Monday, May 09, 2005

Why Harlan Ellison Is Such A Badass Mofo

Leaving out the fact that the above photo screams "Badass Mofo" over the rooftops of the world, Harlan Ellison is perhaps one of the most enduring figures in literature that I've ever had the privilege of having received a personal phone call from on a Friday morning.

I was at home, a remarkable occurence in-and-of-itself, wrapping up various odds-and-ends of my Masters' Thesis DVD (a project for which I had asked Harlan's webmaster, in a single, benign e-mail, to send me rights-acquisition information for a small fragment of Ellison's "Repent, Harelquin!" Said the TickTock Man (a short story which you should go read or listen to immediately, especially now that Robin Williams has headlined the book-on-tape version)), when my phone rings, and the voice on the other end says, "Mr. Silverman? Harlan Ellison. Do you know what the word 'upbraid' means?"

Fucking shitting Harlan Fucking Ellison! What the...! Okay. Upbraid. Braid. Hair. No. Challah. mmmmmMaybe. Translate to English. Bread. There. Say it.

"Uh... uhh.... um.... something to do with... uhhhh... bread...?"

The All-Hallowed Great-Grandaddy of Dark Fiction Literature, winner of more Hugo, Nebula, Bram Stoker Fiction Awards than I could feasibly shake John Wayne Bobbit's severed member at, deigns to visit his attentions upon my shrinking, quivering inadequateness on some random morning in February, and the first words out of my mouth are about...Challah?

'Do you have a dictionary available to look it up? I will hold," he said, in a voice that simultaneously exuded the utmost courtesy, saintlike patience, and the calm, measured purr that emanates from within the throats of predatory jungle animals instants before they wreak claw-and-fang devastation on their unsuspecting prey. I unceremoniously gashed my shin on the coffeetable en route to my Webster's Third New International Dictionary, cursed under my breath while rifling through its 1300-and-some pages, and ultimately pinpointed the word, which simply means, "to reprove sharply; reproach."

Which is what, in the ensuing few minutes, Ellison decided to do to me.

What did I do, you ask, to deseve such an "upbraiding?" Why would a world-famous author/screenwriter/voice talent/badass mofo call some un-famous, unheard-of shlubb that he's never met before, never even heard of before the previous day, to launch a ruthless, unprovoked character assassination against him?

Beats me, man. But the fact is, Harlan Ellison was the one upbraiding me. Harlan freaking Ellison called my house, and y'know what? I would have endured a lot worse to keep him on the phone another couple minutes. But I didn't have to -- after an initial few moments of you-kids-these-days-with-your-newfangled-gadgets and when-i-was-your-age-i-had-to-walk-uphill-in-the-snow-both-ways-to-get-to-school gerontological BS, he actually calmed down enough to allow me to ask his permission to use a few lines from his story in my thesis (P.S. I never actually wound up using them, although I did fork over a hefty $10 licensing fee, just in case), and to talk about other things, like the fact that I was Jewish, and so was he, and hey, whoopty-do.

He's like, "You're religious? I've got this friend, Clifford Meth, who's a religious Jew too. You remind me of him. Buy his book."

Next thing I know, he's got Meth calling me up. These guys all know each other, and all of a sudden, I knew them all too. With the tiniest extension of my own brittle literary phallus into the world of rights-acquisition, I was on the road to becoming... pals? peripheral creative soul-brothers? amusing anecdotal fanboy-fodder? with these giants of dark fiction literature. And one thing lead to another, and I bought Meth's book, entitled god's 15 minutes, and it changed my life.

Leaving out all the inspirational frabbajabba, you've got to check out this book. And then, you've got to check out the interview that I will be publishing in the next couple of days, Meth interviewing Ellison, about Ellison's Jewish background, starting off in the far-flung, Semitically-challenged archipelago of Painesville, OH. Unmotherfreakingbelievable stuff. I could sit here and be all, "I can't believe I get to publish an exclusive interview with one of my literary idols going all the way back to the 7th grade, right here on my blog," but I won't, because somehow it all makes some kind of twisted sense.

Stay tuned... you definitely won't be sorry.


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