This blog post is on a recent video courtesy of SLEEPY READER, via his excellent Youtube Channel. Watched it courtesy of the Youtube Channel on my Roku streaming device
SLEEPY READER 666 Vlog #76 – I like the fact that Sleepy reader covers diverse content, rather than just showing you the latest comics, or variants. I like that his stories are a little deeper than that and more informed.
In his most recent episode he discusses the late great Harlan Ellison, as well as Brian Michael Bendis, and kinda wags his finger at them for being too self aggrandizing. Based on a bad meeting he had with Harlan Ellison when he was 24.
And that got me thinking about the impressions we make of a person, the life long animus, or bad impression we somehow cement of a person, based on a cursory meeting in our youth. When you might have been catching your idol on a bad day.
Evidently seeing Ellison being bombastic and vocal, an impression of Ellison was created, a definition of Ellison based on that one meeting, that some can carry through an entire life.
It is a common mistake that young people do (I have done it), imagining that one moment is the man. A lot of people go to conventions or meet their heroes, and because the hero doesn’t say what they wanted him to say, or respond how they expected him to respond that creator is suddenly for all time, and in all things, an asshole, or pompous, or whatever.
And most of the time it is that the person may have have a bad day, or a bad interaction, or a bad lunch, or a rude fan before you, or his mind is on a personal issue at home, so perhaps he doesn’t fully pay attention to the 200th person in the line, asking him the same stupid question, or make the same inane joke as 50 people before.
Most of us barely are able to get along with the small circle of people who make up are 9 to 5. A celebrity mutiplies those interactions by the thousands arguably, and even if he is on most of that, 99% of that time, that leaves 1% he is not going to satisfy, or be at his best for.
I’m saying that basing your view of a person on one peripheral incident, that that person arguably has forgotten, five minutes after it happened, if he were to bump into you the day after he would likely not know know you from Adam, yet for you that incident of decades ago has become a defining , enlightening moment on that person’s personality for all time.
And all of us have done this at times. It is the reckoning of someone very young, and the mistake of someone very young. We who are older, who have been on both sides of that being disappointed, and disappointing a person, should hopefully grow to know better.
People have bad days. You call em on it, or you don’t. But either way you let it go, and you do not try and define a person you really do not know, based on just that one incident at a convention or party.
An idol doesn’t owe you the approval of his character, he produces work, an if the work speaks to you, he’s done his job. The judging of his soul or his character is not a part of that contract we develop with those who amaze up.
I’m one of those who grew up on the work of Asimov, Bradbury, Baldwin, and Harlan Ellison. Along with a good helping of Stan Lee, and Bill Cosby and Edgar Allen poe and Electric company.
What I gained from all those influences, those creators remain. I’m an immesurably richer person for the creativity of people I know only through their work for the most part.
And if later time finds them in places far from the heroic heights we met them on, it does not change the great things their work did for us, and many like us.
It’s the concept that is lost on a witch hunt America, that a man’s evil does not erase his good. No matter how our culture of championing falls, would like it to be so.
I think sometimes, particularly in America, we raise people up, just to tear them down. That is arguably not the way, I’m not a bandwagon guy. Judgement not by the consensus of the media or Social media, or one cursory interaction.
We all make up opinions on people, but perhaps those opinions should be as cognizant of our own… fallibility, as we can make it. And look at the supposed sins and failings of others, always in relation to our own sins and failings.
Something I absolutely do not think is currently happening in the media.
Was Harlan Ellison a prickly, abrasive, off-putting, and arguably contrary and combative person? As someone who has listened to just about all his recordings as well as read and listened to his writings… I believe Harlan Ellison would be the first one to say Yes!!!
He famously said, something to the effect ‘I’m a snake on a rock, don’t mes with me I’ll leave you alone. Mess with me i’ll bite you and hang on.’
That was Harlan Ellison. He suffered not fools. And he believed, he believed the wrong things should be railed against.
And that fire permeated his work, like the fire of invention. Harlan Elision changed the landscape of fiction, with an almost incendiary mirror to the fallacies of our age. His DANGEROUS VISIONS, written before I was born, and that I discovered as a teen, is (I think) for most who read it… the defining anthology of an age.
And in the decades since its publication that anthology and its sequel, continue to be the standard bearer by which all future anthologies are measured.
Harlan Ellison has been chastised for having been self aggrandizing, for his ‘look at me, aren’t I great’ attitude.
I, for one, think Harlan Ellison was a great writer. And his body of work will remain… great and essential, and oddly timeless.
He in many ways was some odd ying to Ray Bradbury’s yang, both of them being the voice for reason, in a world embroiled in madness. They both were masters of the cautionary tale, and their shadow looms large in the works of popular culture to this day. Like Poe they were the masters of the short story, and those short stories will only grow more beloved and adapted in the years to come.
Was Harlan Ellison self aggrandizing. It is the poor creator who isn’t , if he wants to sell his work.
Some creators are bad or uncomfortable with it, and hire others to do it for them. Some are great at it.
Harlan Ellison in addition to being a great writer, was arguably just as great a performer and showman. Like Jim Steranko he had the circus in his blood from a young age. Likely the way such men came up, kicking down doors is the reason the world knows their name today.
So to expect them to be something meek, because you are not comfortable with their breed of strong, is both inane and arrogant.
I love reading Ellison’s Books for the very brashness of them. and their elegance, and the breath of his imagination, all imposed by a hard early life, where dreams and the scraping, and shouting, and biting for them was all that made them real.
The very ‘center of attention’ nature of Ellison, that so can put off others, is the very thing that galvanizes me to him. And is one of the reasons listening to him perform his works makes them even richer.
He was a natural performer, and one of the best audio performers. Which is surprising giving his slightly nasally voice, but him performing was the audio equivalent of the energy Jack Kirby brought to his panel breaking drawings. It was raw energy and emotion and passion.
If you only know Harlan Ellison’s fiction from just reading, pick up the audio books.
He was one of the best audio actors of the 20th century, right up there with Orson Welles, Vincent Price, James Mason, Roddy McDowell, David Birney.
The thing about Ellison, he earned the right to be proud of his work. As did Bradbury, who had his own very good tv series. And there were plenty, and remain plenty to sing the praises of Ellison’s work. i own his 50th anniversary tome. An updated followup to it, containing the newsletter and other work he did prior to his passing, I definitely look forward to.
So to bring this back, if anyone does not like people who they feels push their importance’ that is their right.
But for every one who for whatever reason finds that behaviour bragging or pitiful, there are a lot that find it neither bragging or insincere, but simply informative, and the person’s personality.
And for me, Ellison, the personality I saw as a fan, was a great personality. And God knows we could use more of his take no bs personality now, in a world of sheep meekly being bled to death by corporate gleed and malfeasance.
I’m sure he saw in this 21st century, everything he railed against in his fiction.
People also to do a sharp, awkward pivot off Harlan Ellison to accuse Brian Michael Brendis of disappointing publisher DC Comics, because he misled them by , like Ellison, over-hyping himself.
That is to paraphrase some complaints I have heard. I like the work of Bendis, but he is no Harlan Ellison. The two do not fit in the same sentence. But you can get the gist of the thematic comparison Sleepy was making, by checking out his channel, and the video in question at the link below.
And to be clear, i like Sleepy Reader’s channel. I think it is very informative and you should subscribe. I have enjoyed just about all his shows and find him a highly intelligent, informed and informative person, providing a wealth of great information to this niche community of Comic Book fans on Youtube.
I take the time to write this post not to highlight how all of us in this talk show age, even the most intelligent of us, have started to internalize the sloppy thinking that has brought us to an America, that is regressing rather than progressing.
I am reminded of an Alan Moore line, that highlights the discrepancy between the truth of who we were as angry young men, and who we hopefully grow into being.
As angry young men we have monologues rather than a conversation. ‘Monologues we have mistaken for the world’ to quote Alan Moore.
In closing HUGE FAN of Harlan Ellison here, as I mentioned, I hope they will releases a 70th anniversary anthology to follow up his 50th anniversary book.
For those reading this who want more from the late, great Harlan Ellison, as well as some of the other greats mentioned please use the following links:
Originally published in 1962 and updated in later decades with a new introduction, Ellison Wonderland shows a vibrant young writer with a wide-ranging imagination, ferocious creative energy, devastating wit, and an eye for the wonderful and terrifying and tragic. Among the gems are ”All the Sounds of Fear,” ”The Sky Is Burning,” ”The Very Last Day of a Good Woman,” and ”In Lonely Lands.” Though they stand tall on their own merits, they also point the way to the sublime stories that followed soon after and continue to come even now, more than fifty years later.
A Lit Fuse is an unguarded, uncensored, unquiet tour of the life of Harlan Ellison.
In late 2011 Harlan Ellison the multi-award-winning writer of speculative fiction and famously litigious personality did two uncharacteristic things. First, he asked biographer Nat Segaloff if he d be interested in writing his life story. Second, he gave Segaloff full control. The result is the long-anticipated A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison. The expansive biography, which is the first such project in which Ellison has permitted large portions of his varied works to appear, is published by NESFA Press.
Segaloff conducted exhaustive interviews with Ellison over the course of five years and also spoke with many of his friends and enemies in an effort to get inside the man and pin down the best-known Harlan stories. Their wide-ranging discussions cover his bullied boyhood, his storied marriages, his fabled lawsuits, and his compulsive writing process with more depth and detail than has ever before appeared in print. But it also delves deeply into the man s deeply held principles, his fears, and the demons that have driven him all of his 83 (so far) years. Friends, colleagues, and admirers such as Neil Gaiman, Patton Oswalt, Peter David, Robert Sawyer, Michael Scott, Edward Asner, Leonard Nimoy, Ed Bryant, Alan Brennert, Robert Silverberg, and many other notables add their voices.
Along the way the reader is treated to an analysis of the Connie Willis controversy, the infamous dead gopher story, allegedly pushing a fan down an elevator shaft, and the final word on The Last Dangerous Visions. What emerges is a rich portrait of a man who has spent his life doing battle with his times and himself, always challenging his readers to reach for a higher plane and goading himself to get them there. It s funny, wise, shocking, and well, it’s Harlan.
Rediscover the Early Ellison. This collection restores to print fifteen never-collected tales from the first dozen years of his career. Hard-hitting crime stories like “Thrill Kill,” “Girl at Gunpoint,” “Kill Joy,” “Knife/Death” and “Burn My Killers!” share the table of contents with stories of betrayal, including “Death Climb,” “Riff,” “Mac’s Girl,” and “The Honor in the Dying.” And, together for the first time, Ellison’s three detective stories featuring insurance investigator Jerry Killian. Toss in the solo outing of a diminutive private dick named Big John Novak (of whom Ellison expected to write much more, but never did) and a sexy Western called “Saddle Tramp” and you’ve got quite an assemblage of tales from the seamier side of life. All that, plus “The Final Movement,” a never-before-published story from the mid-1950s. Better than a poke in the eye with a white-hot bone of Amenhotep, I think you’ll agree.
Harlan Ellison is probably best known as a script writer for sci-fi and fantasy movies and TV series such as the original Outer Limits, The Hunger, Logan’s Run, and Babylon Five. But his range is much broader than that, encompassing stories, novels, essays, reviews, reminiscences, plays, even fake autobiographies. Essential Ellison includes contains 74 unabridged works, including such classics as “A Boy and His Dog,” “Xenogenesis,” and “Mefisto in Onyx.” Includes black-and-white photos.
Best to any one reading this!