Good Ship Enterprise".

He is also very possessive of his work and actually believes that the people he deals with should abide by their contracts (a sometimes novel idea to publishers in the middle of the last century). In one case when a publisher placed cigarette ads in an edition and refused to return the rights Ellison started a campaign involving hulking great friends, lots of bricks sent collect, and a dead gopher sent fourth class. Not wanting to find out what would happen next, the publisher (from his hospital bed after a stroke) told his people to give Ellison the book back.

Harlan Ellison has done a rather large amount of writing:

Web of the City (1958)
The Sound of a Scythe (1969)
Spider Kiss (Originally titled "Rockability") (1961)

Graphic Novels
Demon with a Glass Hand (Adaptation with Marshall Rogers) (1986)
Night and the Enemy (Adaptation with Ken Steacy) (1987)
Vic and Blood: The Chronicles of a Boy and His Dog (Adaptation with Richard Corben) (1989)
Harlan Ellison's Dream Corridor Volume One (1996)

Short Novels
Doomsman (1967)
All The Lies That Are My Life (1980)
Run for the Stars (1991)
Mefisto in Onyx (1993)

Short Story Collections
The Deadly Streets (1958)
Sex Gang (As Paul Merchant) (1959)
A Touch of Infinity (1960)
Children of the Streets (1961)
Gentleman Junkie and Other Stories of the Hung-Up Generation (1961)
Ellison Wonderland (1962)
Paingod And Other Delusions (1965)
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream (1967)
From The Land of Fear(1967)
Love Ain't Nothing But Sex Misspelled (1968)
The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World (1969)
Over the Edge (1970)
Approaching Oblivion (1974)
Deathbird Stories (1975)
No Doors, No Windows (1975)
Strange Wine (1982)
Shatterday (1980)
Stalking the Nightmare (1982)
Angry Candy (1988)
Jokes Without Punchlines (1995)
Slippage (1997)
Troublemakers (2002)

Omnibus Volumes
The Fantasies of Harlan Ellison (1979)
Dreams with Sharp Teeth (1991)
Edgeworks Volume 1 (1996)
Edgeworks Volume 2 (1996)
Edgeworks Volume 3 (1997)
Edgeworks Volume 4 (1997)

Non-Fiction and Essays
Memos From Purgatory (1961)
The Glass Teat (1970)
The Other Glass Teat (1975)
The Book Of Ellison (1978)
Sleepless Nights in the Procrustean Bed (1984)
An Edge in My Voice (1985)
Harlan Ellison's Watching (1989)
The Harlan Ellison Hornbook (1990)

Alone Against Tomorrow: A Ten Year Survey(1971)
The Essential Ellison: A 35-Year Retrospective (Edited by Terry Dowling, with Ricard Delap and Gil Lamont) (1987)
The Essential Ellison: A 50-Year Retrospective (Edited by Terry Dowling, with Ricard Delap and Gil Lamont) (2001)

Comic Books
He wrote the following comic books, he didn't draw them, or have anything to do with the artwork...
Creepy #32 (1970) - "Rock God"
Avengers #88 (1971) - "The Summons of Psyklop (In the Grip of Psyklop, part 1)"
Incredible Hulk #140 (1971) - "The Brute, or The Brute That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World"
Avengers #101 (1972) - "Five Dooms to Save Tomorrow"
Chamber of Chills #1 (1972) - "Delusion for a Dragon Slayer"
Harlan Ellison's Chocolate Alphabet (1978)
Daredevil #208 (1984) - "The Deadliest Night of My Life"
Daredevil #209 (1984) - "Blast From the Past"
Heroes For Hope starring the X-Men (1985) - pp 22-24

(I took this list from Harlan Ellison's website (, and he doesn't mention the years he wrote them. He does mention who he wrote it for, so I guess I'm leaving that in.)
Would You Do It For a Penny?Playboy Productions
Stranglehold20th Century Fox / Marvin Schwartz Productions
Harlan Ellison's Movie20th Century Fox /Marvin Schwartz Productions
Blind Voices – Jay Julian
Seven Worlds, Seven Warriors - Filmation / Dino De Laurentiis
The Whimper Of Whipped Dogs – William Friedkin / ITC
I, Robot – Edward Lewis Productions / Warner Bros.
(Note: I know an illustrated version of this screenplay was published.)
A Boy And His Dog –L. Q. JAF Productions
(I like how The Internet Movie Database lists this to be also known as "Psycho Boy and His Killer Dog"...)
Nick The Greek – Jan Grippo Productions
Best By Far – James Harris Productions
Swing Low, Sweet Harriet – Palomar / MGM
Valley Of The DollsFox
The OscarParamount (Embassy)
The Dream MerchantsParamount (Embassy)
RumbleAmerican International
KhadimParamount / Joseph E. Levine
Bug Jack BarronUniversal / Costa-Gavras / Lewis Productions

Television Features, Pilots and Long Forms
(Again, this list is taken directly from Ellison's website. I did reformat it slightly. So, um, I'm doing a bit of work here. Ok, not really. It's still useful information.)
Tired Old Man – Joel Cohen, David Soul
Heavy MetalUniversal
A Boy And His DogNBC-TV (Pilot)
The Spirit – William Friedkin / NBC-TV (Pilot)
Mystery Show
Dark DestroyerABC-TV
The Starlost20th Century Fox / CBS
The Dark ForcesScreen Gems / NBC-TV
Our Man Flint20th Century Fox
Astral Man – Herb Solow / Universal
Man Without TimeParamount / NBC-TV
Astra/Ella - Paramount
The Other PlaceUniversal / ABC-TV
Project 120Universal
Bring ’Em Back Alive – Sy Weintraub Productions
Postmark: Jim Adam – Screen Gems
The Contender – Bruce Geller / Bernard Kowalski / Screen Gems
The Sniper
Brillo – Alan Landsburg Productions / NBC-TV
The Tigers Are Loose – Alpine / NBC-TV
Cutter’s World - NBC / New Horizons Films (Roger Corman)

Episodic Television
(He doesn't specify which episodes he wrote, so, the ones mentioned are courtesy of IMDB and fansites, and are in quotations.)
Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955) ("Memos from Purgatory" Side note: This starred James Caan (Best known as Sonny Corleone from The Godfather) as Harlan Ellison.)
The Untouchables (1959 - 63)
The Twilight Zone (1959 - 64) - ("Gramma", "Crazy as a Soup Sandwich", "One Life, Furnished in Poverty", "Palladin of the Lost Hour", "Shatterday")
Route 66 (1960) - ("A Gift for a Warrior")
Ripcord (1962) - ("Where Do Elephants Go to Die?")
Bob Hope Chrysler Theatre (1963 - 67)
The Great Adventure (1963 - 64)
The Outer Limits (1963) - ("Demon with a Glass Hand" & "Soldier" As a sidenote, The movie The Terminator is based off of these...)
Burke’s Law (1963-65) / Amos Burke, Secret Agent (1965 - 66) - ("Who Killed 1/2 of Glory Lee?", "Who Killed Purity Mather?", "Who Killed Alex Debbs?", "Who Killed Andy Zygmunt?")
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964) - ("The Price Of Doom")
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1964 - 68) - (Did an uncredited "polish" of "The Virtue Affair", wrote "The Sort-of-Do-It-Yourself Dreadful Affair", "The Pieces of Fate Affair")
Honey West (1965 - 66)
Batman (1966 - 68)
Rat Patrol (1966)
Cimarron Strip (1967) - ("Knife in the Darkness")
The Flying Nun (1967) - ("You Can't Get There from Here")
Star Trek (1967) - ("The City on the Edge of Forever")
The Name of the Game (1968 - 71)
The Young Lawyers (1970) - ("Whimper of Whipped Dogs")
The Sixth Sense (1972) – Creative Consultant
Ghost Story: Circle of Fear(1973) - ("Earth, Air, Fire And Water" with D. C. Fontana)
The Starlost (1973 - 74)
Manhunter (1974 - 75)
Logan's Run (1977) - ("Crypt")
Babylon 5 (1993 - 99) – Conceptual Consultant (1993 – 1998)
The Hunger (1997) – Showtime
Tales from the Darkside (1984) - ("Djinn, No Chaser")
Dark Room ?
Empire ?

He has some acting credits as well
The Godson (1971)
The Masters of Comic Book Art (1987) (Narrator)
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (1995) (Video Game) (voice of AM)

Let's not forget he made Records, too
On The Road With Ellison (1983) (This was originally a limited edition vinyl release, Deep Shag Records rereleased it in 2001.)
The Voice from the Edge (Volume 1) (1999)
Midnight in the Sunken Cathedral (2001)

It probably doesn't deserve a node of its own, so I'll note it here. The Edgework's series (Under "Omnibus Volumes") was a projected 20 volume reprinting of Ellison's work by White Wolf Publishing (Yes, the same people who do Vampire: The Masquerade). Each volume contains 2 of his older books, for the price of one. Which is keen, and you should go buy them all now. Anyway, as far as I know, only four of these books were released, all in hardcover, though, the first two were released in softcover additions as well. Edgeworks Volume 1 contains Over the Edge and An Edge in My Voice. Volume 2 contains Spider Kiss and Stalking the Nightmare. Volume 3 contains The Harlan Ellison Hornbook and Harlan Ellison's Movie (which was never actually released before as a book, except in limited editions of the Hornbook, it's an experimental series of Hornbook entries that make up a movie. That, of course, was never made). Volume 4 contains Love Ain't Nothing but Sex Misspelled and The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World.

What I find amusing about these reprints is the fact that each volume has a new introduction, and each individual book has an introduction. But, some of the books are reprints of the (relatively) newer editions, so they contain the newer introductions as well (for example, I believe Neil Gaiman wrote an introduction to The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World in Vol 4). The end result being, the books have at least 3 introductions each, some with four or five, I believe. That's ok, though. Harlan Ellison writes a mean introduction.

Since I mention all of his work on TV shows, I thought I'd also mention the fact that Ellison once sued ABC-TV and Paramount Pictures for plagiarizing Brillo. Or Future Cop. Which ever one he made. I'm uncertain, as all I could find on the supposedly famous "Brillo/Future Cop" case were the sentences, "In a 1980 landmark lawsuit he sued and beat ABC-TV and Paramount Pictures for $337,000 when they plagiarized a television series he had created. This was the famous Brillo/Future Cop case." The funny thing is, three different websites, (,, all have those exact same sentences without citing, so someone is plagiarizing someone. Again. The irony.

Update: DejaMorgana tells me that Brillo was originally a short story co-authored with Ben Bova, collected in Partners in Wonder. Many thanks. TV Tome ( tells me that Future Cop was an ABC series starting in 1976 that ran for just under a year, which seems strange, as the sites said the lawsuit was in 1980. Of course, this is entirely possible, so maybe Ellison was just lazy, or waits a few years before checking out reruns.

Sources: My various Harlan Ellison books, Ellison's website (, the Internet Movie Database,,,, uh, and a bunch of other fansites that I didn't copy down....

One of the oddest, longest running disputes in the world of sci fi has been between Harlan Ellison and sci fi author William Tenn (real name Philip Klass, who is not to be confused with UFO skeptic Philip J Klass). The origins are somewhat murky. Rumor has it back in the '60s Tenn was up for a Hugo or Nebula award and Ellison was actively campaigning against him.

Tenn, in retaliation, started spreading a rumor about Ellison at a sci fi convention. The rumor eventually became a notorious urban legend in sci fi circles. Tenn teaches writing at Penn State University1. He would tell his classes a story about how Ellison tried to hit on a much taller woman at a sci fi convention. Ellison, rather forward, said to her "what would you say to a little fuck?" The statuesque woman looked down on the diminutive Ellison and responded "I'd say 'Hi, little fuck.'"

Many in the know were skeptical about the veracity of this story. Ellison is an arrogant cuss but he's known to be a perfect gentleman around his female fans. It seemed unlikely he'd be so piggish to a woman fan.

The legend itself was repeated by Isaac Asimov in his book Asimov Laughs Again . Asimov did, however, claim in the retelling that the story was most certainly not true. Asimov might have had his own reasons for poke fun at Ellison as there's another legend involving Asimov and Ellison.

It goes something like this: the first time Ellison met Asimov at a sci fi convention Ellison saw Asimov in a crowd of young female groupies. Asimov was in seventh heaven. He was known to be quite the dirty old man (although that itself might be a legend). Ellison marched up to Asimov. Ellison did not identify himself. "Are you THE Isaac Asimov?" "Yes, I am." "Hrmph. You don't look like much."

Later at the keynote Asimov was to give, someone pointed out Ellison to him. He realized that was the man who slighted him in front of his adoring female fans. Asimov introduced Ellison thusly:

"Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like you to meet a good friend of mine, Harlan Ellison. Stand up so they can see you Harlan."

Ellision proceeded to stand up.

"No, stand up, they can't see you. Oh, hmmm, perhaps you should stand on a chair or something."

Right. Anyway, Tenn apparently tried to patch up his relationship with Ellison in the '90s. Ellison was hospitalized at some point and Tenn sent Ellison a get-well card. Ellison sent his get well card back with an 18-page rejection letter.

Another legend about Ellison that appears to be true is he was fired the same day he started working as a writer for Disney Studios. (Ellison admitted to the truth of this story in his book Stalking the Nightmare ). During Ellison's first day of work, during lunch, he suggested Disney should make a porno movie. He started doing imitations of Disney characters having sex in the corporate cafeteria. At the table next to him was none other than Roy Disney. Disney had Ellison pink slipped by the time he returned to his desk.

Although Ellison has verified the Disney legend, it does seem rather hard to believe Roy Disney was right there eating in the schlep caf. One wonders if Ellison didn't embellish things a little to make it seem like he crashed and burned in a spectacular way. Indeed, Ellison could be accused, himself, of keeping certain legends alive. For example there is a legend that Ellison was involved in a dust up at a Nebula Awards banquet. The story goes sci fi Ellison took exception to remarks by author Charles Platt and then took a swing at him. Platt didn't press charges in return for a mutually agreed upon "non aggression pact". They agree to avoid each other in future and never discuss the incident. Curiously, Ellison himself has written about the incident, claiming it did indeed happen. If so, Ellison would seem to be in violation of the agreement. The story doesn't seem straight.

Ellison is also a fringe part of another legend that L. Ron Hubbard bet Robert Heinlein that he could invent his own religion and make a million dollars. While it's not hard to believe Hubbard making such a boast, Scientology has bent over backwards to put this story to rest. Scientology's stand is there is no evidence Hubbard made such a boast, that there were no witnesses, so it's ultimately a highly libelous statement. See you in court. Many people claim there was at least one witness. Isaac Asimov was present during the exchange. It's also alleged Ellison was a witness to the bet as well. Ellison claimed as much in an interview for a '70s satirical magazine called "Wings".

The interview has been reproduced online although who knows if this is itself is a true transcript:

Ellison: Scientology is bullshit! Man, I was there the night L. Ron Hubbard invented it, for Christ Sakes!

I was sitting in a room with L. Ron Hubbard and a bunch of other science fiction writers. L. Ron Hubbard was famous among science fiction writers because he was the first one to have an electric typewriter.

Wings: He claimed to have written Dianetics in a weekend, and nobody can deny it.

Ellison: That's true. He wrote Dianetics in one weekend, and you know how he used to write? He used to take a roll of white paper, like paper you wrap fish in. He had it on the wall, and he would roll it into the typewriter and he would begin typing. When he was done, he would tear it off and leave it as one whole long novel.

We were sitting around one night... who else was there? Alfred Bester, and Cyril Kornbluth, and Lester Del Rey, and Ron Hubbard, who was making a penny a word, and had been for years. And he said "This bullshit's got to stop!" He says, "I gotta get money." He says, "I want to get rich".

Wings: He is also supposed to have said on that same night: "The question is not how to make a million dollars, but how to keep it."

Ellison: Right. And somebody said, "why don't you invent a new religion?

They're always big." We were clowning! You know, "Become Elmer Gantry! You'll make a fortune!" He says, "I'm going to do it." Sat down, stole a little bit from Freud, stole a little bit from Jung, a little bit from Alder, a little bit of encounter therapy, pre-Janov Primal Screaming, took all that bullshit, threw it all together, invented a few new words, because he was a science fiction writer, you know, "engrams" and "regression", all that bullshit. And then he conned John Campbell, who was crazy as a thousand battlefields. I mean, he believed any goddamned thing. He really believed blacks were inferior. I mean he really believed that. He was also very nervous when I was in his office because I was a Jew. You know, he was afraid maybe I would spring horns or something.

Anyhow, the way he conned John was that he had J. A. Winter, who was a doctor, who was a close friend of John's, and he got him to run this article on Dianetics, the new science of mental health.

Assuming Ellison wasn't trying to pull a fast one (it was a satirical magazine), his story is problematic because he was 14 years old at the time. Would a 14 year old unproven kid be hanging around with such sci fi greats?


1 Tenn taught writing to a student named David Morrell. Morell later became a writer in his own write (ha ha!). Morrell wrote a novel called First Blood. If that sounds familiar its because it is. It's the novel upon which the Rambo character was based. Ugg.

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