In Which Harlan Ellison Has Things To Say

In Which Harlan Ellison Has Things To Say

I actually thought I was done posting about this. Hm.

Okay, so a couple of days ago someone told Harlan Ellison about the Realms art/cover/boob discussion thing going on but, apparently, did not actually send him links or anything, just told him “Hey, some woman somewhere is calling Realms’ publisher a sexist!” or somesuch. Internet telephone being what it is (and considering the probable source and considering the phobia Ellison has of the actual Internet), I’m not surprised that this is the version of the conversation that’s reached him. And if you do not know, right now, the gist of what Harlan’s commentary is, then you don’t know squat about Harlan. You’re lucky.

Now, when I first heard this I had a notion of actually writing to him or posting on his weird message board thing that, actually, no one was accusing any person of being a horrible sexist, and giving him the actual background on what we’re talking about. But then I thought: Why in Zuul’s name should I care about the opinions of a guy who grabs women’s breasts in public and thinks it’s cool? He’s really not the audience for such a discussion. Nor is he someone I care to convince.

During my Clarion West, we had this fun running gag where we’d ask our instructors for Harlan Ellison stories. I think this got started because someone in our first week told a particularly funny one. The other stories ranged from funny to “OMG he DID that?!” And while it’s all ice cream and cakes to focus on the funny aspects, those other ones left me with the impression that Ellison, great writer though he may be, is not someone I would like to run across in a dark alley or even a well-lit convention floor. Or, apparently, on stage in front of hundreds of people.

So, I went about my business. But someone out there faxed Harlan more details and now he knows my name.

Sort of.

He seems to think my first name is Kay.

Well. At least he won’t find my house.

He also wants to “bee-atch-slap” me because I’m a woman of color. Specifically because he helped Octavia Butler launch her career so, as a woman of color, I owe him fealty or something. I dunno. He also seems to think I called HIM a sexist and that I want to “get into it” with him.


One thing I am annoyed about is that someone told him I called him a sexist. In this discussion, I mentioned Harlan only in the context of him having a story in Realms. I have not said one word about him being sexist or anything else. If I were to care, I would set the record straight with him on that. But I don’t.

I’d also like to point out some other fun aspects of his post. #1 – he seems to think that by naming me as the culprit he’s put my Public Name in a Public Place and that’ll show me! Um. #2 – he hurls several insults at me, but some of my favorites are: I’m in the NWA, a Women of Cuhluh, and a swineherd. Thumbs up! You keep it classy, Ellison!

Now, the bottom line here is that Harlan is convinced that I am specifically after hm. He really, really is. Unlike most egomaniacal wankers on the Internet, I don’t think he has this impression just on GP (that’s general principles for you non-urban folk out there). I think that whoever has been telling him about this discussion has made Harlan think that I and a bunch of other people are specifically mad about him. Him in general, him in Realms, whatever. But the truth is, Harlan is not only not the issue here, he’s barely a footnote.

The cover mockup I posted the other day (provided by Charlotte, for those of you who didn’t know) takes a dig at him, but from what I understand, that was aimed at Realms‘ publisher, not Harlan himself. However, it was a dig and if I’d seen my name over top the words “Senile Meanderings” I’d be pissed, too. So, for calling attention to an image that included a personal attack on someone not even involved in this discussion, I’ll take the blame for that one. If Mr. Ellison wants me to remove that from the post, he’s free to ask.

As to the rest: I have no intention of getting into it with Harlan. I don’t care about him enough. I wouldn’t mind letting him know what was actually said by me as concerns him. Otherwise, I just can’t get excited about it. The orc horde has more important stuff to deal with just now.

But hey, look at that, some famous person knows my name! And posted it on his website. My Google Juice is going to skyrocket now!

109 thoughts on “In Which Harlan Ellison Has Things To Say

  1. oh my screaming bloody fuck. could this whole thing just keep getting twisted around by goddamn idiots any more?


  2. Keep it classy, Harlan. Or, you know, not. *eyeroll*

    And you are indeed classy, Tempest.

  3. You know what? Having heard Octavia talk about her career and her time and Clarion and so on, I find the suggestion that she owes ANYTHING TO FUCKING ANYBODY for becoming the writer she was too insulting for words. I know a lot of people helped her. That goes to their merit, but she was deep, hard-working, and driven, and owes it all to herself alone. We owe her.

    Harlan Ellison has been putting all the people who considered him a great writer once in an increasingly bad position. For their sake, not his, I really wish he’d shut the fuck up.

  4. Tempest: Just remember people are with you on this. I don’t see anyone flocking over to HE’s so-called forum to voice their support for him.

  5. If you find yourself contemplating all the terrible things that might happen to egomaniacal racist assholes at an sf con, you should read Bimbos of the Death Sun, where the Guest of Honor (who just happens to resemble a certain big name author) is murdered and everyone is a suspect given how well he was not loved.

  6. This is as sane, sensible, and balanced a response as I could possibly imagine.

    My hat’s off to you! (And I’m completely on your side, if there was any doubt.)

  7. I used to be a Harlan Ellison completist, because I bought my first science fiction anthology (Damon Knight’s Orbit 4) when I was ten years old, and while I didn’t understand Ellison’s “Shattered Like a Glass Goblin” it made enough of an impression on me that I couldn’t get it out of my head, and went on to read everything I could find by him.

    Now, sadly, he has joined Orson Scott Card as one of the writers whose ravings keep me from enjoying re-reading any of the works I once savoured. I wonder how much I could get for my collection on eBay?

  8. NWA, huh?

    In an effort to follow and extend the grand tradition of excusing and minimizing disgusting things done and said by gross, unpleasant old men, I am going to have to sigh heavily and ask why it bothers you so much that he insinuated you were part of Northwest Airlines. STRUCK A NERVE THERE, EH, TEMPEST?

  9. I keep wondering why people pay any attention to that ridiculous martinet. Probably the most terrible and frightening thing one could to him would be to ignore him.

    (Or hand him to the librarians, who would gladly dice him up fine with the sharpened edges of catalog cards.)

  10. Ewww, what a yucky thing to find stuck to the bottom of your awesome shoes, but at least easily scraped off. Still a waste of your far more worthwhile time.

  11. Huh. So, how does it feel to know that Harlan Ellison is not only a better writer than you can ever hope to be – hell, has been for probably fifty years now – but has also done more for civil rights in this country than all of your online bloviating? He’s put boots on the ground for civil rights marches, boycotts, ERA campaigning, while you’ve… spouted off shit behind a keyboard.

    Stay classy.

    1. Arrggghhh! The comment below was directed to Jace, not K. Tempest Bradford. (Sorry. First time commenting here and all.)

    2. Oh Jace, welcome back. We’ve missed you and your special view on things. No, really.

      So, let me see if I understand you rightly: Harlan Ellison calls me a nigger, and you’re cool with that because he’s a better writer than I am, in your eyes? That’s really going to be your stance here?

      I’m sure the people he marched with just laughed and laughed when he called them niggers, huh? And if someone objected they would say “Don’t you know he’s a great writer? How DARE you impugn him! Octavia Butler would be ashamed!”

      Knowing and being nice to black people in the past means that you can call someone a nigger and it’s totally okay. I want to make sure that’s what you mean to say, Jace. Because that’s what it sounds like you’re saying.

      Well, that and: I’m a sad wanker.

      1. “he’s a better writer than I am, in your eyes?”

        In _my_ eyes? Well, yeah, but also the eyes of the Hugos, the Nebulas, the Stokers, the Edgars, the George Melies award, International PEN, Writers’ Guild – you know what, I’d say he’s pretty much objectively a better writer.

        Funny how I didn’t say anything about Harlan himself there – only asked how you felt about it. Sure, he might spout off every now and then – although to take those words at face value when he’s known for outrageous exaggeration and rhetorical flourish in pretty much every forum he enters is… perhaps the moral equivalent of quote-mining.

        Point is, he’s done shit, you’ve complained about shit, and in the grand scheme of things what do you think measures up most?

        1. well, when I get to be his age, I’ll let you know. I’m not even half his age and, I daresay, I am not unhappy with the things I’ve accomplished in life thus far. How do I feel about what Ellison has done compared to me? I don’t feel anything, in particular. Why would I bother to compare myself to him? Why would I worry about whether he’s a better writer? I guess I could say that, by the time I get to his age I plan to have more awards than he does, but when we reach that future time, will any of us care about this conversation? I doubt it. Hell, we may even be on track to people saying “Harlan who?”

          Your question, on its face, is silly. Basically you’re attempting to either bait me or make me feel bad in the face of Harlan’s overwhelming body of work. But hey, guess what, all of that is irrelevant. Completely. A strawman. A non-issue. Harlan could be the most super special writer of all time but today? Today he called a black woman a nigger and threatened to hit her because she made him sad. Aw.

          His talent lies not in writing, but in being a giant 4 year old. When I compare myself to that? I feel pretty damn good about my talents.

          The same, I suspect, cannot be said for you.

          Now, putting all politeness aside:

          Bring this shit to my journal again and I’ll ban you. I should ban you now, but I’m feeling generous. Try to bait me, start a flamewar, throw up a strawman or just generally act like an ass again and you’ll find your ability to comment here revoked.

          1. When you get to his age? He started racking up Nebulas and Hugos in his early thirties. The point is that you’re making it about you, as always, twisting it around to fit it into your own agenda. (Also, as for the seriousness of Harlan’s statements, see previous public appearances where he makes similar flourishes. I think he once opined that he’d like to go out into the streets with an assault rifle and execute people based on their knowledge of French short story writers. Why don’t you take that as seriously?)

            You have a habit of arguing about things for appearances’ sake. Does it matter if they’re actually racist? Sexist? Just the front-end manifestation of some all-encompassing, all-pervading conspiracy? Nah. They spoke the magic words, even in jest, rhetoric, what have you – they have breached some arbitrarily defined standard of political correctness, and must be attacked for it.

            That they actually put themselves out on the streets at risk fighting for the ideals you claim to hold, sacrificed in their careers to fight for what you and they believed was right, while you sat at a computer and bitched and moaned, that somehow gives you the moral high ground? Nope.

          2. So… basically I’m right on track for starting to get awards at the same time of my life as Ellison, then. ???

            Really, Jace, you are not making any kind of sense. When did I make this all about me? Harlan has made it about him, and about me vs. him, but that was something HE did. I didn’t say anything *about* Harlan. As regards the RoF cover conversation in general, again, I didn’t make it about me at all. I gave an opinion. Doug Cohen made it all about me. (and, in the process, brought a LOT more attention to the actual subject — the cover — and made himself look rather silly. All things I was not involved in.)

            The only people who seem to be making it about me are people who don’t like me.

            And Jace, I warned you about the strawmen. Because the RoF cover thing didn’t have anything to do with race or racism, so why the hell are you bringing that up? The conversation became about sexism in the genre as a whole, but I never started in about anyone being sexist. You keep bringing in stuff that does not exist in this conversation.

            And it’s clear why.

            You just can’t stand the fact that I’m awesome. You hate it that I am so awesome. You are trying to bring up every subject that might diminish my awesome but you just end up looking like a crazy person who can’t keep to the point.

            I think you know what’s coming next. But before that, I’d just like to say: when have YOU ever put yourself on the streets and fought for anything? All I see is some whining on the Internet from you, dude.

            You won’t be able to answer here but you can surely answer on your own blog. I’ll look forward to reading that when I have the time.

    3. Just because he put ‘his boots on the ground’ doesnt mean Tempest or anyone else is obligated to worship them. Especially when his words make him indistinguishable from the racists he was supposedly against.

      1. Also, please tell me why I’m supposed to be impressed by Harlan’s wandering through the streets for civil rights? I’ve got Black folks to look up who did that, and risked more than he did. Like my mother.

    4. Actually, Tempest helped start Verb Noire, has gone to conventions and talked about race in fiction, and continues to do so.

      These days, all Harlan does talk racist crap at people who take his sainted name in vain, and uses his past actions as if they were a get out of being called on it free card. He *was* active in civil rights. These days, he’s active in civil wrongs.

      News tip – if I help an old lady across the street, that doesn’t excuse kicking her in the leg.

      As for who’s a better writer? Who gives a rats ass how good a writer he is? It’s about as important as who’s a better bowler when it comes to how his words were racist.

      1. News tip – if I help an old lady across the street, that doesn’t excuse kicking her in the leg.

        You sum it all up right there.

        He needs to treat people of color with respect all the time, not just when he feels like it. He needs to treat women with respect all the time, not just when he feels like it.

      2. Tempest is my girl. But she has absolutely nothing to do with the company I run with my business partner thewayoftheid. Verb Noire has been able to advertise on ABW (I blog there as well) and Tempest has been a vocal supporter of our goal. We hope she’ll be a contributor some day, but she did not have a hand in our creation.

        1. By “helped” I should have been more clear – she helped fund raise during the start. My mistake for not being more precise. Sorry.

        2. What she said. And that being said, if Karnythia should ever ask me to do anything more for the enterprise, I would drop everything to accommodate her. But as it is, she and thewayoftheid seem to have stuff covered, cuz they are fabulous folks. All I’ve ever needed to do was point at them and say: contribute, donate, and watch them shine.

  12. NWA. That cannot mean what I think it means.

    Then again, a few years ago, I would have said Harlan Ellison cannot possibly be as crazy as they say he is, and I would have been deeply and truly mistaken.

  13. That fuck is a worthless waste of space, and both the world and the community will be better off when he finally has an aneurysm and is no longer corporeal enough to grope women or make disgusting racist comments about WOC writers that are somehow excused because HE KNEW THE SAINTED OCTAVIA BUTLER.

    (What I wouldn’t give to have Olivia Butler’s uncensored Thoughts on Harlan. I hope there’s a heaven.)

    1. Yes, I know her name is Octavia, I got it right the first time. To hell with me.

  14. Go go Google ranking!

    Pissing certain people off just proves you’re doing something right; Ellison is definitely one of these.

    Also, the mock magazine cover was hilarious. :-)

  15. Tempest, you DO owe him fealty, since he ‘discovered’ OEB–because her genius would have gone unrecognized if HE hadn’t lifted her up.

    If you ever run into him, you should say (avoiding his gaze): “Massa Ellison, I shore am sorry. De devil done jumped up in ma soul. I made you some chicken a’ biscuits. Jes eat ’em and, honey chile, you forget ole Tempest here waz uppity!”

  16. If you think he was mad before, wait until he becomes aware of that “Harlan is not only not the issue here, he’s barely a footnote” remark. Of course it’s about him. To him, EVERYTHING is about him.

  17. I have apparently been living under a rock, because I had no idea. Fondling Connie Willis???

    The fact that he wouldn’t even seek you out, to understand what you did or didn’t say…or to learn how to spell your name if he was going to use it, shouldn’t surprise me. But you’d think someone his age would have learned how running off at the mouth before you know all the facts can make you look like an idiot.

    I guess that “Essential Ellison” book needs to come off my shelf.

    1. Yup, try googling “connie willis harlan ellison”

      It happened in 2006, onstage while she was the guest of honor at the Hugos.

      Given that, merely being called senile in a post about sexism was getting off pretty light.

  18. I thought the “Senile Meanderings” bit was hilarious. And apt, as he seems keen to prove.


  19. And, I will add, for someone who prides himself on slamming other people provocatively, he sure can’t take even a small dig, can he?

  20. Ellison is a solipsistic asshole whose bile comes from the well-founded fear that he and his are no longer the cutting edge, or even very interesting. Fuck him.

    1. I love you, too. Perfectly, perfectly, perfectly put.

      I tried to go to his site and call him an idiot, but I can’t even figure out the baffling incoherent interface.

      You just keep on keepin’ on, “Kay!”

      Good Lord.

  21. I’d agree that Ellison’s conduct can be rather boorish. I would point out, however, that he is not entirely evil in his heart. Aside from the Octavia Butler thing that several people mentioned here ( as equivalent to saying “I have a LOT of black friends!”), he did march in the South and get jailed as one of those interlopers during the voting rights act days, and in the 70s and early 80s he was deeply involved in a little thing called the ERA, which no one under 50 seems to have ever heard of. But it was a big deal in its day.

    1. You’re using minimizing language. “A little boorish” sounds like somebody who’s occasionally rude. It does not adequately describe Harlan, who has been a well-known asshole for years, long before the breast-grabbing incident. (For instance, Rachel Manija reported his insisting, to her, repeatedly, that she was too young to be a writer, even though she was wearing the appropriate ribbon.)

      I do not *care* what is in Mr. Ellison’s heart. I care about how he behaves. Intentions are trumped by actions every damned time.

      Back in 1980 I thought it was amazing that he boycotted a convention because of the state’s behavior about the ERA. I admired his civil-rights work, too. I still do. But he cannot use either of those to club people on the head in 2009 — “I did great things twenty years ago” is not an answer to “You’re doing bad things now”. Nor is the infamous “I had a black friend.”

      I have black friends. Sometimes I piss them off by doing something racist. When that happens, I apologize and try to do better. That is not because I am a black-friend-having person; it is because I’m trying to be a decent person. I do not get Good Person credit for trying to do the decent thing, and I certainly don’t get Non-Racist Person credit.

    2. Has he done things in the past which I agree with, and even marginally admire? Sure. That doesn’t change his current behavior one bit. Next we’ll hear about how he gave CPR to a black guy or something.

    3. You can’t know what’s in his heart. Whatever he may have done in the past, NOW he’s a person who thinks it’s ok to heap racial invective on people. Fuck him.

  22. The writing ended years ago with Mr. E. But instead of growing his tomatoes or hitting the golf course, he’s melting down on the Internet. Sad.

  23. I can’t believe the crap you have to put up with just for speaking your mind (not to mention being right). I admire your restraint.

  24. He has never forgiven Time for removing the adjectives from “innovative young \asshole\writer”.

    How sad to be a 75-year-old man and mistaking spiteful for relevant.

    1. ” My Google Juice is going to skyrocket now!”

      Googling well is the best revenge.

  25. Yeah, he also can’t spell “opprobrium.”

    I can’t really think of anything else to type here because the fact that anyone would be such a jerk to you just makes me want to KEYSMASH. UGH WHATEVER. If he really does want to “get into it” with you, he’ll have to go through all of us first. I really doubt you have time to deal with this crap.

  26. It’s been fifteen years or more since I could read a Harlan Ellison story. I liked his work before I learned what an obnoxious, self-centered, rude little prat he is. I don’t need to like every author who’s work I enjoy, but some authors reach a level of vileness that just overwhelms the quality of their work, and he’s one of them.

    It’s almost too bad, because if I were still buying his books, I could boycott him.

  27. At this point he’s almost his own sitcom, “That’s My Harlan.” He sits on a couch and says crazy things and gibbers, and sometimes runs around the room hitting people with a stuffed animal or something. The the laugh track plays, and someone, a fictional son, caretaker, whatever, says the catchphrase and title of the show, and Harlan does a little jig. At one point, he and Andy Rooney team up for extra-hilarity. It’s huge!

  28. Oh, Harlan. Does’t he know that your name is Omarosa? Every black female science fiction author is Omarosa! It’s just like in that one story, The Ones Who Walk Away From Omerosa.

  29. I am trying to get to the state where I point and mock his sad self-centered ignorant irrelevance and then ignore him, because I think that would probably hurt him most, if anything could.

    But WOW it is hard.

  30. Also, this when I’ve been FURIOUS about racist shit in SFF, I’ve updated the Carl Brandon Society wiki. Looking at the update logs is hilarious/depressing

  31. So. I had decided I was going to go home today if anyone at work drove me crazy about Prof. Gates. This latest Harlan fit is making me want to go home from the itnernet.

  32. The first time I heard of Harlan Ellison was when he fondled Connie Willis on stage. I spat. Then I realised he’d written one short story I kind of liked. THEN I realised that I’d had awesome luck with writers whose work I love being awesome people, and that while that would not always be the case, my luck hadn’t yet quite run out, because I didn’t like the story enough to mitigate the disgust I felt at his behaviour. So, in conclusion: ew. Just, ew.

  33. You have joined the impressively staffed cabal of
    Those At Whom Harlan Has Taken Offense. You don’t get to join the inner circle of that cabal until you get the Phonecall of Doom; if you do get the phone call of doom, the standard tactic is to be coldly polite and not give an inch.

    I’ll tell you my Harlan stories some time, but not online.

  34. Care about the opinions of those whose opinions on the topic you respect. As for the other 6.5 bn . . . life is way too short.

  35. Wow. In all the conversations I’ve had about racism and sexism, I think Ellison’s little post is the biggest example of “IT’S ALL ABOUT ME, ME, ME!!!” I’ve ever seen.

    (Alternate response: Wait, Harlan who?)

    1. I think Ellison’s little post is the biggest example of “IT’S ALL ABOUT ME, ME, ME!!!” I’ve ever seen.

      I see a typo there:

      I think Ellison is the biggest example of “IT’S ALL ABOUT ME, ME, ME!!!” I’ve ever seen.


  36. I helped a WOC launch her career I can’t be racist! I bet he has A LOT of black friends.

    The funny thing is I have never read anything Ellison’s written and I only know his name because he’s that asshole on the internet. Now I do kind of want to say thanks if he had anything to do with Butler’s career.

  37. What. Tha. Fuck.

    So all other women of color in SF who dare to complain about racism or sexism need to watch out for this guy, in other words, because he discovered Octavia and that somehow allows him to call the rest of us Niggers With Attitude.

    Fuck it, I was already planning to never be in a room alone with him. Now that’ll be for his protection, not just mine.

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