I am about to be a total douchebag

General discussions of interest to readers and fans of Harlan Ellison.

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I am about to be a total douchebag

Postby ottomaniac » Sat Sep 18, 2010 3:57 pm

But at least I warned you first.

I used to devour Ellison greedily. Favorite author? Yes. I had a girl whip Deathbird Stories at my head because she was so offended by its contents. I should've known better than to lend them out on a highly religious college campus, really. If you crawl through the old Jeff Goldblum webderland archives, you can find the post where HE called me a lazy dipshit when I was asking about his source material for a particular story. Somebody suggested that I start a support group and market it: "I got flamed by Harlan Ellison and all I got was this lousy T-shirt." I still have a notecard pinned above my desk that reads, "Go to bed angry every night and wake up angrier the next morning." I nerdily created a couple of online accounts where my handle was Levendis. Fans do weird things.

I'm now a PhD student in English literature (aw, yeah, that's where the real money is). I . . . grew out of reading Ellison. He was great when I was angry all the time, but then I sort of stopped being angry all the time when I got old and boring. I've taught a lot of freshmen composition (doing so right now), and I think I've taught HE every semester. Essays, not fiction. His essays are really great to teach when talking about how rhetoric works. ("Okay, how can you tell that this guy is angry?") And yes, it falls under the Fair Use rule, so there. There, I got my douchebaggery out of the way, everyone can point at it and tell me what an asshole I am, if you like. Sorry, being raised Lutheran means automatically assuming guilt.

I live inside an academic bubble. I only just accidentally found out that HE is coming to my town in a week to a con I didn't even know existed. I am living off beans and rice, but I have just enthusiastically forked over the money for a ticket because OH MY GOD HARLAN ELLISON. THE MAN WHO TAUGHT MY HEART FOR YEARS. Squealing noises were involved, and when I went out to mail the bills, my roommate said, "You look weird. Like you're trying to wag your tail or something." Crud, I probably am.

So, despite my snarky position re: HE's works, I am happy as a puppy that this is a thing I am doing next week. I have already emotionally reverted to Adolescent Fangirl and am biting my lip a little. Here is my poser question: one of my very first relationships was based off of a mutual interest in HE. We're not together, but still close. He's got a lovely little girlfriend I met last spring, is chronically ill with lupus, and I want to do something nice for him. Specifically, I think he would absolutely shit himself with joy if I sent him a signed HE thing.

Now, all of my editions are pretty beat up. They're mostly second-hand except for the White Wolf volumes, and look like they've been dragged through the streets on pieces of string. I never cared about this before, because hey, as long as I can still read them, meh. The rarest thing I have is a really torn-to-bits edition of "Earthman Go Home" that I picked up in a used book shop in London. I didn't know when I bought it that it was a reprint of "Ellison Wonderland." I therefore have no good candidates for submitting something to sign. Everything looks like it's been well-loved, which it has.

If you were going to send one signed HE book that was either beat to shit or a just-purchased reissue, what would be your primary choice? I was thinking maybe Mind Fields because it's so visually great, but . . . I dunno.

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Re: I am about to be a total douchebag

Postby Moderator » Sat Sep 18, 2010 4:32 pm

First, I would personally opt for a collection, either the I HAVE NO MOUTH AND I MUST SCREAM or ALONE AGAINST TOMORROW. These are chosen because they aren't too difficult to find, and both have the short story IHNMAIMS contained within. It's usually recounted as the short story that puts Harlan on the map for most folks, and a beat to shit edition establishes that it's excellent reading.

A couple of questions, however. You state that what drew you together was a mutual appreciation for HE's work. I would imagine you don't want to give him a copy of a book he likely already owns. Mindfields might be a good option in that regard, particularly if a shorter reading format works well with his condition.

Other than that I'll let others weigh in. I think it's a grand gesture and I hope it's properly appreciated.
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Re: I am about to be a total douchebag

Postby FrankChurch » Mon Sep 20, 2010 9:29 am

Not to be snarky but you are an english student in college but use the no-no term 'off of.' Offf, not off offffffffff. Harlan banged my rear on that.

Anger's fun.

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Well, I say "offa."

Postby ottomaniac » Mon Sep 20, 2010 3:33 pm

And I have a really, really shitty accent. My dad's from Queens, my mom's from Minnesota, I grew up in Colorado, and I speak about as poorly as you can imagine anyone with that background speaking. I chronically mispronounce "th" as "t" and still do the long Scandinavian "oooooooooo" when I'm meant to say "Oh." "Hogbacks" is also part of my vocabulary. When I write academic papers, I think I write pretty well - all formal and so forth - but when I write on the web, I tend to be a little more casual in terms of vocabulary and sentence structure. I'm embarrassed about poor speech while teaching, but I think I'm a responsible instructor in that I invite my students to point out instances when I say things poorly.

And yeah, I'm a little sensitive about it. I'm a little hard of hearing, and I know my accent is awful, but I've had some real problems "fixing" it, because it's hard for me to hear the difference between good and bad pronunciation. Dang, just even saying that out loud sounded like, "IIIIIiiad some real problems fixin it."

That's all.

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Re: I am about to be a total douchebag

Postby sepok » Tue Apr 05, 2011 4:23 pm

You don't sound like a douchebag. You sound like a person who has developed mentally.
Good for you.
Can't say anything else than that really, as the convention with almost 100% certainty already is over.

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Re: I am about to be a total douchebag

Postby Anthony Ravenscroft » Wed Apr 06, 2011 9:25 pm

Well, IMNSHO, Ellison isn't particularly angry. He's passionate. He also lacks a lot of the self-censorship usually called "niceness" or something like. He feels crap, & he feels is deeply & immediately, & he's not so good at packing it down, so like a cupful of water hitting a hot iron skillet, it flashes to steam, & sometimes hapless bystanders get a bit scalded.

I empathise. When my life sucks (which seems to come in waves), the LAST thing I want is empty platitudes & demonstrations of "sympathy." The best remedies I've received for a depressing incident or just a generally pissy mood are good friends (sometimes even strangers) who say bluntly, "Yeah, that DOES suck," or, often better, "Let's get dinner." I'm very erudite, & capable of quickly analyzing complex interpersonal situations... but I tend to be direct & immediate in a way that pisses many people off. So, I have a great deal of affection for Ellison, as a writer (fiction & essays) & as a verifiable mensch.

I don't see anger in most of his stories. Bafflement, bemusement, confusion, a Need To Make Sense Of It -- yeah, more like that. But he was created in a corner of the world (that'd be the United States in general) that has for quite some time raised Niceness to a stern cult even as it has encouraged people to couch their meanness in soothing words & a gentle saintly smile.

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