CULT FACTION

For all your cult film, tv, cartoon, comic and video game needs

Harlan Ellison

American writer, Harlan Ellison, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 9th November 1977. (Photo by Barbara Alper/Getty Images)

The Amazing Life and Fantastic Times of Harlan Ellison

It’s true, up until a couple of days ago, I didn’t know who Harlan Ellison was.  I routinely check the “Recent Deaths” page on Wikipedia, not due to some morbid fascination but more to set a web surf going, something like “Oh that actor who was in that war film has passed away, shame” and I end up visiting wiki pages on actors and writers of today linked with said film.  Why am I telling you this? Well it’s because if I hadn’t agreed to write this article on Harlan Ellison, then I would’ve read straight past his listing on the 28th June without any hesitation and I wouldn’t have known about one of the most colourful Sci-Fi writers of the 20th Century.

Harlan was an amazing character, he had an abrasive and argumentative temperament.  He certainly stood up for himself but then with the life that he lead in his 84 years, he had a right to have those characteristics.  Harlan had more jobs and as colourful a life than anything that could be written in a Hollywood movie, I’d like to think that if they ever did do a film about Harlan, then it would be running at 180 minutes minimum because  you couldn’t cram all the important scenarios in his life into any shorter movie.

According to Wikipedia, Harlan had a varying degree of jobs in his early life, Tuna fisherman, Crop-picker, Bodyguard, Short-order Cook, Taxi driver, Lithographer, Book Salesman, Actor, Door-to-Door brush Salesman, and my favourite, Nitro-glycerine Truck Driver.  All this before he settled down and started writing.

Harlan had a difficult time with educational authority, he was expelled from Ohio State University for hitting a professor who claimed that Harlan had very little writing capability, and subsequently Harlan spent the next 20 years plaguing the professor with sending him every published article and story he had written.  And this is a prime example of how unique Harlan was, he had the strictest confidence in his ability and with that, an abundant imagination.  Harlan was ahead of his time, yes it is a lame thing to say but the reality is that he was there in the early stages of Sci-Fi and I am confident that if it wasn’t for Harlan Ellison, then Science-Fiction that we know, love, and immerse ourselves in, wouldn’t be a patch on what it is today.  Harlan truly was the pioneer of Science-Fiction. With some of Harlan’s work ending up on the big screen, the small screen, in books and, later in life, audio books (some he read himself). And all of them gaining critical acclaim and awards left and right.

I can’t go on without mentioning the Star Trek connection, Harlan wrote the tele-play for one episode in the first season of the original Star Trek series, The City on the Edge of Forever.  It had time travel, romance, character bonding, and tricorders.  It was the first time that Kirk, Spock, and Bones went back in time.  Some say that this episode instigated my favourite of all the Star Trek movies, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and I’d love to think that was the case.  The City on the Edge of Forever was rated as the best of the 79 episodes in the whole seasons of the original series.  And we all know what Star Trek has done for our lives, thanks to Gene Roddenbury, it has touched us all, from the drunk guy staggering home to an expected argument with his wife muttering “Beam me up Scotty” to the family that are comic-con mad and dress in authentic first season uniforms, right down to little 3 year old Samuel, understanding and conversing in Klingon.  Harlan touched this franchise with his magic.

Digressing away from boldly going where no man has gone before, and back to Harlan and his amazing life.  It’s near impossible to detail Harlan’s life in one small article, I just wouldn’t know where to begin, I could tell you about him being fired from his first day working for Disney because he made a derogatory remark in ear shot of a Disney member joking about how much fun it would be to write an animated Disney Porno with all our beloved characters in it.  I could tell you about his five marriages, one lasting a matter of weeks, his last marriage being for the last 25 years of his life.  I could tell you that he fought very hard for his rights and he wielded the legal stick when needed if he had the slightest inkling that his work was being plagiarised. And I could explain that he had more pseudonyms for his work than Marvel have comic-book characters, notably Cordwainer Smith (I might use a similar based name in the future myself) is just an awesome name.  I could tell you that Harlan was convinced that James Cameron plagiarised a story he wrote for The Outer Limits called “Soldier” that influenced Cameron to write Terminator.  So, no Harlan, no Arnie and no tagline “I’ll be back!!”.  And then there is the novella books, Harlan wrote “Amazing Stories”, “Fantastic Sci-Fi” and an abundance of short stories that would be the subject of a sole article in itself.  The screenplays, all of this is crammed in to those 84 years of life.

Harlan Ellison was a raw and immense talent, if it wasn’t for him, the planet would be a greyer place, and in a world where the reality is getting greyer by the day, I’m grateful that Harlan Ellison made my life, and my friends lives more colourful without us ever knowing and respecting the man, I for one respect him now and am grateful to be allowed to write this article, it is a privilege.  And dare I say it that if there was no Harlan Allison, then there might possibly be no Cult Faction and Brett Summers could, in an alternative Sci-Fi free reality, be sitting in a train station right now in his anorak, with his flask and notebook getting all unnecessary because a cherished locomotive is about to arrive on platform 2.  We have a lot to be grateful to Harlan Ellison for, so if you have a few minutes in your day, pop by Wikipedia and type Harlan Ellison into the search option.  It is a thoroughly good read.

Related Posts
Yvonne Craig

Yvonne Craig, the actress best known for playing Batgirl in the 1960s Batman TV series, has died at the age of 78. Before Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman, before Joanna Cameron's Read more

Yaphet Kotto – The Alien, Running Man, Bond Villain Actor

Yaphet Kotto, whether you remember him as the worst Bond Villain or a member of the Nostromo crew or as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s running mate in The Running Man, it is Read more

Yancy Butler

Yancy Butler was born in Greenwich Village in Manhattan on 2nd July 1970. Her mother Leslie Vega was a theatre company manager whilst her father Joe Butler was the drummer and vocalist Read more

Wolfgang Reitherman

Wolfgang Reitherman is the definition of an unsung hero. He is not widely known and yet hast directed six of the biggest-grossing, most popular movies of the 1960s and 1970s, not Read more

Wings Hauser

Wings Hauser was born Gerald Dwight Hauser in Hollywood, California on 12th December 1947. The son of director and producer Dwight Hauser. Hauser made his acting debut at age five Read more

Windsor Davies

It is Cult Faction's sad duty to report that acting legend Windsor Davies passed away on Thursday at the age of 88 years old. Davies had retired to France with his Read more

William Zabka

William Zabka was born on October 21st 1965 in New York City; both his parents worked in the film business. His mother Nancy was a business liaison, producer, and production assistant Read more

William Smith

William Smith aka "Big" Bill Smith was born on March 24th 1933 was in Columbia, Missouri. Smith began his acting career at the age of eight when he first appeared on the Read more

William Hartnell

A true hero of cult; best known for being the original Doctor. It may have turned out very different, for the boy known as Billy, if it hadn't been for Read more

Wes Craven

It is Cult Faction's sad duty to report that Wes Craven, the man who created modern horror with the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise  and then reinvented the genre with the Scream Read more

Werner Herzog

Described by Janet Maslin, the New York Times critic, as the "consummate poet of doom," Herzog is one of cinema's most crusading directors. His personal quest has led him to Read more

Warren Murphy

Cult Faction must sadly report that legendary writer Warren B. Murphy passed away on September 4th 2015 at his home in Virginia Beach, U.S.A. Murphy is most well known for Read more

W. Morgan Sheppard

A veteran stage, screen and voice actor, W. Morgan Sheppard was an accomplished and RADA trained actor whose career spanned 55 years. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZ4qli_1C48 Born William Morgan Sheppard in London on Read more

Vivean Gray

Cult Faction is sad to report that Vivean Gray aka Mrs Mangel in Australian soap opera Neighbours, has passed away at the age of 92 years old. Gray came from humble Read more

Virginia Hey

Virginia Hey (born 19 June 1952) is an Australian actress, known for her role as Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan on the science fiction TV series Farscape and as the Warrior Woman in Read more

Vincent Schiavelli

Vincent Andrew Schiavelli (November 11, 1948 – December 26, 2005) was an American character actor noted for his work on stage, screen and television, often described as "the man with Read more

Veronica Carlson

Born on 18th September 1944 in Yorkshire, England, Veronica Mary Glazer spent the majority of her childhood with her Military father who was stationed in Germany. In later years she Read more

Vernon Wells

Hero of Cult  Vernon George Wells was born 31st December 1945 in Rushworth, Victoria, Australia and initially popped up on the Cult Faction radar in the 1970's on the television Read more

Val Lehman

Valerie (Val) Kathleen Lehman (née Willis) was born in Western Austrailia on 15th March 1943 and is an Silver Logie award winning Australian actress and director, best known for her role as Read more

Tura Satana

Tura Satana (born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi) was born on July 10th 1938 in Hokkaidō, Japan. Her father was a silent movie actor of Japanese and Filipino descent, and her mother was a Read more

%d bloggers like this: