From Comics Buyer's Guide #1052 January 14, 1994

But I Digress

by Peter David Since we have rolled into the New Year, I've made the resolution to try and do something nice with this column. After all, I wouldn't want people to come to the conclusion that But I Digress is an entity that exists only to destroy. Unlike some entities I could name - and which I now will. Something that was a popular practice back in second or third grade was that of forming clubs as a means of hurting people. Either a bunch of kids would get together and form a group for the specific purpose of keeping a person, or a group of people, out. Or sometimes - it if was a particularly malicious little undertaking - a club was assembled specifically to get at someone. This behavior generally ended somewhere around fourth grade, although the intense socialization would live on in the form of cliques and such. But the "clubby" aspect usually faded as maturity set in. Sometimes, though, there are some folks of repressed development and maturation who make it to adulthood with that same mindset - and that's when you wind up getting something like this:
Enemies of Ellison Logo
Somewhat to my astonishment, I received over my fax machine the other day a one-page flier. It carried with it the warning, "Please duplicate and distribute this sheet (provided no text is omitted)." Ooo. I'm scared. I'm going to omit text. EoE disingenuously bills itself as "Not an organization for those who wish to malign, harass, or assault Harlan Ellison. Just the opposite! EoE is for those who have been named as enemies by Mr. Ellison and have been maligned, harassed, or assaulted, purely because (in most cases) they spoke the truth or expressed skepticism re [sic] his reputation, craft, or self-promotional hype... "If you've received death threats on your answering machine...if you've been referred to as a `wetbrain' on nationally networked TV...if Mr. Ellison has threatened to `pop you one' next time he sees you...if he's promised to `sue you into oblivion'...then EoE is for you! "To be eligible for full membership in EoE, you must be able to prove that you have been badmouthed, punched, sued, harassed, threatened, or lied to by Mr. Ellison... "Every full member...receives a free bimonthly newsletter describing recent gratuitous threats and nasty behavior by Mr. Ellison... "Every full member will be eligible to contribute anecdotes about Mr. Ellison to the forthcoming book, Harlan Ellison as We Knew Him, a memorial tribute in preparation. Full members will be offered copies at a 25% discount. "Enemies of Ellison provides a warm sense of camaraderie. But more than that, it will crusade for truth and justice..." There's more, I assure you - much more that I have not reproduced here. It is truly an amazing piece of work; amazing in its presumption, amazing in its arrogance, and, most important, amazing in its cowardice. Harlan Ellison has spend much of his life putting people's noses out of join. That is beyond dispute. Isaac Asimov, who loved Harlan dearly (and about whom Ellison cannot speak at length without becoming choked up, so evil an individual is he) summed it up most succinctly when he said, "He has no sense of tact whatever." With Harlan Ellison, you always know precisely where you stand. He does not prevaricate. He does not dissemble. And he does not hide. And he's not a coward. That is the first, and most remarkable, thing one notices about the EoE: the stench of cowardice. They want your money ($14 for a full membership). And they want your anecdotes for a book that is apparently being designed as a "memorial tribute." There's only one possible interpretation of that sentence: They're waiting until Harlan Ellison is dead and then they're going to attack him, just as one notorious comics magazine did with Carol Kalish. They are so damned afraid of Ellison that they don't dare take him on while he's alive. Not even strength in numbers is sufficient. It's an amazing offer. In essence, gullible fools have the opportunity to pay to contribute to a book from which they will not share in any proceeds. Then, adding insult to injury (something in which they evidently excel), the EoE will sell copies back to the contributors, keeping a mere 75% of the gross for itself; attacking the deceased while profiteering at the same time. With enemies like these... And even better: While he's alive, they're hiding behind a post office box with no person's name attached (I mean, you know I'm "To Be Continued Inc." But who are these guys?) The man they condemn, the man they assail, the man they variously describe as "tyrannical" and "mad-dog" is someone who has gone out there, time after time, fighting for the things he believes in. They may not be what you necessarily believe in. But he's out there. And when he's upset or angry about to something, he lets you know it, and you know he's let you know it, because he's put it in a column or he's left a message or he's spoken to you directly or he's aired it on the Sci-Fi Channel. The man they hold in such contempt does not engage in one of the single most contemptible actions that someone can take: anonymous attacks. Harlan Ellison has too much class for that. The "Enemies of Ellison", on the other hand, do not - which tells you something right off about the "Enemies of Ellison." A mean, hell, when a Todd McFarlane or Jim Valentino takes shots at me, they've got the guts to put their names in print when they do it. By the same token, when I rake people over the coals in this column, they know who's done the raking. But the EoE reveals itself in its very first offering as craven and gutless. Have its unidentified organizers earned the enmity of Harlan Ellison in the past? I would not be at all surprised, for these are the exact sort of cretinous little weasels with recreant mindsets that Ellison has so despised - loudly and repeatedly - through the years. I also adore the notion that, in return for your $14, you'll get "a free bimonthly newsletter". Now, granted, you also get a badge membership card, and certificate. The total cost of such chachkas should be somewhere in the neighborhood of under two bucks per set. That leaves $12 over for the "free" newsletter - and since it's an annual membership, that means next year you get to cough up another $14 for another six issues of the "free" newsletters sans chachkas.

If the anonymous organizers of EoE have exercised this sort of sterling business tactic in other dealings, that also might have gotten them on the short end of Harlan's critical stick. For Harlan Ellison does not suffer fools gladly. In a world where we should be endeavoring to raise people's intellectual striving rather than sending them tumbling into the mud, Ellison's attitude should be lauded rather than attacked. Let me be perfectly up front here (something that might be alien to the EoE, if I haven't already lost them). Harlan Ellison is a friend of mine. The first time we made contact was a number of years ago. In the pages of CBG, for the Holiday Supplement (it was before my column), I listed The Essential Ellison as a good potential Christmas gift in that yearly "Top Five" thing CBG always does. Much to my astonishment, he sought out my phone number and called me to thank me profusely for doing so. He didn't have to do that, nor was I expecting him to. And, I must admit - as so many have in the past - I'd heard all sorts of "horror stories" about Harlan Ellison. So it was with great wonderment that, over the past several years, I've made the increased acquaintance and friendship of one of the most exciting and challenging gentlemen it has ever been my pleasure to know. My wife, Myra, adores both Harlan and his wife, Susan. My eldest daughter, Shana, has a standing invitation to visit the Ellisons for a week. And God help me if I'm ever in the Los Angeles area and I don't let him know, because somehow he will find out - and he will find out, make no mistake - and he'll call me at the hotel and demand to know when I'm coming over to visit. He has been a source of advice and inspiration to me since that first contact. Moreover, he took the time to write the introduction to the But I Digress trade paperback (on sale in February, kids!). This column owes its existence, as I've said in the past, to my endeavor to try and emulate him. So I'm not exactly unbiased here. When I first started the column and asked readers to suggest topics, several people wrote in (all unknowing of my friendship with Harlan) and said that I should write a column attacking Ellison. I wonder how many of these people actually had met Harlan. Had dinner with him. Chatted with him. Spent any time with him at all. Or did they simply believe - as, admittedly, I once had - the rumor and innuendo spread by the types of people who would organize an EoE? Is Harlan Ellison a saint? God, no. Not by any means. But neither is he the single-minded "bombast[ic]" or "blowhard" individual that the EoE would portray. So - how to deal with the lily-livered pismires of the EoE? Here's how. I am announcing, right here, right now, the organization of my own group: the Friends of Ellison (or FOE). (I'd originally thought of calling it "Friends of Harlan Plus Also Susan", which would have made it "FOH PAS", but I decided that was a long way to go for a joke that only a handful of people would likely get.) The FOE will exist for the purpose of disseminating stories about kindnesses that Harlan Ellison has displayed. To join FOE, simply send in instances of times when Ellison has made you laugh or made you think. Where he signed autographs for many hours or answered questions patiently and thoughtfully. Worked on behalf of a charity to help someone in need. The FOE would like to hear from fans, professionals, convention organizers, casual readers - everybody. I will produce FOE buttons and send them to everyone who sends in anecdotes along the lines of the above. (Kind of the flip side of the "Stickler for Credit" buttons, I suppose. See? I destroy, and I also create.) address them to "FOE, c/o To Be Continued, P.O. Box 239, Bayport, N.Y. 11705." Every so often, I'll produce a column that lists the accounts of good deeds that Harlan has performed and will also send copies of the column to everyone who has joined FOE - a free newsletter, if you will. How much to join? Nothing more than the 29 cents it will cost you to mail an envelope. Yes, that's right: It's free. Free as in "not costing anything," rather than free as in "send us 14 bucks." Free as "I'm absorbing the cost of this myself, because I tend to put my own name and my own money behind those things I believe in." Something that the Enemies of Ellison cannot claim. Then again, the best things in life are free.

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