The prolific science fiction writer Harlan Ellison has passed away at age 84. The news was first reported by family friend Christine Valada on Twitter.
Susan Ellison has asked me to announce the passing of writer Harlan Ellison, in his sleep, earlier today. “For a brief time I was here, and for a brief time, I mattered.”—HE, 1934-2018. Arrangements for a celebration of his life are pending.
— Christine Valada (@mcvalada) June 28, 2018
Over his decades-long career, Ellison wrote hundreds of novels, short stories, and screenplays. He was the recipient of multiple awards, including eight Hugos, one of which was for the screenplay to the classic Star Trek episode, “The City on the Edge of Forever.” (It also won the WGA award for Best Episodic Drama on Television.) Other notable works from Ellison include the novella A Boy and His Dog, which was later adapted into the film of the same name, and the short story Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman, both of which won Hugo and Nebula Awards.
His work on television included writing episodes of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. He was also a conceptual consultant on Babylon 5.
An outspoken figure
Ellison was also known for being very outspoken, penning much literary, film and television criticism. The writer never shied away from controversy, especially when it came to protecting his own work. This included his work on Star Trek, resulting in a feud with creator Gene Roddenberry after changes were made to his script for “City on the Edge of Forever.” Things got so bad that Ellison asked to have his name replaced with a pseudonym, which Roddenberry refused. Ellison’s original teleplay was eventually published in book form, and adapted into a Star Trek comic by IDW in 2014.
He was also known to take his fights to court, including one with Star Trek. In 2009, he sued Paramount and CBS for what he claimed to be unpaid residuals for “The City on the Edge of Forever.” Two years earlier, Ellison had made some waves over concerns that J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek might be using elements of “City” as well, but he later told TrekMovie in 2007 that he was assured that wasn’t the case. He even offered to help out with the film’s sequel. And even though Ellison had his fights over Star Trek, he was also happy to attend many Star Trek conventions over the years, including ones this decade.
In his own words
Harlan Ellison was a very colorful figure and one way to remember him in addition to reading or watching his works is to just watch him talk. Here is a clip from The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder that was shot in conjunction with a 1976 Star Trek convention in New York which Ellison was attending. He doesn’t hold back when it comes to his views on Trek and the world in general.
And here is a clip from 2007, when TrekMovie had a chance to speak with Ellison while he walked the picket line during the WGA strike.
A number of Ellison’s fellow authors and other luminaries are weighing in on Twitter over the news of his passing.
My friend is dead and I am so sad. https://t.co/0OgaeLCj4m
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) June 28, 2018
Harlan Ellison: There was no one quite like him in American letters, and never will be. Angry, funny, eloquent, hugely talented. If there's an afterlife, Harlan is already kicking ass and taking down names.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) June 28, 2018
I once asked Harlan Ellison how many books and stories he hadn't had time to write because he just had to fuck around and pick a giant fight over every little thing.
He said, "Sure, but you can't let the bastards get away with it."
— Wᴀʀʀᴇɴ Eʟʟɪs (@warrenellis) June 28, 2018
My heart is broken. Off to gather what few thoughts I can for awhile.
What an awful day.
Harlan Ellison is dead.
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) June 28, 2018
I guess I'm not going to get anything else done today. I keep wanting to pick up the phone to call Harlan and find out how pissed he is about dying.
I've been in bed sick all day, and as such I only just now saw the news about the passing of Harlan Ellison.
All I have to say is, if there is an afterlife, God had better hope He doesn't owe Harlan any royalties or residuals… #RIPHarlanEllison
— David Mack (@DavidAlanMack) June 28, 2018
Feisty, furious, yet extraordinarily kind and generous; Harlan Ellison was one of a kind. He was family to us Maltins and our hearts go out to his incredible wife Susan. The world will be a duller place without him. #RIPHarlanEllison pic.twitter.com/EaSF1iEOmX
— Leonard Maltin (@leonardmaltin) June 28, 2018
Oh, Harlan. Finally some peace after a rough final stretch. But what a legacy. In fact, “legacy” is such a wimpy, underserved word for it. #RIPHarlanEllison although I know you’re already somewhere, already cranked up and giving’em what-for.
— Larry Nemecek (@larrynemecek) June 28, 2018
Wishing a safe journey to much beloved Harlan Ellison. pic.twitter.com/t7ECKeI1Jh
— Chris Ryall (@chris_ryall) June 28, 2018
Harlan Ellison has died, age 84.
He was one of a kind.
Watch DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH.
A few years ago I went to Smith & Wollensky's in Las Vegas on CBS' dime and had a lengthy dinner with him. When it was done I raced home to scratch down all his bon mots. A legend!
— Jordan Hoffman (@jhoffman) June 28, 2018