Harlan Ellison 1934 - 2018
"You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant."
This is hard, first Anthony Bourdain, and now Harlan Ellison.
Since the death of my father a year ago this month I’ve been contemplative about the nature of life and time and how much of both is wasted on bullshit, hurt feelings from toxic relationships. I’ve been wondering if there’s enough time to do all the things I wanted to do in life? Am I going to accomplish anything significant before I die? Will I leave a lasting mark on the world or will I be forgotten the day after I’m munchies for maggots?
And is there time left to undo the damage I might have done, mend fences as it were?
Is there still time to tell everyone how important they are to me, and show them? There's that time you realize that it's too late. It's too late to tell people how important they are or were to you. It's too late to jam off a letter to Harlan Ellison and tell him that his non-fiction essays were important to me in various periods in my life.
Harlan Ellison was a terrific writer, one of the most famous writers of speculative fiction. Nobody like me needs to explain to you how great he was at this, you either know it or you don’t. I also don’t need to tell you that he was always a “grumpy old man,” his takedowns of pretentious, ignorant people from celebrities, politicians, televangelists, committees, are famous. If you don’t know Harlan Ellison for his writing, you know him at least for that.
In this arena he’s also most noted for addressing “Sci-Fi” fandom, especially “Trekoids” who refuse to engage in life in the real world. He was the initial voice in my ear that told me that there’s something very, very wrong with Sci-Fi Fandom, especially Trekoids, who can tell you everything about their favorite franchise since they know every minutia, every microscopic bit of trivia but they can tell you nothing about what’s NASA or ESA this week. They will raise millions of dollars to save a show that’s scheduled to be canceled but won’t fight to save a space program that’s about to be canceled by the President or Congress.
To paraphrase The Late Harlan Ellison, these people – these “proponents of peaceful space exploration” - are full of shit. They want their fancy costumes and space force uniforms, their state of the art special effects, engaging ‘space soap operas” and little else…
… But the world would be a better place if they actually put that passion into something real. If these Trekoids would be an incredible force for good in this world. Being a “Trekkie” would then be something to be proud of, instead of a pejorative. He was damn proud of those of us who enjoyed "SF" and then said to ourselves; "I can do that, I'm going to start right now," and then went out and did it. He loved SF fans who were inspired and did something with that insperation.
Mr. Ellison was a huge critic of the media and how we have all be become zombified creatures suckling on “The Glass Teat.” We’re allowing the media who honestly believes we’re all stupid, spoon feed us information they want us to believe to help us ruin our lives. He’s one of the first writers to make the case that the media knowingly and willfully disseminates false information to create a false narrative so you’ll gladly go along with the atrocities our government and cooperation’s perpetrates upon the rest of the world.
Harlan Ellison believed that “you” are a bad person if you trusted and believed the media, never questioned our self-appointed arbiters of information, or our own version of “The Ministry Of Truth” that George Orwell wrote about in Nineteen Eighty-Four. If you're one of those people, you are complicit in the extermination of our collective intelligence and were actively involved in the demise of you and everyone else around you because you’re too stupid and lazy to do anything about it.
For me, that’s going to be Harlan Ellison’s legacy – encouraging and cajoling intelligent people like us to be proactive in the world. He believed that fans of “Speculative Fiction” were some (if not most) of the most intelligent, open minded and hearted people who consume media. You must be to sit down and read a story or article that was going to purposefully take you to somewhere you’ve never been before or entertain ideas and concepts that are beyond average people.
And he’s right, it takes a special kind of person to try and tackle what’s in the pages of SF. And as such, those of us who are SF readers, writers, artists, and mere fans are capable of so much more. He honestly believed that, which explains his bitter disappointment at times. His cantankerousness with fans was his mask that hid his disappointment in us because we have access to technology and information that was unthinkable to almost everyone decades ago but we’re doing next to nothing with it.
"I hate the uses that technology is put to," as he was quoted in his obituary published by The Associated Press.
Harlan Ellison’s death is a reminder to us that there isn’t enough time to do everything. We don’t have time for procrastination, you don’t have time for toxic relationships, we don’t have time to work on projects that aren’t fulfilling or won’t get you paid. There isn’t enough time for you to do everything you want to do AND the bullshit that you “have” to do because of stupid societal pressure.
I should have taken the time to hammer out that letter and tell him that I heard what he was saying. I heard what he was trying to say… and I hope you did, too.
"Like a wind crying endlessly through the universe, time carries away the names and the deeds of conquerors and commoners alike. And all that we were, all that remains, is in the memories of those who cared we came this way for a brief moment."