Harlan Ellison (1934-2018), in conversation with Richard Wolinsky and Richard A. Lupoff, recorded in San Francisco on September 15, 1997, while he was on tour for his collection, “Slippage.”
Impossible to categorize, and sometimes impossible to be around, Harlan Ellison was an acclaimed short story writer known for his science fiction and fantasy, a novelist, an editor known for the classic Dangerous Visions anthologies, a television writer and consultant, a media gadfly, and one of the most steadfast promoters of reading and independent bookstores.
Dick Lupoff first met Harlan in 1960, and their friendship, with its ups and downs, was to last until Harlan’s death, two years shy of a half-century. This interview reflects that friendship, and their relationship, both professionally and personally.
Richard A. Lupoff, on July 2, 2018:
“I first met Harlan in August of 1960. My wife Pat and I were working on the first issue of our fanzine, “Xero.” Harlan had offered to contribute an essay about Hitchcock’s film “Psycho.” We went over to Harlan’s apartment in the West Village, knocked on the door, and an older woman let us in.
“Turned out she was Harlan’s mother. She said she’d arrived to visit him and he told her that he had to run an errand and left. And hadn’t come back. We spent a few minutes with Harlan’s mom, who turned out to be a complete harridan. We could understand why he’d “had to run an errand” and not come back!
“We did get Harlan’s manuscript shortly after this. My age at the time would have been 27. Harlan and Bob Silverberg (Robert Silverberg (multiple Hugo and Nebula award winning science fiction and fantasy author) and I were close in age
“In a long career stretching back to his days as a science fiction fan in the 1950s, Harlan was always outspoken, often controversial and frequently litigious. He never backed off from a fight–or from a lawsuit. He was a magnet for attention with a flair for the theatrical including such stunts as setting up a typewriter in the window of a bookstore and writing a story in the full view of customers and passers-by.”
Along with his work in television, Harlan served as host of KPFK Pacifica’s science fiction program, Hour 25 for one year in the mid-1980s. As a volunteer, Harlan felt he owned the rights to his broadcasts and was furious when Pacifica began selling them. Acrimony ensued, and Harlan moved on.
In 2006, Harlan Ellison was named a Grand Master from the Science Fiction Writers of America, and won a Nebula in 2011 for his short story “How Interesting, A Tiny Man.” His most recent of collection of new material , published in 2015, was “Can and Can’tankerous.” There’s a film about his life, “Dreams with Sharp Teeth,” released in 2007. His best stories are collected in a recent anthology, “Top of the Volcano.” Slippage is now considered one of his finest collections. The Last Dangerous Visions has still never been published.
An extended version of this interview can be found as a Radio Wolinsky podcast.