Ellison Quotes and Anecdotes

or Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from Harlan



Quotes Harlan has Used


Harlan's own words, kept brief for the sake of both your monitor-blasted eyeballs and the copyright laws.

The Webderland opening quotation
Old opening quotations

Quotes courtesy of Webderland's good buddy Mara
There is a collective unconscious working in me that is absolutely true; I trust it absolutely; I give myself up to it; I will go anywhere it takes me.

There are these wonderful, doomed, blessed few who have come our way through the ages who are able to tie up the universe in words and present them to us and say: if you will but immerse yourself, you will be washed clean and come forth anew.

I talk about the things people have always talked about in stories: pain, hate, truth, courage, destiny, friendship, responsibility, growing old, growing up, falling in love, all of these things. What I try to write about are the darkest things in the soul, the mortal dreads. I try to go into those places in me that contain the cauldrous. I want to dip up the fire, and I want to put it on paper. The closer I get to the burning core of my being, the things which are most painful to me, the better is my work.

It is a love/hate relationship I have with the human race. I am an elitist, and I feel that my responsibility is to drag the human race along with me- that I will never pander to, or speak down to, or play the safe game. Because my immortal soul will be lost.

D.T. Shindler on the "Perfect Ellison Quote
This one, which Ellison coined himself, is even used in his bio in the "Who's Who in America" books found in most libraries:
The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen...and stupidity.

Stuff from Seth Johnson (sjohns14@students.wisc.edu)
[These quotes from Ellison interviewing Clive Barker, a transcript of a 1988 broadcast of Hour 25 on LA radio station KPFK, with Harlan as host. I read the transcript as it was printed in _Midnight Graffitti_ Special, Winter 94-95.]

There's the curse under which I have been suffering for twenty years: Should I write, if not the same way, then in the same area. We write about the dark night of the soul. And evverything that we write, as far as I percieve, having read your books and everything I write, is really what Faulkner calls "the study of the human heart in conflict with itself."

[Publishers] have grown accustomed to slipping things into genres. It's either a best-seller or it's in genre. There's no longer a midlist. So you're either going to be a horror writer or a Western writer or a science fiction writer or a detective writer, or you're going to be Judith Krantz and write that shit.

I have this great idea of combining genres, the much-maligned genre movie, and the monster movie, and we could call it _Boogie 'Til You Puke On My Grave_. . .with Kung-Fu vampires, it would be good.

Coppola says, 'I perceive of myself as a writer who also directs.' He said it is the writer who concieves of the man walking up the stairs, seeing the man walking down the stairs, and the look they exchange. All of that is in the writing. When I write a script, every shot is there. I have not abrogated that responsibility to the director.

Ellison: "Joanna Russ was admiring one of my stories--I think it was 'Pretty Maggie Money-Eyes'--before it had been published. And she said it was just wonderful. 'But your stories,' she said, 'they have an assault on you, but they're not like a piece of sculpture that you can stop and walk around and look at from all sides.' I said, 'Absolutely not. I want them to grab you by the throat and tear off parts of your body.'"
Clive Barker: "Any particular parts, or does it change from story to story?"
Ellison: "No, the moist parts, the nasty bits."

There are two things I found when I did the Merv Griffin show, the two things I said that got them really crazy, was that I didn't believe in god, and that I really believe there are some people who are better than others.

Vargas says writers are exorcists of their own demons.

Stuff from me (webmaster@harlanellison.com):

There is a word in Yiddish for the way this guy is coming on. The word is broygess. It's pronounced something like rhyming with "Boy Gus" who would be, of course, sibling to Boy George. He's all chest and flapping lips. Broygess. Fulla hot air and warm owl shit.
My mother, dear lady that she was, had an instant response when someone came on broygess with her. The offensive party would run his/her mouth and roll dem eyes, and when a spot was hit where breath had to be taken, my momma would squint at the geek and say, "Woof woof a goldfish."

He was a very nice person. History has no record of him. There is a moral in that, somewhere.

from PunkVix@aol.com (Tracy)
You are not alone. We are all the same, all in this fragile skin, suffering the ugliness of simply being human, all prey to the same mortal dreads.

Karen Williams
One of my favorites, which I believe was Harlan quoting someone else, I used as my .sig for years: "Everyone is entitled to an *informed* opinion."

Kimberly B. Churchwell (kchurch@ionet.net)
I couldn't find anything on Unca Harlan's feelings about Chanukkah, but he *loathes* Christmas. He expounds on the subject in _The Harlan Ellison Hornbook_, particularly in the column dated 28 December 1972 (cheerily titled, "No Offense Intended, But F*ck Xmas!"). A brief quote:

Christmas is an awfulness that compares favorably with the great London plague and fire of 1665-66. No one escapes the feelings of mortal dejection, inadequacy, frustration, loneliness, guilt and pity. No one escapes feeling used by society, by religion, by friends and relatives, by the utterly artifical responsiblities of extending false greetings, sending banal cards, reciprocating unsolicated gifts, going to dull parties, putting up with acquaintances and family one avoids all the rest of the year...in short, of being brutalized by a 'holiday' that has lost virtually all of its original meanings and has become a merchandising ploy for color tv set manufacturers and ravagers of the woodlands.

Harlan Ellison, in an interview with Maggie Thompson, printed in Sci-Fi Universe (June 1995):
I have no love for Paramount. Paramount is not a studio that I think is steeped in ethical behavior...The fanatics who feed off that whole money-making Trek franchise, who live it and breathe it, who don't merely watch the show, are to me the most pathetic creatures in the world; suckers being mulcted by venal Paramount, publishers of garbage novels with stock characters, hustlers and inheritors of Roddenberry's scam, and cult-like gurus who prey on Star Trek obsessives and Trekkies and Trekkers and Treksters and Trekoids and Treknoids and Trekiloids and Diploids and Dippies. They're like those sad couch potatoes who worship at the TV altars of The 700 Club and Home Shopping Channel, which are one and the same, whether the viewers are being fleeced in the name of Consumerism or Jesus. They are, in my view, absolutely the most pathetic creatures in the world. I mean, they talk about a TV series as if it were real life. They wear damned Star Trek uniforms. People change their names so they have the same names as the characters. Doesn't anyone else see the resemblance this all bears to the Branch Davidians or the Jonestown cults?

These are not people that I care to spend an evening with, thank you.

from David Loftus:
"My philosophy of life is that the meek shall inherit nothing but debasement, frustration and ignoble deaths; that there is security in personal strength; that you CAN fight City Hall and WIN; that any action is better than no action, even if it's the wrong action; that you never reach glory or self-fulfillment unless you're willing to risk everything, dare anything, put yourself dead on the line every time; and that once one becomes strong or rich or potent or powerful it is the responsibility of the strong to help the weak BECOME strong." -- The Harlan Ellison Hornbook, Aug. 9, 1973

from kondrk@injersey.com:
"I think love and sex are separate and only vaguely similar. Like the word bear and the word bare. You can get in trouble mistaking one for the other." - from the introduction of "How's the Night Life on Cissalda" in Shatterday

"Lizard dragon beast with eyes of oil-slick pools, ultraviolet death colors smoking in their depths. Corded silk-flowing muscles sliding beneath the black hairless hide, trained sprinter from a lost land, smoothest movements of choreographed power. The never-sleeping guardian of the faith, now gentlestepping down through mists of potent barriers erected to separate men from their masters." - from "Basilisk" in Deathbird Stories

"Dira, Snake, shadow...took the man down and let the spark of light change itself to energy as the man became one with the Earth. His flesh melted and became quiet, cool soil. His eyes glowed with the light that shines in the darkest centers of the planet and he saw the way the mother cared for her young: the worms, the roots of plants, the rivers that cascaded for miles over great cliffs in enormous caverns, the bark of trees. He was taken once more to the bosom of that great Earth mother, and understood the joy of her life.
Remember this, Dira said to the man." - from "The Deathbird" in Deathbird Stories

"Altamont, the Angels, Meredith Hnter, The Bank of America, the Chicago 7 convictions, repression, solidarity, and Ed Sullivan. Does anyone else out there see the horrifying connections? Or are we so used to holding those little transistor radios up to our ears as we walk the Strip that the noise level has grown too high for us to detect the wail of ourselves, dying along with our dying culture?" - from The Other Glass Teat, 6 March 1970 column


Tales of Harlan from his own work and the recollections of others.

Harlan Meets the Guys What Made Robocop
source: "Harlan Ellison's Watching" column, Magazine of F/SF, Oct '90
"So there I am at this elegant party that Stan Lee of Marvel Productions threw, back in December of 1987, and his and Joan's home up in the Hollywood Hills was jammed to the walls with the hoi and the polloi, and at one point I'm introduced to these two young guys named Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner, and Stan or somebody says, "These are the guys who wrote Robocop. Didn't you just write a piece on Robocop?"
Well, they knew damned well I'd just written a review of Robocop, and I'd worked it over like a slab of beef jerky, because forty-something minutes into the damned flick, I'd had it up to here with the idiot violence and the low animal steam heat of the audience and the after-the-fact addition of "socially relevant satire" and I'd said, in effect, this is mean widdle kids pulling the wings off butterflies and setting fire to pussycats and nailing spaniels to ironing boards, and frankly Scarlett, this is like a pavane for perverts...so lemme outta here!
And well, hell, you know me: the kind of pain in the ass who, when he's asked by guests at a party what did you think of our incredibly successful, extremely popular, critically drooled-over movie that has made us two smartasses real hot tickets in this town, answers as charmingly as a cactus spine in your tongue "I think they ought to nuke you two until you glow".
Well, not exactly. I didn't exactly say that. But Stan and Joan haven't attended a dinner invitation since 1987, so I am driven, lashed if you will, toward the conclusion that I acted in a somewhat less than glit-edged fashion."

Text File of other experiences with HE

Quotes Harlan has Used

Quotes from Other People (gasp) found in Harlan's work


If we are forced, at every hour, to watch or listen to horrible events, this constant stream of ghastly impressions will deprive even the most delicate among us of all respect for humanity.

Lin Yutang

What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?

Ernest Hemingway

Kilimanjaro is a snow-covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai 'Ngaje Ngai,' the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude. (The Snows of Kilimanjaro, 1938)

Jules Renard (1864-1910)
(submitted by Sebastian Thaler)

Writing is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to people who have none.

Don Marquis
(submitted by tbullet@i1.net , from the opener to "A Love Song for Jerry Fallwell")

If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; but if you really make them think, they'll hate you.

Charles Beaumont
(submitted by David Loftus, from HE's introduction to Shatterday)

Attaining success in Hollywood is like climbing a gigantic mountain of cow flop, in order to pluck one perfect rose from the summit. And you find when you've made that hideous climb . . . you've lost the sense of smell.

Dame Margot Fonteyn, 1976
(submitted by kondrk@injersey.com, from the introduction of "The New York Review of Bird" in Strange Wine)

The one important thing I have learnt over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking oneself seriously. The first is imperative and the second disastrous.

Ray Bradbury
(submitted by kondrk@injersey.com)

The gargoyles have taken over the catherdral.

(submitted by kondrk@injersey.com, from "Delusion for a Dragon Slayer")

Know thyself? If I knew myself, I'd run away.

T. S. Eliot
(submitted by kondrk@injersey.com, from "Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans: Latitude
38 54' N, Longitude 77 00' 13" W")

We shall not cease from exploration
And in the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

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