Literary Birthday: Harlan Ellison

A motormouthed, frantically productive science-fiction writer who made a decent living in the pulps before finding his voice in the genre’s boundary-smashing New Wave period of the 1960s, Harlan Ellison (born today in 1934)—who preferred being called a “fantasist,” thank you very much—had almost as many as opinions as published works.

In college, he punched out a professor who critiqued his writing. To express his displeasure with a publisher, Ellison mailed them an odiferous gopher corpse. For others who incurred his irritation, he used a form letter that began: “Dear Sir (or Madam), Clearly some brain-damaged moron is writing letters and signing your name. I suggest you do something about this.” After Ellison’s death in 2018, George R. R. Martin described his late friend as a “temperamental, exhausting, raging, loving, roaring giant” who started so many feuds that his antagonists actually formed a club: Enemies of Ellison.

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