Yesterday I learned of the passing of one of America's great writers, Harlan Ellison. Saying that Harlan had a reputation would be an understatement of monumental proportions. He was known for his razor sharp wit and his intolerance for bullshit. As he did a lot of work in Hollywood, you can imagine what happened, time and time again. He was magnificent.
I first began to read Harlan's work back in the late seventies. I was assigned a paper in college which required me to read and dissect a story from an omnibus of short fiction. I chose "Repent Harlequin Said the Tick Tock Man." As someone who was used to Bradbury and Heinlein, it was a revelation, to say the least. He wrote with a style all his own and, as a beginning writer, I stole from his style blatantly. The main difference being that he wrote extraordinarily well, while my earliest stuff stunk, as many beginning works do. I eventually had the balls to obtain Harlan's address and sent him a short piece I wrote while I was stoned on prescription drugs prior to surgery. Mercifully, he never answered.
I've read just about everything he's written, both fiction and nonfiction. I had, at one time, a row in my library dedicated to his collections and novels. Everytime he would published something new, I eagerly devoured it, many times over. That last sentence is important. You see, I have an excellent memory and rarely read anything twice. His work was so well written that it was a pleasure to go back and reread every story to extract every nuance and sly twist from it, until it was wrung out like a rag. Years later, I would read them again and each time I would find it as fresh as the first time.
When it came to new writers, Harlan was never afraid of the competition. He freely gave advice and the advice was excellent. Write everyday. Never give up on writing. Write what means something to you. Sue the hell out of James Cameron and win. Oops, maybe not that one, unless you wrote the basis for Terminator, then watched it being stolen. Finally, edit unmercifully. Don't be afraid to be your own harshest critic. It's how miracles happen.
I already miss Harlan and I hope his widow is able to get through the mountain of unpublished work and give us just a taste of what we are missing. If there is reincarnation, come back as a wasp Harlan, and sting the hell out of the liars, crooks, and thieves. RIP.
My first Blog! Ever!
So why read what I write? Because I lie, and what is fiction but a pleasant lie? I am an accomplished liar, which for you is a good thing. Mark Twain was a self acknowledged liar. Even his name was a lie. Am I Mark Twain? No, don’t be so literal in your reading. Is my name real? Why yes it is, unless I’m lying. But I’m not, maybe. And that’s the thing, reality is what you make of it.
The worlds I create are no less valid than the one I live in. I teach, so every day my little darlings come into class fresh faced and ready to learn, except of course this is the real world and I teach at a county alternative school. It is a state of the art facility, the parents are be deeply vested in their children’s education, and all of my students are be dedicated to learning. Or not. It may be a run down ex-adult school with hand me down computers. Only a few of my parents might have any involvement with the school if it doesn’t also involve food, and while my students tend to be bright, they may also tend to be easily distracted. So which is real? The one you believe in. You aren’t there and you have limited interest in the place You have to rely on me to be your guide, and guide you I will.
I write speculative fiction, a term which I’ve seen before, but only bothered to look up today. It’s a catch all for stories set in alternative worlds, time lines, science fiction and fantasy. For example, in Alice, the work I’m currently writing, Nixon was a beloved president, known for his honesty and his stand against corruption, assassinated in 1963. Whatever you feelings about the former president, I believe I am safe in saying he wasn’t killed in 1963. Alice takes place in an alternate time line. It is similar to ours, but enough different that a visitor there would become very confused, very quickly. Now aren’t you glad you have me as a guide?
So what can you expect from my blog, other than my admitted lies? As this is a blog, so basically has few rules, I can promise this. I will share with you the thoughts behind my writing. Who or what inspires me, who I read, and how I make that into a story you might want to read.
Time for Truth or Dare!
Truth: I would write even if no one read it. I don’t have any choice. It has to come out, be it fiction or truth.
Dare: This would be the part where you play the game. Send me a reasonable, literate dare and I’ll see what I can do.