Harlan Ellison, one of the world’s most famous and well-respected science fiction writers has died at the age of 84.
Family friend Christine Valada, herself the widow of Wolverine creator Len Wein, announced Ellison’s death via Twitter, writing: “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 matter.’ – HE, 1934-2018. Arrangements for a celebration are pending.”
Among Ellison’s most popular novels are 1969’s post-apocalyptic story A Boy and His Dog – which was made into a film in 1975, starring a young Don Johnson – and among his numerous short story collections was 1980’s Shatterday, which included the remarkable story that became the basis of the first episode of 1985’s Twilight Zone.
As for Hollywood work, Ellison wrote the screenplay for non-sci-fi The Oscar (starring Stephen Boyd), as well as episodes for such shows as The Flying Nun, Route 66, The Outer Limits, Star Trek, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
His Star Trek episode “The City on the Edge of Forever” is still cited as one of the original series’ very best, even if Ellison himself wasn’t a fan of the finished product, often complaining about rewrites. The 1967 episode saw Captain Kirk (William Shatner) travelling back to 1930s New York and falling in love with a pacifist played by Joan Collins. The twist in the story, however, was when his new love’s life is in danger, should Kirk choose to save her, he would alter history to the extent that Germany would win WWII.
Revisions made to the script by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry (among others) angered Ellison so much that the two feuded for years, and decades later in 2009, Ellison filed a lawsuit against CBS Paramount Television for income from the episode, from which an undisclosed settlement was reached.
As with Star Trek, Ellison’s 1964 Outer Limits episode “Demon with a Glass Hand” was also considered to be one of the series’ best. The bizarre episode saw Robert Culp as man who wakes up with no memory, but an apparent all-knowing glass hand. For years, rumours swirled that “Demon” was the inspiration for Terminator, however Ellison was quoted as saying “Terminator was not stolen from ‘Demon with a Glass Hand’ it was a rip-off of my OTHER Outer Limits script ‘Soldier’.”
The LA Times reported in 1991 that Ellison once again sued and settled his case against the production.
Ellison was a creative consultant on both the 1980s Twilight Zone reboot and Babylon 5, and among many awards won by the author are multiple Nebula, Hugo and Edward awards, as well as Writers Guild of America and Edgar Allen Poe trophies.
Many of those who Ellison influenced shared their condolences and tributes on Twitter:
Harlan Ellison: There was no one quite like him in American letters, and never will be. Angry, funny, eloquent, hugely talented. If there's an afterlife, Harlan is already kicking ass and taking down names.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) June 28, 2018
RIP Harlan Ellison. Maybe not his most popular story, but Lonelyache has one of the harshest, most familiar passages about depression. pic.twitter.com/u5BQfegj8C
— Mike Drucker (@MikeDrucker) June 28, 2018
Harlan Ellison died.
He was combative, cantankerous, loved drama, sued people frequently.
But he had great taste as an editor (so much so he almost single-handedly moved SF forward as an art form with one anthology), talent as a writer, and penned some memorable comics. pic.twitter.com/8Q6jEiuXRo
— Patch Zircher (@PatrickZircher) June 28, 2018
— Jane Wiedlin (@janewiedlin) June 28, 2018
Harlan Ellison brought a lot of incredible stories to life, and though he may now be gone, his work will live forever.