21 September 2015

[writing] Harlan Ellison, Crafting the Short Story, and "Night of Black Glass"

Finally found a copy of Harlan Ellison's "Stalking the Nightmare, in paperback, for my HE shelf. The high point on this collection is the short, eerie "Night of Black Glass". This is a story which stuck with me, particularly because of Harlan's exploration of survivor's guilt and how he poses it as an existential question with a real cost; also, if anyone (and I know most of you in The Harlan Ellison Facebook Fanclub have) has ever seen the documentary "Dreams With Sharp Teeth", it was apparently written as the product of an exhibition …

The picture is of Harlan sitting down in a bookstore's front window on Fifth Avenue in NYC in front of his trusty Olympia typewriter. He is then delivered an envelope with a single piece of paper, NBC letterhead, which he then opens, reads, and then gets to typing. In a voice-over, the late Jessica Savitch, from a clip from the Today show from March of 1981, states that he was given an opening idea written by Tom Brokaw: "A man walking on a rocky beach in Maine in August, finds a pair of broken sunglasses". Five hours later, "Night of Black Glass" was finished. Not only was it a demonstration of the man's almost-preternatural ability to prolifically create, it showed that creative pursuits, to paraphrase HE, was a job of work, not something dainty and airy, fit only for occupants of ivory towers.

I read it in a magazine then and didn't see it again for many years. Now I have it on my HE shelf to read when I please.

Old novels and short-stories have become like totems of existence to me. Having them on hand physically makes me feel better about being here.

And so it goes.

And here's a link: An archival page, noting the title indicates a school resource for teaching literature, but it contains the entire transcript of Harlan's interview with Jessica Savitch on NBC's Today Show from March 24th, 1981. Very insightful reading at http://archives.nbclearn.com/portal/site/k-12/flatview?cuecard=34831 (if you search the NBCLearn site you only get a 15-second preview of the video, or you have to sign in to see it, and you probably have to be in school or be an educator or pay a fee for it. But at least you can read it.)

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