Harlan Ellison

One of the most famous and controversial authors in the field of science fiction, Harlan Ellison passed away in his sleep last night at the age of 84.  News of his passing was conveyed via Twitter by family friend Christine Valada (the widow of Marvel Comics’ Len Wein), at the behest of Ellison’s widow Susan.

Throughout his career, Ellison was famous for his writing, but perhaps more so for his temper which led to several controversies over the years.  One of his own book dust jackets described him as “possibly the most contentious person on Earth.” He was expelled from Ohio State University after throwing a punch at a professor.

He filed or attempted to file numerous lawsuits against those he perceived to have wronged him and engaged in very public feuds, including one with Gene Roddenberry over the script Ellison wrote for the 1967 ‘Star Trek’ episode ‘The City on the Edge of Forever‘, which Roddenberry heavily modified.  Ellison’s original script, however, won a Writer’s Guild award, while Roddenberry’s rewritten “shooting script” won a Hugo Award.  In 2009, Ellison filed a lawsuit against CBS Paramount Television over the decades-old episode, which was settled out of court.

He also filed suits against ABC and Paramount over the 1977 TV series ‘Future Cop’ and James Cameron over the original ‘Terminator’, claiming that the concept borrowed heavily from his work on ‘The Outer Limits’.

British science fiction author Christopher Priest wrote an article lambasting Ellison, which was actually expanded into a full book.  He was hired to turn Isaac Asimov’s ‘I, Robot’ into a film script, which was never produced after Ellison got into a feud with a Warner Brothers executive.  (The 2004 Will Smith ‘I, Robot’ film did not use any of Ellison’s work.)

At one point, he was hired by Walt Disney Studios but fired on his first day when Roy Disney heard him describe a desire to make an animated porno using Disney characters.  And there were many more instances of verbal disagreements, physical assault, and sexual misconduct.

As for his work, among his best known printed works were his first novel, ‘Web of the City’, published in 1959, the novellas ‘Mefisto in Onyx’ and ‘A Boy and his Dog’, the latter of which was made into a movie starring Don Johnson in 1975, and the short story ‘I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream’, which he helped turn into a video game in 1995.  Stephen King famously cited Ellison’s collection ‘Strange Wine’ as the best horror collection published between 1950-80.

Over the course of his career, Ellison won eight and a half Hugo Awards (the “half” being a shared award for the screenplay for ‘A Boy and his Dog’), four Nebula Awards (sci-fi and fantasy), five Bram Stoker Awards (horror), two Edgar Awards (mystery), two World Fantasy Awards and two Georges Méliès fantasy film awards, plus many more.

He co-wrote the screenplay for the 1966 film ‘The Oscar’ and contributed scripts to TV series such as ‘Route 66’, ‘The Outer Limits’, ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’, ‘The Alfred Hitchcock Hour’ and ‘The Flying Nun’ although in the case of the last, he reportedly only agreed to write the script in hopes of shagging star Sally Field.

Much later, he worked as a creative consultant on the 1980s reboot of ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘Babylon 5’.  He appeared on ‘Babylon 5’ and provided voice work for a number of animated series.  Most recently, he appeared as a fictionalized version of himself on two episodes of ‘Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated’.

On a personal level, he was married five times, but never had children.

Harlan Jay Ellison

May 27, 1934 – June 27, 2018)

Source: The Hollywood Reporter