Happy 81st Birthday, Harlan Ellison!
Celebrate the man who once said, “The two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity.”
Harlan Ellison, hailed by the Washington Post as “one of the great living American short story writers,” celebrates his 81st birthday on May 27.
Ever since he entered the scene, Ellison has been one of speculative fiction’s most dynamic figures. He marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Alabama. He sued ABC-TV and Paramount Pictures for $337,000 and won. He has assaulted a TV executive, mailed a dead gopher to a publishing house comptroller, ran with a Brooklyn youth gang, and collected anecdotes from an absurd number of famous people (like that time Frank Sinatra insulted Ellison’s boots). His famous personality has added to his legend. But for any accomplishment you can attribute to Ellison, the most remarkable to beat is the monument that is his writing.
In a career spanning more than 50 years, Ellison has won more awards for his work than any other living fantasist. Let’s start with the Hugo Awards, of which he’s won a whopping 8.5 (the 0.5 was a shared award for the screenplay of A Boy and His Dog, which Ellison counts as “half a Hugo”). Nebula Awards? Four. Bram Stokers? Five. Two Edgar Awards, two World Fantasy Awards, the Silver Pen for Journalism from P.E.N., and the list goes on.
Ellison is not only an incredibly gifted writer but a prolific one as well. His published works include more than 1,700 short stories, novellas, screenplays, comic book scripts, teleplays, essays, and a wide range of criticism covering literature, film, television, and print media. Among his most recognized works, translated into more than 40 languages and millions of copies in print, are Deathbird Stories, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, Love Ain’t Nothing But Sex Misspelled, and Shatterday.
In mainstream media, Ellison is well-known for his contributions to science-fictional television. He wrote the screenplay for the Star Trek episode “The City on the Edge of Forever,” which is widely held to be the best of the 79 episodes in the series. However, this designation is surrounded by controversy, since Ellison considered the aired episode an “eviscerated” version of the original teleplay, which can be found here. Harlan Ellison also worked with several other iconic shows, including The Twilight Zone, Babylon 5, and The Outer Limits.
For a man with a legion of achievements both in the genre and out, this post is merely a short collection of the highlights. But for an even more truncated version, we’ll let the author speak for himself. From Ellison’s website:
A Briefer Biography of Harlan Ellison
by Harlan Ellison, from the Afterword to The Essential Ellison:
For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered.
Here’s to a happy birthday, Harlan!