It is with great sadness that we announce the death of one of the greatest science fiction writers the world has ever known: Harlan Ellison. He died peacefully in his sleep, as reported by Christine Valada, the widow of comic book writing legend Len Wein, at the behest of her friend Susan Ellison, Harlan’s wife.
Susan Ellison has asked me to announce the passing of writer Harlan Ellison, in his sleep, earlier today. “For a brief time I was here, and for a brief time, I mattered.”—HE, 1934-2018. Arrangements for a celebration of his life are pending.
— Christine Valada, J.D. (@mcvalada) June 28, 2018
Ellison edited the influential anthology Dangerous Visions in 1967, and over the course of his storied career won multiple Nebula, Hugo, Edward, Writers Guild of America, and Edgar Allen Poe Awards — to name just some of his honors. He’s well known for his short story I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, published in 1967 and later made into an adventure game in 1995. His biography, A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, an Exploration, was published last year.
Ellison’s career as a writer began in the late 1940s, when as a teenager, he sold several stories to the Cleveland News. He began writing fiction, and by the early 1950’s he had writtein over 100 short stories. After a brief career in the U.S. Army, he moved to Hollywood in the 1960’s where he established himself as a scriptwriter for both movies and television. Over the decades, he wrote a number of acclaimed scripts, including the Star Trek original series script The City on the Edge of Forever, considered by many to be the greatest episode of the series.
Ellison was known not only for his contributions to the world of sci-fi and comic books, but as an outspoken, often brutally honest critic. He was as colorful a character in real life as many of the ones he invented in his books, and had a reputation as being cantankerous. Despite this, he also engendered a deep abiding respect and love in the science fiction community. Here was a man who was true to his nature, stood his ground when it mattered most, and yet also was the very definition of groundbreaking in his chosen genre.
Though he was known for his blunt opinions, Harlan Ellison was a natural born storyteller, and loved to talk. He appeared at a meeting of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy society some three years ago, and spoke to the room for about double the period of time we were promised. “I’ll keep talking as long as you want to listen”, he said, and he told us of his misadventures in the military, and of the time he confronted Charles Platt over a royalties dispute at the Nebula Awards party in 1985 and shook him down for whatever he had in his pockets right there in front of everybody. This was a fearsome and fearless man, and it is perhaps this fearlessness that allowed him to achieve the heights and relevance in the field of science fiction that he attained.
When giants like Harlan Ellison pass, we say that it is the end of an era, and in Harlan’s case it truly is. But it’s true because Harlan singlehandedly defined the era himself.
Despite his slight physical stature, Harlan Ellison cast the longest shadow. Good job, you crusty old curmudgeon. And thank you for everything.