Writer James mo­ran re­mem­bers his friend

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The first time I saw any­thing of Har­lan’s was the “Shat­ter­day” episode of the 1980s Twi­light Zone. I in­stantly made it my mis­sion to track down ev­ery­thing else he wrote. Luck­ily, he wrote a lot, with a blis­ter­ing fe­roc­ity and child­like op­ti­mism, some­times in the same sen­tence.

Later, I met him and we be­came friends, which was as won­der­ful and sur­real as you’d imag­ine. He was warm and in­cred­i­bly gen­er­ous, full of en­thu­si­asm for the world, with an in­cred­i­bly ten­der side – and a not-so ten­der side, if you wronged him or his friends. He was a cham­pion for writ­ers getting paid, par­tic­u­larly with un­scrupu­lous pro­duc­ers. He also loved giv­ing stick to his friends, and getting it back – when he lost a dol­lar bet with me, I phoned him and yelled “you owe me a dol­lar, moth­er­fucker!” He cack­led for hours. I still have the dol­lar.

But I think my favourite mem­ory was go­ing to see him and dis­cov­er­ing that he’d aban­doned shav­ing ex­actly half­way across his face, right down the mid­dle, be­cause he fig­ured “it’s only you vis­it­ing”, and couldn’t be both­ered fin­ish­ing. He sat there, mak­ing very se­ri­ous points about some­thing, with half a shaved face. Then he told a joke about a Jewish alien, sang a song, and said he was go­ing back to bed. That was Har­lan, ridicu­lous and ran­dom. I love him, and miss him.

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