har­lan el­li­son

Re­mem­ber­ing a sci-fi vi­sion­ary

SFX - - Red alert -

Har­lan el­li­son was, fa­mously, a man who didn’t mince his words. You could ar­gue – and he ar­gued a lot – that no other au­thor in the field of science fic­tion (in­ci­den­tally, a term he loathed) uses words with such ter­ri­fy­ing force and power. He fired them off like type­face mis­siles: in nov­els, short sto­ries, think pieces, vol­umes of film and tele­vi­sion crit­i­cism, screen­plays and – per­haps most fa­mously – to lawyers, in­struct­ing them to take those he thought had pla­gia­rised his work to court. You didn’t want to cross El­li­son. But if you were on his good side, by god, was he en­ter­tain­ing.

The young El­li­son started off big – run­ning away to join the cir­cus as a teenager – be­fore learn­ing to make a liv­ing tap­ping the keys of his beloved type­writer (he never switched to a com­puter, de­spite know­ing how to use one, pre­fer­ring the old ways). He even turned writ­ing into a per­for­mance art, com­pos­ing sto­ries in store win­dows in front of crowds.

And what things he showed us: I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream. “Re­pent, Har­lequin!” Said The Tick­tock­man. A Boy And His Dog. Star Trek’s iconic episode “The City On The Edge Of For­ever”. He also edited Dan­ger­ous Vi­sions (1967) and its se­quel, a col­lec­tion of cut­ting-edge sto­ries that shaped the fu­ture of sci-fi by prov­ing that the genre could push ev­ery bound­ary go­ing.

Most of all, though, he liked to spew forth words. JN

El­li­son was one of SF’s most ex­cit­ing writ­ers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.