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New Harlan Ellison Interview

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  • New Harlan Ellison Interview


  • #2
    Ellison is an excellent writer, but i found his stuff rather disturbing. i think because he really knows how to get into your mind, into your skin, and *make it real*... and that's a little scary.

    stephen king does that for me as well, and i don't mean the simple horror aspect of his writing. i mean the way he *shows* you, makes you feel it real, makes you believe it without question, that this person is for real. the moments ellison and king create sometimes leave me stunned and breathless for days, and that's not always a good thing. powerful writiers.

    bradbury and Mike, on the other hand (to be fair here, this IS his site you know) ;) leave me reeling for days in a different way. thinking thinking thinking and feeling, but not for horror. for wonder!


    • #3
      Originally posted by Poetgrrl
      Ellison is an excellent writer, but i found his stuff rather disturbing. i think because he really knows how to get into your mind, into your skin, and *make it real*... and that's a little scary.
      Ah, that explains why I love him so! It's true, some of his stuff is so raw and unflinching that it's impossible not to be affected by it. "One Life, Furnished In Early Poverty" made me blub like a baby.


      • #4
        He's got basically 3 main riffs, I think:

        - Screwball comedy ("How's the Nightlife on Cissalda?", "Djinn, no Chaser")

        - Mimetic fiction, often with satiric currents ("All the Lies that Are My Life")

        - Stuff that ruins your equilibrium (his best stuff).

        I've been reading his work since 1966, and I've watched his evolution as a writer with interest. It used to be that he didn't write things with much precision in his desire to get it all down on paper with (what he saw as) maximum impact. By the mid-'70s, he had come to seem more disciplined -- for the most part.

        He has written some great and not so great stories. Let's just list a few good-to-great ones:

        "'Repent, Harlequin!' said the Ticktockman"
        "Bright Eyes"
        "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream"
        "Shattered Like a Glass Goblin"
        "At the Mouse Circus"
        "One Life Furnished in Early Poverty"
        "A Boy and His Dog"
        "On the Downhill Side"
        "Jeffty is Five"
        "Alive and Well on a Friendless Voyage"
        "The Function of Dream-Sleep"
        "Paladin of the Lost Hour"
        "Mefisto in Onyx"

        There are some more, but we're getting into matters of taste rather than pure accomplishment after this. (I've got some personal likes I omitted.)

        Even in the list above, the stories aren't always perfectly executed. Take his story "Paladin of the Lost Hour": The loss of control of the POV in the opening irritates me to no end, but the story gets beyond that point and makes me shrug it off. The fault is something of a quirk that shows up in other stories at times ("Virgil Oddum at the East Pole," "All the Lies that Are My Life," etc). Ellison sometimes permits the narrative voice to lapse into editorial comment addressed directly to the reader in ways that work well in his essays, but in stories seem a bit ham-fisted, and destroy (perhaps temporarily) the illusion of art.

        So I suppose I'm saying he's often not a "finished" artist, although there are stories that I find no fault with in this regard. ("Jeffty is Five," is one.) All in all, a remarkable writer.



        • #5
          I remember reading Shatterday more than I remember the story itself. I was struck by how powerful a story could be.

          That sounds much more trite than I hoped. Maybe I need to go back and re-read it...


          • #6

            "Shatterday" is a good story by HE, but it has less raw "content" than some of his other works -- no doubt that's why you don't recall some of the details.

            I left a few of HE's better stories off the list because of this tendency, where they're more emotion on the page than story -- and most often, the emotion on the page is "rage." ("Rage on the page" -- sounds like a literary UMASS joke.) That's not the only operative emotion for HE, but it probably outnumbers the other ones. ("Regret" might be another.)

            A few of the stories I left off that I think fall into this category: "The Deathbird" and "Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans..." I like them well enough, but I'm not convinced they're in the upper tier of his work.

            A really GOOD story that I omitted in haste earlier: "Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes." It came out the same year as "Behold the Man," and it was selected to appear in the Nebula Awards anthology for that year (although it didn't win), because it's pretty good. Definitely in the upper tier.



            • #7
              deathbird stories.

              beginning and end for me?


              • #8
                Thanks for the info, LSN. I know I have a volume that collects many of HE's stories. Today might be the day to dig through the books I have in storage.

                I have several boxes of books that have made four or five moves with me and have managed to remain unopened. I might even convince my wife that I'm making an effort to get rid of some of them. :D Of course, I'm not. :lol:


                • #9
                  Don't get rid of them! Open the boxes and leave them all over the house. Then your wife will protest, "There are books everywhere! We've got to do something about all this clutter!"

                  Doc, the hero, always with a sword ready to cut the Gordian knot, can then say, "You're right! I'll have some bookcases built into the walls of my study!"

                  The fact that it wasn't really YOUR study until you do this is irrelevant. Possession is 9/10ths of the law.

                  Hey, it worked for me. Have you any idea how many bookcases I had to have constructed to contain 7,000+ books?

                  Fortunately, the carpenter was top-notch! :lol:



                  • #10

                    I like the way you think. Calculating and devious are underrated character traits, especially as they relate to keeping books. :D


                    • #11
                      "Calculating and devious" ? Me? :lol:

                      Echoing Liddell-Hart, I would prefer to call it a strategy of "indirect approach."

                      There is no truth to the rumor that Perdix, Dee, and I are plotting world domination. Not the entire world, mind you.



                      • #12
                        Ellison, of course, is one of my best friends. Feisty little bugger. I've often said we're friends because I'm one of the few people who can put him in my pocket when he gets too argumentative. I was thinking about him the other day. In some ways he has managed to hang on to the vitality which quite a few of us had in the sixties -- he's still prepared to sit down at a typewriter (often in a store window) without any idea of what he's going to write. He's developed a spontaneous style which means he doesn't always write as MUCH as we'd like to get from him, but when it comes it's a box of fireworks, going off in all directions. I've been thinking about the virtues of the 'Golden Age' (sixties and seventies) and what characterised that time and I think not knowing what would happen when you started a story or went into a studio or went on stage had a great deal to do with it. Now there are many fine sophisticated stories and songs out there, but it's much harder to get out from under what's gone before. When Harlan and I started, we weren't sure anything quite like what we were doing had been done before. As with Dylan, the trick is to reposition yourself somehow so that you still don't really know what you're doing or where it's going. I'm increasingly recommending that the best thing new writers and musicians can do is to reject the past as much as possible, the way punk did. Harlan is probably the first punk science fantasy writer. And he's still a punk. I love his stuff.

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                        • #13
                          Feisty, indeed. That's one of his charms.

                          I used to encounter Ellison in the long-since closed bookstore "A Change of Hobbit," first in Westwood, later in Santa Monica. Sometimes, he would be there, writing a story a day (or at least working on a story every day) as a publicity stunt. He'd stop periodically to sign books, too, of course. I'd been reading his books since I was 11, and I admired his work, but I noticed his wary manner towards the crew of anxious fans that would periodically beseige him. So I stayed clear and left him alone, although I would watch his fan-interactions with mild interest. He seemed both to want the attention and to be annoyed by it. Curious conflict.

                          In such cases, I'm reminded of Henry James' story "The Death of the Lion," and just express my respect for the writer's work by purchasing his books. I'm a reader, not a fan-boy. (I'm way too superannuated to be a fan-boy even if I aspired to such a dubious position.)

                          I wish HE well. He's a unique person and writer. My favorite books of his stories are Shatterday and Angry Candy, but the other books have their interest. I own virtually all of them.



                          • #14
                            Originally posted by L_Stearns_Newburg

                            There is no truth to the rumor that Perdix, Dee, and I are plotting world domination. Not the entire world, mind you.

                            This is the true axis of evil. :lol:


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Doc
                              This is the true axis of evil. :lol:
                              Personally my demands are quite modest. I simply wish to control Japan, Puerta Rico, and the bits of France that LSN doesn't have any use for. Oh, and to level Dorset of course. But really, that's not too much to ask is it? :)
                              "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild