The doorbell rings. Now, at 11 oíclock at night where we live, the doorbell does not mean good news. I go to the peephole and I look out, and thereís a man and a woman there. Woman about 5í5", 5í6", wearing a taupe linen suit, not a very expensive one, the kind you get maybe at K-Mart, not a really expensive suit. Sheís carrying a leather memo case with her. And the guy beside her, though, looks a little bit ravaged. Heís unshaved, he has got a shirt thatís hanging out over his pants, and heís wearing Bass Widgeons with no socks.
Now I notice all this stuff immediately cause thatís my gig; Iím a writer, and I look at these things and I see them, and I look at these people and I say over the intercom:
I say, "Can I help you?"
And they say, "Mr. Ellison?"
I said, "Yes."
"We need to talk to you."
I said, "Yeah, and who are you?"
They said, "Weíre from the Secret Service."
I said, "Yeah, sure you are, and I just fell off the moon."
"No, no, " they say, "we really are from the Secret Service and we have to talk to you."
I said, "Well, if you really are from the Secret Service you can come on back tomorrow, Monday, and you can talk to me 9, 10 oíclock, when my office opens."
"No, weíre required by law to talk to you now."
And I say, "Why is that?"
"Because youíve been named as someone who is going to assassinate the President of the United States."
I said, "I beg your pardon?" I said, "Let me see your credentials," and they whip out the credentials. The credentials looked good, but in this day and age, you can pick up any damn thing. I thought they were real. And they started talking to me, when they say "The President of the United States, George Bush," I whip open the door. I said, "I donít know how to tell you guys this, but George Bush is no longer the President of the United States. Itís a man named, William Jefferson Clinton." And they said yes they know. Now they donít smile. By the way, if youíre looking for a great audience to make laugh, donít go for Secret Service agents.
And in fact, these were two, these were two Treasury agents, Secret Service people. A woman in Wichita, Kansas, a reader of mine, had gone to the FBI, or the CIA, or the Secret Service, or whoever the hell it was, and said, "Harlan Ellison is planning the assassination of President of the United States, George Bush."
Well, they were here for a little while, they knew who I was, they read my books. They, uh, in fact the only problem I ran into was when they started looking at the biographies of me on the inside of the back flap of my books. One of which says Iím a 7í2" black man with a terrific slam dunk. Another one says Iím a blind nun. And I said, "Donít believe those; thatís not who I am."
They said, "Well, who are you?"
I said, "Iím a 62 year old, very famous writer, and I had a piece in Newsweek talking about the Hale-Bopp suicides."
And they said, "Oh, well that explains it."
"That explains it" meaning that they understood that this woman was a reader and a fan. And she was obsessed, and she decided to use my name, and she gave it to them, and they were out of here in five, ten minutes, but on a Sunday night we had, you know, Mulder and Scully coming to the house, which is really kind of interesting. Thatís a reader who thought that her place was more important, than that of the writer, who she read.
Now I donít think Iím important. I do a job. I write books. I write movies, I write television; thatís my gig. Iím no more important than a really good plumber. Cause when your toilet overflows, you donít need Dostoevsky coming to your house, Iíve told you that. But youíve got to understand that you can not say to me, "I bought your book, so I have the right to tell you anything about your writing." What you should write, how you should write, and you owe me such and such, and such and such." We donít owe you anything, anything but the work, and you got to get that through your head. And you've got to stop bitching about it. You got to stop trying to pretend that you are the dog, and weíre the tail. If you like the work, thatís the dog, and Iím the tail that wags it, and you can be the brain that appreciates it.