The SPIDER Symposion: in-depth discussion of specific Ellison stories and works.

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Postby Jan » Fri Dec 08, 2006 4:47 pm




This thread is for stories from the 1988 book that haven't been discussed yet. You are invited to add your opinions. There are seperate threads for the best stories: ON THE SLAB and EIDOLONS. This book is in print: http://www.amazon.com/Angry-Candy-Harlan-Ellison/dp/0395924812. Langerhans info page: http://www.islets.net/collections/candy.html. Book commentary by Alex Jay Berman: http://harlanellison.com/review/angry.htm. Harlan audio interview regarding Angry Candy.

"Ellison's fiction hasn't lost any of the edge, the anger, the militantly eccentric insight that has made him one of the most interesting short story writers in 20th-century American literature." (Washington Post Book World) --- "[These stories] combine fantasy in the manner of Edgar Allan Poe and personal confession to say something fresh about grief and the need to get beyond it." (The New York Times Book Review) --- "Ellison is angry again, and that's always a good sign. In this collection, he vents his spleen on Death in 17 stories and a 6000-word introductory essay that rove why many consider Ellison to be the best short story writer we've got." (San Francisco Chronicle)


FOOTSTEPS (1980) is the second story in Harlan’s volume ANGRY CANDY (1988), which he dedicated to Robert Bloch. Of the stories this is certainly among the more Blochian ones. I’m sure Harlan sent it to Bloch the minute it was out of the typewriter. On the surface, it tells the tale of a human/beast night creature enjoying the cuisine in Paris, slaughtering innocent Frenchmen and tourists in the night. The nature of Claire (her name) is revealed gradually, taking the reader by surprise who is led to believe this story would be about a normal American woman visiting Paris and looking for love.

The revelation adds a new twist to the werewolf and vampire literature, as Claire thinks of herself as one of the “children of the night”, a species of night-time monsters that we know as vampires or werewolves, even though what we assume about them is partially incorrect. Harlan also seems to imply that Jack the Ripper might have been a similar creature, although after Bloch’s and his own Ripper stories this can only be a hint. The Paris setting lends a special ambiance to the proceedings and provides a suitable background for the ironic cuisine analogy (“She dined elegantly” etc.) as well as a philosophical background. It is also used as a romantic setting for what is basically a story about passion.

Harlan uses a toned-down, somewhat spare, but calculated language that highlights the actions by not distracting from them. The story’s construction and rhythm revolves around the killings, that is, mostly what leads up to them. The deeds themselves are not described in any detail (it’s not that kind of story), what we hear about are the protagonist’s feelings while committing the acts. She is being aroused, which is the whole point of why she does it, and the psychological insights into the killer are what makes the tale special. In terms of its tone I think it’s fair to call this a noir story.


Having dealt with Claire’s psychology, the ending also provides a solution that is mainly psychological, so much so that one cannot help but feel that FOOTSTEPS is a personal "confession" in disguise. On one level, I see it as another tale about the artist’s struggle, his or her need to find a suitable and acceptable outlet for their inescapable nature. It’s also about finding one’s soul mate (not an uncommon element in Harlan’s writings), someone different from oneself but also different from the rest. It just might be the most unusual love story Harlan has ever written (maybe you’ll agree), and somehow I think it’s quite true to its time (80s to present), perhaps because it strongly emphasizes individuality and sexuality, and it also feels cosmopolitan.

The aloneness of people is one of the central concepts of the story, especially when Patrick reveals to Claire that each of them are the last of their kind (unlikely enough from a standpoint of believability). Being the last one implies a need and an entitlement for protection, which they will give each other if they stay together. The unspoken question is what would have happened, had they not met each other, because, if you think about it, they were incredibly lucky. The meeting obviously did not come about without much risk and travel, even though at least Claire did not look for a compatible partner in any conscious way. People like Claire, who go through relationship after relationship, using up their partners one after another, without finding that ‘special someone’ – they probably stop expecting to ever encounter someone who is on their level. True love is always a surprise, Harlan seems to say, and some might never find it.

Being the last of one’s kind also involves uniqueness, a trait that is especially prominent in artists. This fact, as noted elsewhere, I find buried in a lot of Harlan’s stories, including REPENT and JEFFTY. Claire, like everyone to varying degrees, had to hide a side of herself from the public which defined what she is. By doing so, she gave up something that needed to come out in singular, violent bursts which would have led to her own destruction. How exactly Claire’s life will change after her pivotal encounter with Patrick is left to the imagination. She ceases to be a danger for the world and is thus safe from harm for the first time, which is a basic human need. Harlan also found someone whom he does not have to hide anything from, nor needs he have to constantly hold himself back for fear of doing any serious damage. God knows how many people Harlan has offended, yet Susan has not yet run out in tears (or at least she went back).

Anyway, that’s what I see. If any of it applies, it’s almost a shame Harlan switched the genders – a story ending with a woman finding protection in a man’s arms almost feels too conventional. (Not that a man killing women under bridges would have been less ordinary.) Like I said, Harlan put this story in the second spot directly behind PALADIN, so some may have been disappointed because of that. The rest of us understand that it is where it belongs.

As the original publishing date was 1980, Harlan could have used this one in STALKING THE NIGHTMARE. He also used it as the title story of a 1989 collection I have never seen, and there is a TV version that was done without Harlan, so I probably shouldn't even mention it. My rating: :| :| :| :|

Addendum: From book purge newsletter.
Harlan wrote this in front window of bookstore Tems Futurs in Paris, from a story set-up by popular French DJ, The Werewolf. Later filmed as a segment of Showtime's "The Hunger" cable series.

Addendum 10/09: The DJ and the staff asked Harlan to create a story set in Paris featuring a rapist wolf woman. He wrote it on May 14th 1980 from noon to 7:30 p.m.
Last edited by Jan on Tue Oct 21, 2008 6:06 am, edited 14 times in total.

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Postby Jan » Tue Nov 20, 2007 11:51 pm

THE REGION BETWEEN (Locus award winner, Hugo and Nebula nominee) is the only novella in the book. It has a 1969 copyright and was first published in Galaxy (March 1970). It was illustrated for Galaxy with (I suppose) black ink by Jack Gaughan, and Harlan bought the rights to the illustrations. It was then reprinted in Keith Laumer's anthology FIVE FATES (1970) and AFTERLIVES, edited by Pamela Sargent & Ian Watson (1986). I think it was actually commissioned by Laumer, who wanted to collect stories all based on the same opening (the first few lines). I don't remember if FIVE FATES had all the artwork, but AFTERLIFES did. I don't know why Harlan waited almost 20 years to put the story in one of his own books. Laumer owned the rights until 1980, it seems, but it may also have had to do with the particular layout required or the page format. Since ANGRY CANDY has no introductions, there is no mention of how the story came about. That's fine because Harlan leaves the opening behind pretty soon.

As a result of the above, the story is the oldest one by far in ANGRY CANDY and is clearly a product of a different time. It's about a man names Bailey who has a miserable life and goes to a euthanasia center to be killed. His soul is picked up by the Succubus through his soul-recruiters and ends up in a variety of bodies everywhere in the galaxy. The problem with him is, he's suddenly rebellious in nature, so his soul is rejected again and again. Ultimately, the Succubus himself takes a closer look at Bailey. The ending is one of Harlan's best. It turns the story into a major, genuinely funny joke.

This is one of the stories, like THE DEATHBIRD, that I really had to struggle with, and again I found that it was worth it. I don't think the story gained anything from being in-your-face experimental and out-there, but a bit of experimentation every now and then is beneficial to the art. There are many ways to interpret the story. Mainly, this is an anti-complacency story, showing a character that does not blindly accept the morality and laws of other cultures. He sees through the indoctrination and the schemes behind it all, and he tries to shake things up as much as he can in the short periods he spends in other creatures' minds.

There is a strong component of war and people letting themselves be led into it without questioning the validity of their own attitudes or the motives of the authorities. The galaxy is not a pleasant place. Of course, this was written during the Vietnam War, which Harlan openly opposed. Harlan rejects the idea that people in superior positions are to be considered superior as human beings - a troublemaker like Bailey can be superior, and even if no one around him knows it, the universe knows.

The nature of the story dictated that Harlan had to describe several alien societies, creatures and environments, which I think he did very well for a shorter work of literature. The only part I though was boring (though there may be some meaning behind it) was the episode where Bailey is attacked in a blue void.

I can imagine that some SF people objected to Harlan getting awards for this one, as it is a definite attention grabber of a story. I'm pretty sure the experimental nature of it was part of why he won them, but I feel he overdid it at times, creating challenges on top of having to deal with various points of view, cultures, episodes, and flashbacks, all without straight-forward exposition.

As usual, there is more to say, particularly on religion and God, but I'll leave it at that. My rating: :| :| :|

QUICKTIME is about a member of the ruling class of a far-future society who is trying to escape execution by a resentful populace. He manages to hide in the forest and then returns to the city where he forces a scientist to send him back in time where he is safe until the time machine would return him in a hundred years which will be just a second for him.

The story reminded me of “Gnomebody” which Harlan had written in 1956, although he certainly wrote quite a lot of stories of this type. In both stories he set up interesting situations only to end the tales with ironic reversals of fortune, negating any possibilities of development. It would be harsh to call these divertissements literary equivalents of jokes, but certainly the characterizations here don’t go much beyond what the ending demands. While a story like this requires talent, you’re still left wondering why Harlan was still writing minor stuff, and if perhaps it was written on or for a special occasion that didn’t permit or require him to write something more ambitious. I can picture him do this in a shop window or at a convention. I don’t dislike the story, I just expected every entry in ANGRY CANDY to be of a higher caliber.

It should be mentioned that this is one of the stories in which Harlan follows the bad guy around and neglects to provide an obvious hero, which in this rare case is almost the best thing about it. Not having much choice, you sort of root for the villain, which is something Harlan lets you do from time to time. This makes you want to see how it ends and makes the rather dull negotiation scene tolerable in which the villain tries to cover all bases when forcing the scientist to help him. :| :|

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Postby Jan » Thu Apr 24, 2008 11:40 pm


PRINCE MYSHKIN, AND HOLD THE RELISH (1982) is about two guys having a literary argument about the attitudes of men in Dostoyevsky's fiction towards women. This takes place at Pink's, a famous hot dog joint, where they make the acquaintance of an unusual man.

This story stands out as what some readers know to be a somewhat autobiographical piece in which Harlan captures himself in his spare time. He shows a light, social side of himself that may surprise those who are familiar with his essays and criticism. The humor here is in the tradition of joke stories such as "Gnomebody", but it's a richer experience because it's amusing on top of being a fully developed (though short) story. It's mainly based on Harlan's feeling that art can be and should be considered independent from their makers, making it possible for him to enjoy the works of a person whose attitudes or behavior may leave something to be desired.

More than anything, Harlan has written this to be heard, employing a verbal writing style that comes off very well. It's obviously a piece that he enjoys performing. As usual, having heard him read it aloud adds something to the experience on subsequent readings. The problem is that if it's read too slowly or too seriously, it dies a painful death when the odd customer starts talking. Harlan's way is therefore the ONLY way to read the story. On the page, the comically unlikely account of the stranger goes on for too long without building and is followed by obvious statements. I like the fact that the first half contained valid ideas, but the second half doesn't seem to tie into that.

A signed copy of the story can be seen framed at Pink's at La Brea/Melrose in Hollywood. The lines at Pink's have gotten much longer. It's also become more time consuming for Harlan to go there due to increases in traffic. Still, Harlan remains fond of the place and it's become a sort of mecca for visiting fans. When Harlan went there in 2007 to meet some friends who had come to town to see the documentary, his car broke down an had to be hauled off. This was well documented by two photographers. Appropriately, in 2001 Harlan also signed copies of the revised edition of THE ESSENTIAL ELLISON at Pink's, as it includes the story. In 2007 he overwrote the signature as the old one had faded. :| :| :oops:

The A.J. Berman review: http://harlanellison.com/review/angry.htm#prince (Webderland)
Comments on audio version: http://www.islets.net/audio/myshkin.html (Langerhans)
Harlan reading it on film: http://www.creatvdiff.com/harlan_ellison.php (Dreams With Sharp Teeth)

Me in front of Pink's. (c) Steve Barber

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Postby Jan » Thu May 08, 2008 10:46 am

PALADIN OF THE LOST HOUR (1985). A man intervenes when an older man is attacked by a gang, and they become friends. Each of them has a story the world doesn't know about.

It's odd or maye not so odd that Harlan's best stories seem to encapsulate his views on life. There may be much variety in his stories, but the best ones tend to have a lot in common between the lines. Here Harlan reprised elements from numerous previous stories, reminding us of his ongoing concerns and interests. In the mind-80s Harlan had stayed the same (more or less) while the world around him had changed in many ways, for the worse in some.

Even more than most stoires, this one is all about character. When there is little plot, it takes all the more skill to grab and hold the reader. Harlan relies on characterization to do that, apart from a magical element which gives the story it's fantastical flavor and acts as a catalyst.

The charcater named Billy is a Vietnam vet whom Harlan used to talk about an unseen wound in American society as well as a kind of loneliness also described in "Soldier" and "Basilisk". The character is a linear descendant of the Trooper character in the "City on the Edge of Forever" script. The war is over, and society has moved on, leaving the veterans alone with their problems. Harlan also shows how people are formed by past events, often unable to shake off the past when they should.

Through the character of Gaspar, Harlan talks about responsibility, a theme of many stories from the 70s such as "Shatterday" and something he used to talk about a lot in interviews. Gaspar lives in a world in which, from his point of view, everyone has gone crazy. It's probably one of the reasons why he still mourns his dead wife, his strongest tie to the world. Interestingly, he believes in a life after death.

Among the special Harlan moments in the story is a brief scene in which both characters play with toys. Nothing could have expressed better that they somehow became friends despite the social gap between them (one is white, one is black, one is old, one is young). Too bad Harlan didn't think so - he keeps hammering the point. In general, he went from subtle to emphatic various times throughout the story. It's also one of Harlan's more overwritten stories.

I always liked the moment when Billy and Gaspar talked about books. Gaspar mentions having had a large library and being annoyed by people asking him if he read all the books. This is another instance where Harlan gives Gaspar some of his own attitudes and thoughts.

The final pages are brilliant and written in Harlan's best style. He ended the story with several nice twists and achieved strong emotional closure.

If I remember correctly, Harlan wrote PALADIN for The Twilight Zone, the 80s version that he worked on. He then wrote the story based on the script and won the 1986 Hugo award. :| :| :| :oops:


Review by A.J. Berman: http://harlanellison.com/review/angry.htm#paladin
Harlan's audio recording of the story (free): http://harlanellison.com/iwrite/paladin.rm (RealPlayer format)
Harlan's article about Paladin: http://harlanellison.com/iwrite/aboutpal.htm

If there is a theme or message I would have posterity glean from a lifetime of my work, it is that we must not only take on the dirty job of preserving humanist values, but we must prevail, must transcend our flaws. Otherwise, we are no nobler than the driver of the Cadillac in this story.

Harlan also has an audio commentary on the DVD.


Review of the episode on the Postcards from the Zone website: http://postcardsfromthezone.blogspot.com/2005/12/117-paladin-of-lost-hour.html

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Postby Jan » Tue Oct 21, 2008 5:23 am

THE FUNCTION OF DREAM SLEEP (1988) - Lonny McGrath has suffered the loss of many friends and loved ones in recent months. One night he wakes up and sees an open mouth in his side, vanishing. He investigates.

Hugo Best Novellette nominee - Bram Stoker Best Novellette nominee - Locus Poll Award winner. Was also reprinted in the revised edition of THE ESSENTIAL ELLISON and in California Sorcery, edited by William F. Nolan and William Schafer.

See our original discussion of this story here. See Alex Jay Berman's comments here.


This is a fantasy story about coping with the death of friends and loved ones. It was presumably a very personal story to Harlan who had gone through a period of losing friends, as described in “The Wind Took Your Answer Away” (book introduction). The opening scene is based on an actual dream of Harlan’s.

This is one of the longer stories in the book as it is intensely felt and deals with a major theme, loss. There is a principle among writers to let some time pass between emotional events and using them in a piece of fiction. Harlan has never been one to adhere to this rule very strictly. In some ways I was reminded of “Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans” (from DEATHBIRD STORIES), notably because this is also a story of exploration. I’m not referring so much to the physical movement in both stories but to the way they unfold. (In one instance, when McGrath reaches the Le Braz mansion, there is even an overlap of style and content with a similar scene in the earlier story.) What reads like another quest for knowledge is really Harlan’s own exploration of a) the actions that would follow an event such as the one described on page one, and of b) overwhelming feelings he had experienced, and their emotional solutions.

The superficial part works fairly well until about halfway through. The two REM-group (one real, one not) meetings feature some nice twists and good writing. Berman, in his review, said this about the second group: "By not allowing ourselves to let go, to move past the pain, we hurt those around us who, seeking to lessen our pain, feel all the worse when we will not let them help us."

The protagonist's situation finally runs out of steam because it does not change or develop significantly. In fact, there is little steam to begin with as both aspects of McGrath's situation are insufficiently developed on the opening pages. We know what his problems are but there is no scene in which we experience them. McGrath's attitude seems in no way unusal. Why is he so special and worse off than everybody else? In the middle of his visit with the real REM group, Harlan begins straining to keep the story alive by serious overwriting and having everybody in hysterics. (Scene p.317-319.) The natural flow is gone and it begins to feel laboured. There is an attempt to get back on track, but a grand conclusion reveals little of surprise and leads to a happy epilogue it doesn’t fully explain. If that's a solution we see carried out on the last page, all it really does is pull the rug out from under the story. McGrath learns to accept the loss of friends and suddenly it's all good. In what way, exactly, hadn't he accepted the losses before? And what has sleep got to do with it? While sleep plays a role in our coping with loss, the more important thing, that we can actually do something about, is our attitude while we’re awake. Sleep is always good on top of that.

I'm afraid I'm getting a little lost in the symbology.

I think “Function” shows that emotion doth not a story make. The initial concept wasn’t strong enough to carry much more than a short story about confusion and nightmares. Harlan still did a good job with the material until he tried to make more of it all than there is. Perhaps he felt, correctly, that a story involving death and more death needs a justification more strongly than many others unless he wants it to be pointlessly depressing. But what could the ending say beyond what is already obvious to everyone else who ever lost someone? I'd be more interested in a story about what acceptance and letting go really mean. This is where "Function" is too unclear for its own good and, in my opinion, even off the path. Listen to Le Braz' supernatural explanation of the mouth phenomenon and how one is supposed to behave. I feel good about hanging on to the memories of people who have passed away.

The real-life bits work well, most memorably the sequence in which the final months or days of friends are briefly described, some of them probably colleagues and friends of Harlan’s. The story also brings back images of the changing urban landscape from “Paladin of the Lost Hour”. A choice I wonder about is McGrath being an ex-abortionist since this had already turned up once too often in Harlan’s fiction. This time, Harlan just puts it out there, on top of everything else, and waits for the reader to make some kind of connection, perhaps with McGraths sleeping problems, which we aren’t even sure he has, or with his extra mouth, a phenomenon much less common than abortions. In what way is McGrath still an abortionist? By retaining memories of dead people? By slowly killing himself? By actually continuing his practice? I really don't know. :| :|

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Postby Jan » Mon Dec 22, 2008 9:17 pm

EIDOLONS (1988) - In Sydney, a man named Vizinczey, a "pariah" on the run, visits a dealer and collector of miniature armies who also happens to own a hidden scroll that contains the key to immortality. - Another Locus Poll Award winner. Our original discussion of the story is here. A.J. Berman's review is here.


This is a most unusual story containing a large mid-section of "not quite epigraphs" - allegories of condensed wisdom from the scroll. Vizinczey's story, told in first person, serves as a frame in a way, without quite standing on its own. It's clearly a composite story of things Harlan didn't want to throw away, and for good reasons. The text contains fragments of marvellous prose. The pages leading up to the epigraphs are up there with "On the Downhill Side" and "Footsteps", showing Harlan in full possession of his powers. One can't seriously fault him for not managing to sustain it longer. There was probably nowhere to go with the story, at least no place that Harlan cared to go. He gives us the poetic allegories as a substitute.

Harlan makes sure you know you are getting a good substitute by having Vizinczey explain that the 13 texts contain the key to immortality. The scroll being of ancient origin, we are relieved to find that V. has translated and reformulated the contents into "more contemporary" terms. They really are mysterious mini-stories of increasing length, a lot of them merely notions. They don't really have anything to do with the envelope story, though they share a certain voice with it. The notable ones, I think, are number 5 (about the value of the past), 10 (creators of art and would-be's), 11 (moving on), and 13 (a personal memoir about Harlan's father). There is also number 12, a very good piece of Kafka-esque writing. They were all written to be read aloud on Hour 25 in some preceding year and came from "a cogeries of misheard remarks, altered to form brief allegories or tone-poems" (Harlan).

All considered, "Eidolons" doesn't work well as a story, but the opening is impressive and V.'s "gift" is interesting. As for the secret of immortality: You really believed that? :| :| :oops:

I'm moving an older thread here:


by Jan » Mon Mar 12, 2007 11:41 pm

Last week or so, Harlan mentioned in the Pavilion the stories of his that he thought best represented what he was doing. SOFT MONKEY was one of them. It appeared in ANGRY CANDY two years after its original release in Mystery Scene Reader in 1987. It went on to win the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best Short Story of the Year.

The character of the story is a homeless black woman who has lost her child because she could no longer provide for it and who was evicted from her apartment, presumably after not having been able to pay her rent for a while. She carries a puppet with her that has taken the place of the absent child. She witnesses a crime, prompting the gangsters who committed it to try to find and kill her. (Yes, there is more.)

The setting of the story is New York, a place Harlan proves familiar with. The title refers to Annie's puppet, a source of pride and comfort.

Like most of the stories in ANGRY CANDY, this is obviously a late-period Ellison – it’s a simple story well told. It does not offer the sparkle of great creativity as there is much less to “see” here than in his fantasy and SF work. What we have is a character portrait enhanced by some scenes of suspense.

Now, this wouldn’t be an Ellison story without some wider implications. He has a history of speaking out for or presenting in his stories the people who have fallen through the cracks. SOFT MONKEY shows us a vivid image of a society where the more unfortunate people have to get by on their own and often are at the mercy of other people, be they good or evil. The life Annie is leading is so far removed from what she can tolerate that she lives partly in a fantasy world and has given up her relationship with reality and other people. Her actions are defensive and evasive.

In a way, people are trespassing into her territory and her life all the way through the story, while, at the same time, she certainly owns whatever part of the city she’s forced to live in. The cruel and ruthless gangsters are not developed in any major way, but there is a suggestion of money ruling the city/world. The social concern and anger of the story is certainly the same one we’ve seen in earlier works of Ellison. Of course, he tells the story in a rather objective manner, since the action speaks for itself; there is also no dialogue of any importance.

We identify with Annie up to a point. Her concerns and priorities differ greatly from those who have the money to buy the book, but they are very well imagined and have the ring of truth. As a result of who she has become, she has no feelings of anger, only fear, although most of us would probably be outraged first.

The man who deposits the 20 dollar note on her lap enters the story somewhat surprisingly. While it is clear why he would do so, the story is not about well-meaning people helping the poor. As I indicated, one way to explain Annie’s inaction at that point is that she has shut out the world and found her own sort of happiness and self-sufficiency. (The man’s wife even makes a reference to this fact, which we have seen in practice - in fact, it’s sheds an ironic light on what we have witnessed.)

On top of that, we do not REALLY help the poor and maltreated with money. That does not change their situation greatly, although it makes us feel better. What would help is people speaking out for them and taking action.

It is very telling how unconcerned about any consequences the gangers act throughout the story. Yet New York is not void of people i.e. witnesses, people who can interfere. Is this just bad storytelling? At one point Annie is running through a crowd of people with one of the gangsters at her heels. And when the police arrive at the first crime scene, it does not occur to Annie to talk to them, nor do they notice her. Her belongings are classified as waste that somehow got displaced. She does not exist to anyone besides the gangsters and a gentle soul.

The man who tries to give Annie some money is, of course, based on Ellison himself who spoke of such an experience, although he modified the scene in minor ways (see AN EDGE IN MY VOICE, Installment 52). I’m sure the image had haunted him for many years, and perhaps the story was Harlan’s way of immortalizing the woman and creating some fraction of his own past turmoil. If I may quote from the essay:

There is a liquid moment in our life when all that torments us solidifies in reality […] and we understand that there are those without hope, without limbs, without beginnings and endings that matter. […] [We] move on, smaller and safer and quite ready to accept the paper cuts and stubbed toes the universe does not know we suffer.

Why some people would consider this a mystery story, I don't really know, but I'm not terribly familiar with the genre. Still, A.J. Berman uses the genre conventions as a point of reference:

Harlan paints a tapestry of a kind largely unseen in the mystery genre.
Annie, our "hero", is very unlike most mystery protagonists; not only is she of a station--hell, let's call it what it is in these enlightened times--an underclass, a caste generally left out of most suspense, crime, and mystery stories. Usually, bag ladies are written into such stories as informants, or to give an element of seediness to a particular setting.

(Find his full Webderland review here: http://harlanellison.com/review/angry.htm)

I would not rank the story among Harlan's top work, but it's certainly top-drawer and better written than some (showing restraint, like FOOTSTEPS and other stories of the later period). It has two or three moments of great excitement and it leaves you with a few questions to dwell on. It may also touch you, most likely in the middle of the story, which recounts past events in Annie's life. :| :| :|

by Laurie » Wed Mar 21, 2007 2:26 pm Soft Monkey, strong character study...

I like this story a lot although it doesn't seem typical of the more usual, earlier imaginative Ellison stuff. What grabbed me in this story was the resourcefulness and fortitude of this woman who is so beaten down and otherwise powerless. She is up against some terrifying predators--I couldn't eat my lunch after reading about that guy forced to drink Drano! This woman, whose mind doesn't function within a reality too awful to endure, is yet able to take care of herself--and her "baby"--in a situation that would prove far too threatening for most people to even consider handling on their own. Ellison manages to make someone memorable who is usually among the forgotten. I felt admiration for her as well as pity, an unusual combination of feelings and a good antidote to the way street people are portrayed by the right wing radio jerks who ridicule them as useless and a blight on society. For someone like that, day to day survival is an accomplishment and facing a life threatening crisis as well as she does makes her heroic.

by KristinRuhle » Tue Mar 27, 2007 12:19 am

SOFT MONKEY struck me as one of the most moving and powerful Harlan stories in years, (the ones that are BETTER are ALSO in ANGRY CANDY, such as "The Function of Dream Sleep" which is a must read for anyone who has lost a friend or loved one) - I don't fault it for being urban realism rather than fantasy; it is a show of its author's caring site, emphasizing the importance of compassion amid a world that can be cold, cruel and brutal.

I got the title right away, too. I'm addicted to my teddy bear....not because my mother didn't love me though; it's a long story. Anyway, I do know about the (cruel! I'm not an animal liberationist or anything, but some of the things scientists have done to animals in the name of research do make me sick) experiments done on monkeys. It makes you feel all the sorrier for the human equivalent.

I wonder if mobsters ever *really* made anyone eat Drano? even in urban legend? Eeeeeuch! That's not what you would call a typical gang hit! Killing someone in an excruciatingly painful manner implies that the perpetrators were out for revenge. Mostly, if someone gets whacked they just get shot quick in the back of the head or something.

diane bartels
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Re: 1988 - ANGRY CANDY

Postby diane bartels » Sun Jun 05, 2011 4:47 am

I hated Angry Candy when I bought it in 89. HATED IT. There was not a story I enjoyed, or felt I really understood. Years passed.People died. I became one of those who haunt the cemetaries, talking forlornly to the habitues of graves. One night a couple years back, I reread the collection. And I got Function. It is not that the hero is so different from some of us. The people he lost are not so exceptional, he is not so extremely sensitive. It is that he wont let go,he wont consign them or his memories of them away to the back of the closet of memory. He keeps them fresh in the forefront of his heart, his brain. And I get that, because I did that. In a less than 10 year period, I lost my mother, my aunt, my brother, my exfiancee, my other aunts husband,two professors from my old school who were very dear, a man I had loved dated and lost.... The list goes on. And I could let go of none of them: I kept them there, thinking I must say this, If only I did that. When I reread this story, I cried so that I wailed. Out loud, howling. And started to let go a little. For which I owe Harlan. Cause he is quite correct. We do them a disservice when we do not let them go, for their place is not ours and we cannor dwell in the House of Death.

And in reviewing the threads here, I am struck again: There really is no one like Ellison is there? His talent is unique and his canon is unique. And just when I think I got dude nailed down to this type or that meme, he throws me a curve ball. Harlan, Harlan. And the extent and depth of things I owe the man has become ridiculous.

Well Jan told u I'd post here one day.

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Ezra Lb.
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Re: 1988 - ANGRY CANDY

Postby Ezra Lb. » Sun Jun 05, 2011 2:00 pm

Great post Diane.

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