Acquiring the Acquaintance of Mr. and Mrs. Ellison by A Fan

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Gwyneth M905
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Acquiring the Acquaintance of Mr. and Mrs. Ellison by A Fan

Postby Gwyneth M905 » Thu Sep 07, 2006 1:33 am

First exposure to Harlan’s work and to Mr. Ellison Himself--A Truthful and Somewhat Embarassing
Tale Told in the First Person

I learned from Harlan to tell the truth, because that way no one can hold the lie over your head and blackmail you with it. Damn, I wish I could find that original quote. (I’m sure that I’ll be reminded/told of it when I post this.)

My first exposure to Mr. Ellison’s work was reading “A Boy and His Dog” in an anthology of the best science fiction (I know…I know…but that’s what it was called) edited by Isaac Asimov. After the first shock, the scene between Vic and Quilla June in the gymnasium became the source of many a masturbatory fantasy for my pre-teen dreams. Not to mention a telepathic dog! I wanted a telepathic dog. Blood was even better than Anne McCaffrey’s dragons. I dug the dragons, but a dog was within my reach. Erm… as a pet, not as a…let’s just not go there. I wasn’t that screwed up as a 12-year-old.

I decided to write Harlan a love letter. I remember typing it out and telling him that if he hated it he could make a paper airplane out of it and send it flying into the wastebasket. Then again, if he liked it, he could write to me and I would send him my photo. Quelle Lolita! When I first met Mr. Ellison, he said that he probably still had it in his files. (Oh merciful sweet Jesus! Pray for a purge of those files!) I began to comb the library for other Ellison works. In subsequent Asimov anthologies I read more stories. I read Harlan’s introductions.

I started to read what Harlan was reading. A librarian called my mother because I was ordering Harlan’s and Fritz Leiber’s books through interlibrary loan and she was afraid that I was getting into Satanic Worship. My mother asked me about it, but since I was already playing Dungeons and Dragons, and reading Robert E. Howard (whom my grandmother also admired), she decided that I was all right on my own. I was permanently scarred for life by reading Gravity’s Rainbow as a 14-year old. So go figure. A little over the head hurts no one. I owe my 740 SAT score to Harlan.

I remember the first book I purchased by Harlan: Strange Wine. I still have my tattered copy with the beautiful Leo and Diane Dillon illustration on the cover. Croatoan blew my mind, and Hitler Painted Roses struck me deeply. I was a writer as a child. I was once a poet too, and had a poem published in an anthology of Iowa’s best poets.

I still write verse occasionally – the most recent being an 11 page parody ottava rima written for a friend going through a bad divorce. I won’t share that.

I joined the Harlan Ellison Recording Collection, which introduced me to the lovely poetry of the written word being spoken by the writer. Boo Dow Daddy-O!

WOW! I had been read to as a child, so this was just a continuation. It was a revelation to me and I began to read Harlan’s stories to myself, recording myself reading them, polishing my delivery to match, as closely as possible, Harlan’s.

Fast-forward many years, much heartache, a couple of liver tumor surgeries, some family deaths, breakups, college, and the usual.

I moved to LA. One day I wanted to read the screenplay to I, Robot. So I called the Los Angeles Public Library to ask if they had a copy. The librarian, Miss Ellie Dumont, was initially cool to me over the phone, and politely explained to me that screenplays were either the property of the studios or of the writers and were not available to the general public. Then she asked me which screenplay I was looking for.

“Oh,” she said, her voice instantly sweetened, “Mr. Ellison’s screenplay. I’m sure he’d be happy to help you. Why don’t you give him a call? Let me look up his number for you.” Talk about “YIKES”!!! And “DOUBLE YIKES” Call HARLAN?!?! AT his HOME?!?! I took down the number and thanked her. Needless to say, I phoned.

Mr. Ellison picked up the phone, and unsure if it were he, I asked for his assistant. He asked why I was calling, and I explained, saying that Miss Ellie Dumont at the LA Public Library had suggested I call him. Harlan very politely gave me the citation of the edition of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine that had contained the screenplay (if my memory serves, which it may not, I was in shock that I was speaking to him), I thanked him and then hung up and hyperventilated.

Harlan and Susan have always been so kind and gracious to me that, well, I am just thankful to know them, even as tangentially and superficially as I do.

I have agoraphobia. The first time I met Harlan in person was at Wasteland comic books in San Francisco. I had ventured forth on my own, and by the time I got to the store, I was close to a panic attack and in shock. Mr. Ellison saw me hanging on near the door and motioned for me to come up to the signing table, “Come on over”, he said. When I purchased my books, he asked me what I would like him to write to autograph them, to personalize them, and I said, “The words are all in here,” pointing to the books. I will always remember his kindness.

The second time I met him in person was at the Comic Art Museum here in SF. I was late to the reading, late getting off from work. Once again, Mr. Ellison motioned me to come up front and to sit down, which I did, to be enthralled for an hour and a half by his incredible story-telling skills. At the signing table I asked him if he had to do much revision to his work, if he had to rewrite and edit much. Looking down, he said quietly “No.”

I, who write like the Roman bear was thought to give birth to her cubs—as unformed blobs that must be licked into shape—was amazed. I said, thinking of the movie “Amadeus”, “So you’re just like Mozart.” Harlan transfixed me with a piercing Harlan stare – an “are you messing with me kiddo” stare.

I looked back at him, the artist, the man who could write stories in storefront windows, the man who had shaped the storytelling style not only of writers of his own generation (with the Dangerous Visions anthologies) but also, I venture to guess, of generations of future writers. (As it is said that the stories of a future generation came from Gogol’s Overcoat pocket, I am sure that the same can be said of Harlan’s work.)

Harlan met my look and said, “Yeah, something like that.” Realizing that I had escaped a scolding by the thinnest of threads, I tiptoed away. But once again, I realized that Mr. Ellison only reserves his wrath for those who deserve it, for worthy targets.

The third time I met Harlan was at a signing at the BookSmith, also here in SF. Like a goomba, I was holding up the line with effusive praise of his work. Very gently, very kindly, Harlan introduced me to another young fan who was also hanging on to the signing table for dear life and suggested that we go have coffee together. I wish I could say that this ended in a lifetime love affair and marriage, but despite a lovely time and a wonderful evening, he didn’t call me back. Oh well, as you can see by my avatar, I’m a brunette. Or perhaps it’s the teeth. Never got braces as a kid. At least, my avatar didn’t.

Susan and I have corresponded briefly through HERC, and I have always been so very impressed by her great gentleness, kindness and professionalism. The fourth time I met Harlan and Susan in the flesh, and had my picture taken with them. Oh joy, Oh rapture!

(I also have a photo of myself with Ray Bradbury, with his great paw of an arm wrapped around my shoulders. Lovely man, he signed books not only for me and for my mother, but also for the librarian who encouraged me in my reading magical realism and science fiction, and didn’t ever rat me out to my mother.)

So, long winded, here I am in Webderland, ready to start re-reading again after many, too many years away from Ellison’s fiction and the world of magic, the world where life is worth living and filled with danger and magic and potential.
Lead on, my friends! Let us explore together!

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Postby Moderator » Thu Sep 07, 2006 9:09 am

Gwyneth -

WONDERFUL introduction. Well told, and well felt.

Welcome to Webderland.

Steve B
- I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

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David Loftus
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Postby David Loftus » Thu Sep 07, 2006 10:31 am

Thanks for introducing yourself with some terrific HE stories. A breath of fresh air in a dungeon that had gotten rather odorous.
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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Postby Cary Bleasdale » Sun Sep 10, 2006 8:58 pm

Thanks for your welcome! And allow me to respond in the same manner. Webderland is the least stable place on the planent not located on a major fault line. A lovely person like yourself can only keep the rest of us more sane. It gets loud, violent, and I am POSTIVE Frank Church broke a beer bottle over my head one time, but, overall, this is the smartest, and, dare I say, nicest group of people I have ever met on the web.

Hope you enjoy it here as much as I do!

Gwyneth M905
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Postby Gwyneth M905 » Mon Sep 11, 2006 12:39 am

Thank you, Steve, David and Cary,
I do enjoy it here, very much! It's brought me back to my childhood and my teen years of reading lots and lots of Ellison. He's such a lovely man, and a dedicated, serious thinker who puts his heart and guts into everything he writes.
I think he attracts the same -- well, most of the time. The title of an essay he wrote has been tickling the back of my brain: "You don't know me, I don't know you". I finally tracked it down to Sleepless Nights in the Procrustean Bed It's about the "SF ghetto" writing and fandom and how rumors start.

Harlan writes:

"You don't know me, and I don't know you.
I don't know any of you who write me letters and tell me either how my stories have altered your lives immeasureably or how my stories are sick and twisted and how I obviously hate women because I had a dog eat a girl in one of them.
How can you know people who refuse to permit your humanity? How can you relate to people who either see you as a monster whose works are created solely to shock and corrupt the Natural Order, or who deify you like the shade of Voltaire?
How can I know you, when you choose to read craziness into my words? When you think every story I write is an accurate and faithful representation of my life? When, if I write about homosexuality or drug addiction or venality or violence, you start your imbecilic rumor-mill that I'm gay, a junkie, greedy beyond rationality or a crazed killer?" (p.25)

Because of Harlan's conversational style, it's hard *not* to read him into his stories. Oh Lord, what is my point? (I'm sleepy and there's a warm fuzzy dog softly snoring and grunting, curled up on my feet.) (Another thought -- maybe I should start a thread on the S.P.I.D.E.R. board about this essay? What do you think? Or too inflamatory given current events?)

I think my point was that *here* is the place where I can find kindred souls who, for the most point *allow* Harlan his humanity. Last two week's mishigoss notwithstanding. It's also just a great place for good thinkers and, as I've read through past posts, keen witted verbal jousters and people who can argue a point while still keeping a cool head. These are rare things in this world.

Harlan and Susan are good people. They attract good people (the ones that stick around, and don't just leap 'n' grab like the trolls from under the bridge in the Billy Goats Gruff tale leaving the stench of burned leaves and rotted chicken behind them.) Hey, you guys are *great* people!! ([sniffs]...OK, who cut the cheese? ) (yeah, right, it was the *dog*!!!':twisted:')

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Postby KristinRuhle » Sat Sep 16, 2006 10:43 pm

Heyaa!! Wow a fellow Bay Arean!!

Would the anthology you read have been THE SUPER HUGOS? It was edited by the (sadly late) hard-sf writer Charles Sheffield becaue Asimov died before they could finish it. THey took a poll of "all time greatest Hugo winners"....the book includes the short fiction and HE is the only author AFAIK with two stories in there! (His two most famous,
"I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" and "Repent Harlequin Said The Ticktockman." )

I fondly remember reading it on a plane on the way home from Magicon in 1992. IHNMAIMS sure gave me the creeeeeeps. (The first HE story I *ever* read was probably either "Jeffty is Five"or "The Deathbird" from the old DAW World's Best SF anthologies. They put them (the anthologies) out every year until Donald Wollheim's death (I forget what year that was - think it was the late 80s.)

Kristin

Gwyneth M905
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Postby Gwyneth M905 » Sat Sep 16, 2006 11:58 pm

Heyaa back atcha Kirsten ;)!

Yea, someone else to play with!! Kewl!!!! What Harlan signings/readings have you been to here? What are your fave bookstores? (Your favorite color, animal, and um...kind of cloud?) :)

Your question led me to do a little fact checking and...well, all I can say is, senescence is setting in with attendant Altzheimers. Whew!

"A Boy and His Dog" was published in 1969, and would have won a Hugo in 1969 or 1970. So, I checked the Hugo anthologies edited by Isaac Asimov for those years and found:

"The Hugo Winners Volume Two is an anthology of eight science fiction stories that won the Hugo Award in the World Science Fiction Convention from 1968 to 1970. It was edited and introduced by Isaac Asimov, who also includes each story.
Contents
1968: 26th Convention, San Francisco (Oakland)
Weyr Search by Anne McCaffrey
Riders of the Purple Wage by Philip José Farmer
Gonna Roll the Bones by Fritz Leiber
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison
1969: 27th Convention, St. Louis
Nightwings by Robert Silverberg
The Sharing of Flesh by Poul Anderson
The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World by Harlan Ellison
1970: 28th Convention, Heidelberg
Time Considered As a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones by Samuel R. Delany"

So I was wrong -- this *must* have been my first introduction to Ellison. (It must also have been to McCaffrey -- note the subconscious reference to her in my intro :) )

"A Boy and His Dog" is published in The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World, which would have been one of the books I ordered through interlibrary loan that the censorious librarian considered "satanic" i.e. "the Beast".

Wow. Memory is set in sand in a sirocco.

So I *did* read "...Scream" and "...Beast..." first. Guess Vic and Blood just put a bigger handprint in the malleable clay of my developing literary tastes. And right next to that handprint was written "Harlan". Kinda like those little clay discs we all made in kindergarten, yes?

Speaking of discs, are you a member of HERC? Harlan has a *dynamite* reading of "Jeffty is Five". Well worth joining to get it for a listen.

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Postby Moderator » Fri Mar 23, 2007 6:37 pm

Muh buddie.

You back???
- I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

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FrankChurch
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Postby FrankChurch » Tue Mar 27, 2007 4:51 pm

I thought I was yo buddie Stevo.

Actually, the Bay Area has a whole shit load of troubles. If you ask me to list them I may be here all day, like my mom, who loves to scribble in those damned crossword books.

Actually, I have nothing bad to say. Gwen may be the hippest chick I have seen online in ages and I am groin deep, head against her golden throne. I really do like this one. I won't feed her to the gerbil.

Douglas Harrison
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Postby Douglas Harrison » Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:43 pm

Welcome back! (I hope you're back.)

You've been missed.

D.

Gwyneth M905
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Postby Gwyneth M905 » Sun Apr 13, 2008 11:23 pm

Douglas Harrison wrote:Welcome back! (I hope you're back.)

You've been missed.

D.


thank you, Douglas! :-) It's good to be back amongst such keen minds and scintillating and stimulating debate. (no sarcasm intended)

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Postby paul » Mon Apr 14, 2008 7:52 pm

Gwennie! Damn it's good to hear from you girl. Hope all is well in your neck o' the woods. I'm a married man now, so no balcony action. :wink:

Seriously, we missed you. How you doin'?
The medium is the message.

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Lori Koonce
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Postby Lori Koonce » Tue Apr 15, 2008 3:14 pm

Gwyneth

If you live in San Francisco, and it sounds to me like you do, I'd love to meet you in person!

One of the things on my Bucket List is to meet HE just once!

Anyways, thank you for such a wonderful set of stories!

Lori

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Postby Gwyneth M905 » Wed Apr 16, 2008 8:41 pm

Hiya paul -- thank you for the welcome, and congrats on your nuptuals! :-) I'm still an old spinster broad, and likely to remain so...much to the relief of the xy community of SF. Erm, those of whom are straight, that is!

Lori, girrlfriend! :-) Check your e-mail here on the board, let's have a Mad Hatter's tea party with Jan while he's here in SF!

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David Loftus
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Postby David Loftus » Mon Oct 20, 2008 12:48 pm

Hmmm.

Margot Kidder has substituted for Barbara Eden. . . .
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus


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