01 July 2018

My Harlan Ellison Story

Harlan Ellison, it has been reported, has died, two days ago as of this writing. It shouldn't be a surprise that on the intarweb, whose existence he might not have speculated on in the exact but is certainly there in the gestalt if you look hard enough at his writing, there is much mourning. A great majority of the people I know online and are solid with are a result of my habitual visitations, back around 2008-2013 or so, of Harlan Ellison's website, the forum boards, and his legendary corner of the 'net called the Art Deco Dining Pavilion.

A handful of people I'm privileged to be connected with on the virutal plane are very admirable writers who knew him personally and/or were connected in a sort of informal mentorship role. But just about everyone of the hard core of online Friends of Ellison, of which I count myself one, has a Harlan story. Herewith, mine.

Actually, it has very little actual Harlan in it. I was never fortunate enough to clasp hands with him, and now that'll never happen; so it goes. But being an active part of the community on his website meant he would occasionally see what you had to say, and a good thing could happen.

It centers on this book, Paingod and Other Delusions. It's renowned because it contains Our Pal's iconic short "Repent, Harlequin! Said The Ticktockman", and that enough is reason to have it, but there is a less-starring member of the ensemble therein is a story called "The Crackpots". As awkward a member of humanity as I am, this story not only spoke to me, it yelled right into my heart Hey, fellah, I know it's tough being you, but you're not alone. You have value, even if you don't have an obvious place to be. Ironically, it's set amongst the Kyben, his space-operatic Human antagonist race, but society is society, and what does fiction do but hold up a mirror to the Human condition?

I subsequently wrote a love letter about this story on Harlan's site ... originally I recalled it was a posting in the forums, but the more I think about it it must have been on the Pav, because that's where Harlan would check in from time to time.

I get an email from the webmaster (whom I believe was named Rick Wyatt). Could I please send him my address? And I replied in kind. In medium order, I got a mailing from Harlan, and this is what it contained:

The Ace SF paperback edition, printed in 1983. And, for your further delectation, the title page.:

I didn't ask him to send me an autographed copy, but he saw my words and that's just what he did. I've been a lifelong fan of Ellison, and this was, and still remains a peak moment: having heard that he'd touched me that way, he gave me a tip-of-the-cap, a salute: the world is a lonely place, but you're not alone in it. I see your struggle.

Harlan was known for a multifaceted personality and in it, you can find any kind of Harlan you want. But the one people know best is perhaps a little moment of human respect, where you heard what he said and he heard you, and gave you a kind of thumbs up.

This was always special to me. Now, its incredibly dear.

He was my pal, too.

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