The winner, probably, of more awards than any other living fantasist, whose works include I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, Paingod and The Deathbird, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1934 and grew up in nearby Painsville, an avid reader, moviegoer, radio fan and actor/singer in minstrel shows. In part, perhaps, because the small town offered him a taste of anti-Semitic cruelty, he ran away from home several times. He once joined a carnival that was busted in Kansas City, and spent three horrifying days in jail with the carny geek. By the time he was a young adult, he had relocated to New York City and begun to write short stories.
Ellison is notorious for not suffering fools gladly. His recounting of the night in the early Fifties that Larry T. Shaw, editor of Infinity, bought Ellison's first story from him over dinner in a Chinese restaurant--Ellison was broke--can bring tears to the eyes. Many years later, when writer Charles Platt made a rude comment about Shaw, Ellison is said to have boarded a plane in L.A., flown to New York, found Platt, knocked him on his ass, and returned to L.A.
Much of Ellison's work has appeared in science-fiction magazines--The New York Times has called him the béte noire of the genre--but the meat of the stories is pain, racial hatred and alienation, not ray guns. He's worked in television and the movies and has earned a reputation for being difficult, largely because he cares about his work and hates to see it bowdlerized. He's written memorable episodes of Star Trek and The Outer Limits, and he recently served as creative consultant for Babylon 5.
The much-sought-after speaker also cares deeply about the state of the world, and he's scheduled to tell it like he sees it Wednesday evening at ASU West. He's been called everything from a rude, sexist asshole to a hilarious wit who'd make a great standup comic. Choose for yourself.
"An Evening With Harlan Ellison" is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 10, at Kiva Hall on the Arizona State University West campus, 4701 West Thunderbird. The lecture is open to the public, and admission is free. 543-3025.