Sean’s Take: Harlan Ellison Is An Asshole I Can Agree With

  Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison

I hate Harlen Ellison.

Eh, that is way too harsh of me to say for a man I’ve never met and a man who has more skills as a writer than most. He is so skilled that if he was in a coma he would still produce better work than most current writers. With that said, I get annoyed with Harlen Ellison very easily. I hear him speak and can feel the rage building inside of me. The man is smart, skilled, and well-spoken, but he’s also arrogant, short tempered, and has an ego big enough to make Kanye West seem humble. He also is known for blowing up at his fans and, while some may find this part of his charm, I believe it makes him look like someone I would like to call “a dick.”

Not familiar with Harlan Ellison? That’s a shame. He’s considered one of the most influential science fiction writers of the 20th Century. He has won countless Hugo Awards, Edger Allan Poe Awards, and every other writing award under the sun. He penned “The City on the  Edge of Forever” one of the most acclaimed Star Trek stories ever produced.  Award winning author Neil Gailman considers him one of the best writers of all time. Also, Ellison is known to be a loud mouth prick who frequently sues anyone and everyone. This includes James Cameron over the copyright to “The Terminator” and he is the guy responsible for having BB gun ads removed from the back of comics. Thanks a lot, Harlan!

Do I like Ellison’s writing? Not really. It isn’t because I dislike him personally, but because his writing is slow-paced and I tend to get bored. That doesn’t mean he is not a fantastic writer, but he’s just not my kind of writer. I still respect the man and in this case I need to agree with him. In this clip from his documentary “Dreams with Sharp Teeth,” Ellison tells a rage-filled tale about how Warner Brothers asked him to do an interview for a DVD for free.

Below is a transcript of Ellison describing his conversation with the poor soul on the other end of the phone:

I say: [voice rising] You gotta pay me! She said: [injecting a little femininity] Well, everybody else is just, you know, doing it for nothing. I said: well everybody else may be an asshole, but I’m not. I said: By what right would you call me and ask me to work for nothing? Do you get a pay check? Well, yes. I say: [Getting increasingly excited and stumbling over his words] Does you boss get a pay check? Do you pay the telecine guy? Do you pay the cameraman? Do you pay the cutters? Do you pay the teamsters when they schlep your stuff on the trucks? Then how—don’t you pay U—then how d… [becomes briefly incoherent]…Would you go to a gas station and expect free gas? Would you go to the doctor and have him take out your spleen for nothing? How dare you, call me and expect me to work for nothing!

Now, I feel bad for the woman on the other end of the line because I know she must look like a shell-shocked solider from World War I. She’s probably curled into a ball on the floor muttering to herself and shaking, but Ellison is on the right side here. Sure, a DVD interview may help Ellison get his face out to the public and gain a few new readers or win some old ones back, but Ellison is producing content for Warner Brothers to help them sell a product that they will make money off of. Who helped them make money from that product? Ellison did. Ellison, for all his yelling, name calling, and asshole-like behavior made a very valid point:

If a writer produces content, they should get paid.

Pay the writer!

Hold on. Dan, how much am I getting paid for this?

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