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4.6 3
by Harlan Ellison

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Mercurial, belligerent, passionately in love with language and wild ideas. Harlan Ellison has, for exactly a quarter of a century, steadily gathered to himself and his thirty-seven books an undeniably fanatical readership. Winner of more awards for imaginative literature than any other living writer, he is the only scenarist ever to win the Writers Guild of America


Mercurial, belligerent, passionately in love with language and wild ideas. Harlan Ellison has, for exactly a quarter of a century, steadily gathered to himself and his thirty-seven books an undeniably fanatical readership. Winner of more awards for imaginative literature than any other living writer, he is the only scenarist ever to win the Writers Guild of America award three times for most outstanding teleplay. Though his contemporary fantasies have been compared favorably with the dark visions of Borges, Barthelme, Poe and Kafka, Ellison resists categorization with a vehemence that alienates critics and reviewers seeking easy pigeonholes for an extraordinary writer. The San Francisco Chronicle writes, "The categories are too small to describe Harlan Ellison. Lyric poet, satirist, explorer of odd psychological corners, moralist, purveyor of pure horror and black comedy; he is all these and more. In this, his thirty-seventh book, celebrating twenty-five years of setting down the mortal dreads we all share, Harlan Ellison has put together his best work to date: sixteen uncollected stories (half of which are award-winners), totaling a marvel-filled 105,000 words and including a brand-new novella, his longest work in over a dozen years.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The spellbinding quality of a great nonstop talker, with a cultural warehouse for a mind."  —The New York Times Book Review

"Ellison, that feisty, unreasonable, prevaricating, megalomaniacal, and revanchist monster [is] the quintessential science fiction short story writer of his time."  —Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

"One of the greatest speculative fiction writers this country has ever produced."  —Ron Moore, executive producer, Battlestar Galactica

"Speculative fiction without Harlan Ellison would be like the Fourth of July without fireworks."  —Ursula K. Le Guin, author, The Left Hand of Darkness

"Fiction with a sharp, fantastic edge."  —People Magazine

"You have to read Shatterday, feel it, experience it. It is an event."  —Science Fiction Review

"Timeless stuff, speaking to (mostly) the dark within each of us, but also at times uplifting, light, and funny."  —SFScop.com

"Confrontational and shocking . . . you'll remember again why Harlan Ellison is considered one of America's best short story writers."  —The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

Product Details

Tachyon Publications
Publication date:
Edition description:
Third edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.72(w) x 8.63(h) x 0.85(d)

Read an Excerpt


WITH A TOUCH of quiet pride the Author states that he has watched the Johnny Carson Show only once in his life. (The single blot on an otherwise exemplary record occurred when I was pressed, one night, into sitting through consummate dreariness to reach the moment when Robert Blake, a friend of many years even though he's an actor, was to sit and talk to Orson Welles, one of my heroes despite his hawking of inferior commercial wines. It was a moment I wish had been denied me. Bob, a good and decent and talented man, clever, witty and articulate, perhaps driven mad by the fame and cheap notoriety of having become a television cult hero for several seasons, proceeded to insult Mr. Welles in a manner I suppose he thought was bright badinage. It was a maleficent spectacle in overwhelming bad taste, culminating in Bob's passing a remark about Mr. Welles's girth.

(Welles sat silently for a moment as the audience--and I--winced in disbelief and horror. Then he said, very softly, very softly, "My weight is correctable only with enormous difficulty at my age, but I live with it comfortably; as opposed to your bad manners.")

There should be benign deities who would send ravens to pluck out one's eyes so such sights could be avoided.

I did not need to see my friend make an ass of himself. And I sat there thinking, for a wonder, is this what a vast segment of the American viewing public truly accepts as "the rebirth of conversation"? This endless babble and confluence of self-serving "celebrities" who warm studio sets with the indispensable intelligence that they'll be doing Pal Joey at the Country Squire Dinner Theatre in Lubbock,Texas from June 12th to 18th?

And I could not contain my sorrow that my friend had been driven mad by television, to sit there having been gulled into thinking he was having a "conversation" before so many millions of moon-white eyes in darkened bedrooms. But this time I will not inveigh against the Monster Video; that was the fulmination that served to introduce my previous collection of stories, Strange Wine.

No, this time I would speak of conversation; of speaking to the true and universal darkness that fills so much of our souls. Of mortal dreads and the value of such terrors as I present here.

I do a considerable number of college lectures every year. It helps pay the freight so I don't have to write television ever again. From my lips to the ear of god ... or whoever's in charge. And frequently I will say something about the human condition that seems perfectly rational and proper to me, because I know we all share the same thoughts. Invariably, some feep in the audience will attempt to pillory me with the stunning accusation, "You only said that to shock!"

My response is always the same:

"You bet your ass, slushface. Of course I said it to shock you (or wrote it to shock you). I don't know how you perceive my mission as a writer, but for me it is not a responsibility to reaffirm your concretized myths and provincial prejudices. It is not my job to lull you with a false sense of the rightness of the universe. This wonderful and terrible occupation of recreating the world in a different way, each time fresh and strange, is an act of revolutionary guerrilla warfare. I stir up the soup. I inconvenience you. I make your nose run and your eyes water. I spend my life and miles of visceral material in a glorious and painful series of midnight raids against complacency. It is my lot to wake with anger every morning, to lie down at night even angrier. All in pursuit of one truth that lies at the core of every jot of fiction ever written: we are all in the same skin ... but for the time it takes to read these stories I merely have the mouth. You see before you a child who never grew up, who does not know it's socially unacceptable to ask, 'Who farted?'"

Thus I try to codify in noble terms the obsession with Art and the inability of the writer to stop writing, to get along with others, to view without rancor the world as a gem, at once pure and perfect. But that's flapdoodle, of course. I write because I write. I can do no other.

It is the love of conversation.

I am anti-entropy. My work is foursquare for chaos. I spend my life personally, and my work professionally, keeping that soup boiling. Gadfly is what they call you when you are no longer dangerous, when the right magazines publish your work and you don't have to seek out obscure publications as homes for the really mean stuff, when they ask you to come and discuss matters of import with "celebrities" on the Johnny Carson Show. I much prefer troublemaker, malcontent, pain in the ass, desperado. As I've said elsewhere, I see myself as a combination of Jiminy Cricket and Zorro. Thus do I ennoble myself in the times when all the simple joys I've forsworn rush back on me as chances lost, and I'm left with only the work and something Irwin Shaw said: "Since I am not particularly devout, my chances for salvation lie in a place sometime in the future on a library shelf."

What People are Saying About This

Leslie Charteris
Ellison writes with sensitivity as well as guts—a rare combination. (Leslie Charteris, creator of The Saint)

Meet the Author

Harlan Ellison has been called “one of the great living American short story writers” by the Washington Post. In a career spanning more than fifty years, he has won more awards than any other living fantasist. Ellison has written or edited one hundred fourteen books; more than seventeen hundred stories, essays, articles, and newspaper columns; two dozen teleplays; and a dozen motion pictures. He has won the Hugo Award eight and a half times (shared once); the Nebula Award three times; the Bram Stoker Award, presented by the Horror Writers Association, five times (including the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996); the Edgar Award of the Mystery Writers of America twice; the Georges Melies Fantasy Film Award twice; and two Audie Awards (for the best in audio recordings); and he was awarded the Silver Pen for Journalism by PEN, the international writers’ union. He was presented with the first Living Legend Award by the International Horror Critics at the 1995 World Horror Convention. Ellison is the only author in Hollywood ever to win the Writers Guild of America award for Outstanding Teleplay (solo work) four times, most recently for “Paladin of the Lost Hour,” his Twilight Zone episode that was Danny Kaye’s final role, in 1987. In 2006, Ellison was awarded the prestigious title of Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Dreams With Sharp Teeth, the documentary chronicling his life and works, was released on DVD in May 2009.

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