#15 - The Hour That Stretches

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#15 - The Hour That Stretches

Postby rich » Sun May 29, 2005 8:05 pm

[You can find this story in STALKING THE NIGHTMARE and EDGEWORKS 2. - Mod.]

I'm not sure if I'm jumping the gun here, if Neal or Amy had something planned, but I'll throw this lightweight one out here and we'll go from there.

I love this story.

It's not heavy on plot (it doesn't really have a plot). It's not the best short story Ellison has written. It requires some knowledge of the 'persona' of Harlan Ellison to actually enjoy the story. It's a story (quite literally) about ideas and usually these types of stories don't work. And it's got an exclamation point in the narrative, and I HATE exclamation points in narratives. In short, this story really shouldn't be enjoyable or readable.

But it is. And it works. For me, at least.

I mean, honestly, would this story have been published if it hadn't been written by Harlan Ellison? And, yet, this story works precisely because it was written by Harlan Ellison.

For those that don't know, it's Ellison doing a radio show and working the creative juices as callers bombard him with story ideas and it closes with Ellison quite possibly saving the world. I have no idea if this is based on actual experiences that Ellison had with Mike Hodel, the host of the radio show, Hour 25, and it doesn't really matter. If Ellison used real people as the callers, good for them. The main thing is that this story takes Harlan Ellison as an 'idea' or 'persona' and uses it to full advantage.

We see Harlan poking fun at the listeners. We see Harlan puffing on his pipe. We see Harlan exhibiting the range of emotions that we as fans have come to expect. Whether these are real or not or based on anything other than what Ellison chooses to show his audience, I again have no idea. This is Ellison as stereotype. This story isn't going to win awards or be the story that one would use to advance the idea that Ellison is THE premier short story writer working today, but it's funny, it's enjoyable, and it does what it's supposed to do: entertain.

I would recommend this story as one of the3 or 4 must reads to those who ask, "Who is Harlan Ellison and what has he written?" Only Ellison could've written it and only Ellison could've used his public persona to such effect.

I love this story.

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Postby FinderDoug » Mon May 30, 2005 1:17 pm

I want to say that Harlan actually read this story on a segment of "Hour 25", which would be a wonderful example of life imitating art imitating life.

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Postby akojen » Mon May 30, 2005 4:09 pm

Harlan does seem to be at his best and worst in this story. He invites reader input, then goes insane when he realizes how stupid and crazy most of these people are. Of course, he should’ve known that walking in, so I think he’s just indulging his masochistic side. The thing that makes this story interesting is that it encourages what Harlan says we should NEVER do--mistake a character in a story for him. Yes, the character shares his name and mannerisms. He gives an interpretation of Mike Hodel as well, though I think Mike fares a little better under Harlan’s hypercritical eye. Of course Harlan can be driven to temporary insanity by people’s inane questions or opinions. But he paints himself as a little more fragile here than he actually is. It all serves its purpose, to entertain, and it’s cute to see Harlan paint himself with such a broad brush. He does make up for that by giving himself a gift anyone would want--the chance to save the world! It all comes off fairly believable, because you KNOW Harlan is at his best when he’s shoved into a corner. He’s strong when most people fall apart, and falls apart over things that wouldn’t really get to most people. So, he exaggerated his nature for this story. It’s cute. It’s funny. Is it Harlan? Kinda.

And I would LOVE to hear that reading.



Postby rich » Tue May 31, 2005 8:01 am

akojen wrote:Is it Harlan? Kinda.

I don't know if it's Harlan or not since I don't know the guy, but I do think that Harlan took his perceived persona and wrote a story about it. It's a stereotype and HE plays up to that stereotype in this story. It's all in good fun.

I wonder if those ideas that people gave him were actually ideas that people gave him throughout the years.

Oh, and please forgive me 'cause I don't have the copy with me here, but one of the best lines that always makes me laugh no matter how many times I read it, was the following (again, not verbatim, but I think it's pretty close). Comes after Harlan describes what he would write concerning a caller's idea:

Hodel: "That's not that good."
Ellison: "Well, the original idea didn't send me to the moon, either."

Good stuff. (And would be even better if I had the fucking thing in front of me. If it doesn't work for you, it's definitely my fault. You'll just have to trust me on this. When have I let you down before? Hmmm? My previous SPIDER entry? Ummmmm...just you nevermind. Trust me on THIS one.)

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Postby Yelena Virago » Wed Jun 08, 2005 5:13 pm

Day(s) late and a (shitload of) dollar(s) short, as usual.

Anyone besides me think the author actually played himself DOWN in this one? I certainly do. Maybe that's part of why it doesn't grab you by the throat and force you to keep reading (In a good way! She insists....), the way 99.99999% of Ellison tales do. Hell, I've seen Unca Harlan take webderlanders apart with more panache than the wildly subdued caricature in the story. :D

Anyway. As with "The Time of the Eye", I think this is really a simple, funny little story. Giggle-filler for a slow weekend afternoon, or in my case, stress-relieving weeknight. Reading deep motives, or multiple layers of richly-imbued subtext, into it might be misplaced. (Then again, I might be misplaced, but it ain't a perfect world yet eh? ;))

Now, dammit, when's someone gonna bring up Mefisto in Onyx in one of these threads? The last in-depth discussion I had about that story was apparently with a fictional character. :)


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Postby KristinRuhle » Thu Jun 09, 2005 12:22 am

I'm with Yelena mostly (how could Harlan possibly out-Harlan himself??) But remember he isn't getting paid for those Internet posts! That's pretty bad, if an author puts all his panache into *Internet posts*. (Unless someday they're collected for publication...wouldn't that be awful....)

I found the story entertaining and thought it seemed so much like something that could really have happened! (And of course, he would have had to have gotten Mike Hodel's permission, so I'm sure the radio host wis in on the joke.)


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Postby DVG » Tue Oct 25, 2005 3:02 pm

I think this may be the funniest story Mr. Ellison ever wrote. It is certainly the funniest fictional depiction of a real writer I have yet come come across.

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Postby Carstonio » Sat Jul 22, 2006 12:13 pm

When I reread the story recently, I saw the Ellison character in the story as a caricature of the real Ellison, or as an exaggeration of one side of Ellison's personality.

In my view, the story's theme is the how the cult of celebrity leads insecure people to commit irrational behavior. Did Ellison write the story about the same time he gave his famous Xenogenesis speech? The "Hour 25" callers may not have thrown warm vomit in Alan Dean Foster's face, or offered bush-league insults like the young man in the elevator in "You Don't Know Me, I Don't Know You." But they seemed to have the same pathetic, desperate need for attention and validation. Some find someone else's celebrity status itself to be a threat to their self-image.

Around the time that Oliver Stone released "JFK," the Washington Post carried an essay about the ultimate expression of the cult of celebrity - assassination. The writer said that Oswald, like Sirhan and Chapman and Hinkley, was a nobody who felt that shooting Kennedy would make him a somebody.

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An interesting point...

Postby TimCase » Mon Jan 01, 2007 1:00 pm

One important point which hasn't been mentioned yet -- I recall reading that this story was written in a bookstore window, and that the story ideas which were submitted by the listeners to the program in the piece were, in actuality, story ideas which were solicited from people who were actually in the bookstore where Harlan was writing the story itself. He incorporated those ideas (and even the names of those present) into the work itself, much as he did with Robin Williams in "Keyboard" and Tom Brokaw (I believe it was) in "Nights of Black Glass".

Life imitating Art imitating Life imitating Art, indeed.

[This topic has moved to STALKING THE NIGHTMARE. - Mod.]

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