It’s always hard to learn of another literary great’s passing, and Harlan Ellison truly was one of the greats. The Hugo Award-winning writer was known for this dark stories, sharp wit, and controversial comments. He passed away in his sleep last night, as announced by family friend Christine Valada on behalf of Ellison’s wife Susan.
Susan Ellison has asked me to announce the passing of writer Harlan Ellison, in his sleep, earlier today. “For a brief time I was here, and for a brief time, I mattered.”—HE, 1934-2018. Arrangements for a celebration of his life are pending.
— Christine Valada, J.D. (@mcvalada) June 28, 2018
You may not have heard Ellison’s name, but you are definitely familiar with his work, knowingly or not. In his early career he worked as a script writer on the classic shows The Outer Limits and Star Trek, as well as the spy comedy The Man from U.N.C.L.E. He wrote the highly acclaimed Star Trek episode “The City on the Edge of Forever,” which was later turned into a book. Ellison went on to serve as a consultant for The Twilight Zone and Babylon 5.
He was also well-known for two exceptionally written short stories: “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” and “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”. He also edited the landmark anthology Dangerous Visions, which featured the works of Brian W. Aldiss, Philip K. Dick, and Theodore Sturgeon.
One part of Ellison’s legacy that fans might be very familiar with was his penchant for lawsuits. He sued James Cameron over The Terminator, stating that he had taken the ideas from two Outer Limits episodes he wrote: “Soldier” and “Demon With a Glass Hand.” He also sued ABC and Paramount Studios in 1980 for copyright infringement on a short story he wrote with Ben Bova called “Brillo.”
Ellison was known for his bad behavior in general. He was notoriously fired from the Walt Disney Company on his first day for suggesting that some of the company’s characters should be put in a porn film. He also assaulted author Charles Platt in 1985 at a convention, and in 2006, groped writer Connie Willis while receiving a special Hugo Award.
Harlan Ellison’s legacy is a complex one, but it’s hard to deny the power and influence of his written work. He is survived by his wife Susan.