In our continuing series about famous Ohioans, this week we will explore Harlan Ellison.
Harlan Ellison was born on May 27th in Cleveland, Ohio. Ellison was somewhat a runaway and on his stays away from home took many odd jobs – according to Ellison “…tuna fisherman of the coast of Galveston, itinerant crop-picker down in New Orleans, hired gun for a wealthy neurotic, a nitroglycerin truck driver in North Carolina, short order cook, cab driver, lithographer, book salesman, floorwalker in a department store, door-to-door brush salesman, and as a youngster an actor in several productions at the Cleveland Play House.”
Harlan Ellison is widely regarded, via various awards throughout his career, as one of the United State’s most gifted Speculative Fiction writers – and like all of the best writers somewhere between his lines of fiction lies the a truth. Some of his most widely regarded works include this short story “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” (an allegory for hell in which five humans are continually tortured by an omnipotent artificial intelligence) and his post-apocalyptic novel “A Boy and His Dog” starring Don Johnson, which was later turned in an excellent film that has gained quite a cult following.
Even if one isn’t a hardcore science fiction or speculative fiction fan one has probably seen Ellison’s work on television. He has sold scripts to many television shows including The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Outer Limits, Star Trek, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
Ellison briefly attended the Ohio State University, but was expelled after striking a professor who insulted his writing. Ellison’s life would filled with many such encounters. Including a supposed scuffle with Frank Sinatra over a billiards game and being fired his first day on the job as a writer at Disney when Roy O Disney overheard him make some crude comments about some of the Disney characters.
Despite his harsh personalty, Ellison would go on to have career marked by success and praise. Winning most of the of important science fiction awards (the Nebula and Hugo awards). He was the editor for two highly regarded science fiction anthologies Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions.
Like many science fiction and speculative fiction writers Ellison spent most of his career somewhat unknown to a truly wide audience – only the initiated knowing him by name, though the nation new him by his works.