Forgetfulness of things past
Copyright © 2020 Nat Segaloff
Harlan Ellison died yesterday, Thursday, June 28, 2018 in his sleep. The most surprising aspect of his death is that it was not at the receiving end of an assassin's bullet, as the victim of an enemy's fist, as the toll of an anger-induced coronary, or as the result of his own driving. This unquiet man had a quiet death. He had said a number of non-goodbye goodbyes over the past few weeks (I was the recipient of one), and bridled at being the prisoner of a stroke-struck body in a full-bed prison. Musing on death with me as we began our interviews for A Lit Fuse, he said that the one thing he did not want was to wind up in bed in a pool of his own goo. God having a perverse sense of humor, that is precisely, ironically, and sadly what happened.
I suppose I should feel cheated in that he and I never had one of those massive fights that some others have talked, even bragged, about. We always got along, probably because we both prized professionalism and knew we could fling back each other's shit. The only time we came close, and it was merely a snit, was when I insisted on sending him a birthday card against his wishes, doing so after his birthday had passed. He saw right through me and issued an Ellison fatwa in the form of a hand-lettered parchment warning me (with words I had to look up) never to do it again.
When he asked me if I was interested in writing his biography I gave an immediate Yes. It took us a long time to find a publisher, driving home to me the sheer stupidity of the publishing industry about the validity and popularity of speculative fiction (not to mention science fiction) and those who create it. Sure, they'll make feature movies and TV series in the genre, but if you dare tell your story with words instead of pictures, forget it. The fact that Harlan published 1,700 stories without ever getting a notice in the New York Times is a gopher-worthy crime of omission.
By four paragraphs in, I should be writing about how much I'll miss him, how much love I have for his wife Susan, his niece Lisa and her husband Michael, their assistant Sharon, his many friends and colleagues who valued him, and his fans who enjoyed his work and will keep his legacy alive. But I can't. I have no tears. Harlan wouldn't have wanted them. Like Joe Hill who famously said, "Don't mourn, organize!" I think Harlan would have said, "Don't mourn, fight!" If you want to know how I feel about Harlan, buy my damn book. If you want me to know how you feel about Harlan, leave word on this blog (and if there's a second edition, this means you'll allow me to quote you).
But f'r'Chrissake, don't cry. Harlan Ellison had a good, long life. He left an undying legacy. He was one of the few writers who was as well known as a person as was his work. It was a hell of a party. He won.
I don't write on spec, but every now and then something gets me fired up and I can't stop my fingers from hitting the keyboard.