The NYTimes' obituary for Harlan Ellison describes him as
"...a furiously prolific and cantankerous writer whose science fiction and fantasy stories reflected a personality so intense that they often read as if he were punching his manual typewriter keys with his fists, died on Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 84.
Mr. Ellison looked at storytelling as a "holy chore," which he pursued zealously for more than 60 years. His output includes more than 1,700 short stories and articles, at least 100 books and dozens of screenplays and television scripts."- Advertisement -
I was not a big fan of Ellison, by the seventies I'd decided he was a bit too smarmy and cynical for me. You might also frame him as acerbic. But reviewing collections of quotations by him, he was clearly brilliant and highly quotable. Here are some nuggets I've selected:
"Writing is a holy chore." Harlan Ellison (1972). "Dangerous Visions", Berkley
"I hate being wrong, but I love it when I'm set straight." - Harlan Ellison (1989). "Harlan Ellison's watching"
The trick is not becoming a writer. The trick is staying a writer. ~ Harlan Ellison, Strange Wine- Advertisement -
"There is no nobler chore in the craft of writing than holding up the mirror of reality and turning it slightly, so we have a new and different perception of the commonplace, the everyday, the 'normal,' the obvious. People are reflected in the glass. The fantasy situation into which you thrust them is the mirror itself. And what we are shown should illuminate and alter our perception of the world around us. Failing that, you have failed totally." - Harlan Ellison
"I think art must be tough! I think art has to be hard. I don't think it should be easy. I think it should take foot-pounds of energy to produce that art, otherwise we would have more mediocre writers, and we don't have room for any more mediocrity in the world. There's already enough of it being visited on us night and day through the Internet, and through television, and through politics." - Harlan Ellison
"You're a writer. And that's something better than being a millionaire. Because it's something holy." - Harlan Ellison
"My philosophy of life is that the meek shall inherit nothing but debasement, frustration, and ignoble deaths." - Harlan Ellison (2014). "The Harlan Ellison Hornbook", p.208, Open Road Media
"The trick is not becoming a writer. The trick is staying a writer." - Harlan Ellison Voices of Vision: Creators of Science Fiction and Fantasy Speak". Book by Jayme Lynn Blaschke (p. 182), A
"In these days of widespread illiteracy, functional illiteracy... anything that keeps people stupid is a felony." - Harlan Ellison (1989). "Harlan Ellison's watching"- Advertisement -
"To say more is to say less." Harlan Ellison (2016). "Harlan Ellison's Watching", p.126, Hachette UK
I talk about the things people have always talked about in stories: pain, hate, truth, courage, destiny, friendship, responsibility, growing old, growing up, falling in love, all of these things. What I try to write about are the darkest things in the soul, the mortal dreads. I try to go into those places in me that contain the cauldrous. I want to dip up the fire, and I want to put it on paper. The closer I get to the burning core of my being, the things which are most painful to me, the better is my work. " It is a love/hate relationship I have with the human race. I am an elitist, and I feel that my responsibility is to drag the human race along with me -- that I will never pander to, or speak down to, or play the safe game. Because my immortal soul will be lost. Harlan Ellison As quoted in Contemporary Authors New Revision Series: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide to Current Writers in Fiction, General Non-Fiction, Poetry, Journalism, Drama, Motion Pictures, Television, & Other Fields (1982) by Ann Evory
"Repent, Harlequin," said the Ticktock Man. "Get stuffed," the Harlequin replied." - Harlan Ellison
I have no mouth. And I must scream. Harlan Ellison "I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream". Book by Harlan Ellison, 2014.