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Last Updated on May 11, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 129

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Though his reputation rests primarily with the short story, Harlan Ellison has abundantly produced novels, essays, anthologies, and scripts for the motion-picture industry and television. Two highly influential anthologies, Dangerous Visions (1967) and Again, Dangerous Visions (1972), critique his own work and that of others. He contributed scripts to many popular television series in the 1960’s and 1970’s and adapted his story “A Boy and His Dog” for film in 1975. His essays, which comment on a broad range of social issues, have been collected in a number of volumes, including The Glass Teat: Essays of Opinion on the Subject of Television (1969), An Edge in My Voice (1986), Harlan Ellison’s Watching (1989), and The Harlan Ellison Hornbook (1990). He also published I, Robot: The Illustrated Screenplay, an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s novel, in 1994.


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Last Updated on May 11, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 171

As the author of more than thirteen hundred published pieces and more than forty-five volumes, Harlan Ellison was perhaps the most influential writer of science fiction and fantasy to emerge in the 1960’s. His stories have won numerous Nebula and Hugo awards and a Writers Guild of America award for a television script. Acclaimed as a leader of the New Wave writers who sought greater sophistication for science fiction—a movement that he has hotly rejected as nonexistent—Ellison nevertheless brought “crossover” qualities to genre fiction, winning new audiences and exploring new literary possibilities. His talent most definitely lies in the short story. As an artist, he is a risk taker, seeking out a preposterous central image vital enough to contain his moral outrage and screaming rhetoric. When he succeeds—and he has succeeded often enough to contribute several of the best modern stories—then he casts a memorable metaphor, “do you remember the story in which ?” When he fails, as risk takers often do, he comes up empty and shrill.


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Adams, Stephen. “The Heroic and Mock-Heroic in Harlan Ellison’s ‘Harlequin.’” Extrapolation 26 (1985): 285-289. The often-anthologized “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” is convincingly viewed as a mock-heroic epic, parodying epic conventions through the central character and the narrator: “They both upset established rules (social or literary) and interject spontaneous, anarchic humor into an otherwise joyless, predictable, over-regulated world.”

Atheling, William Jr. More Issues at Hand. Chicago: Advent, 1970. An early view of Ellison’s impact upon science fiction, especially concerning the anthology Dangerous Visions, its significance being that it consisted entirely of literary experiments then called “New Wave.” Ellison is highly (but skeptically) praised: “a born writer, almost entirely without taste and control but with so much fire, originality and drive, as well as compassion, that he makes the conventional virtues of the artist seem almost irrelevant.”

De Los Santos, Oscar. “Clogging up the (In)human Works: Harlan Ellison’s Apocalyptic Postmodern Visions.” Extrapolation 40 (Spring, 1999): 5-20. An overview of apocalyptic themes in Ellison’s writing, concluding that while Ellison’s vision is bleak, his protagonists battle on.

Ellison, Harlan. “An Ill-Begotten Enterprise.” Harper’s 294 (May, 1997): 31-32. Describes the controversy over a 1966 Star Trek episode that Ellison wrote, “The City on the Edge of Forever.” According to Ellison, Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the series, claimed in public that he had rescued the episode from the original script; Ellison strongly criticizes the various people who have claimed that they saved the teleplay.

Fredericks, Casey. The Future of Eternity. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982. Contains an analysis of Ellison’s mythmaking capacity, especially the story “The Place with No Name,” which apparently allows no settled interpretation.

McMurran, Kristin. “Harlan Ellison.” People Weekly 24 (December 2, 1985): 97-100. A biographical sketch that claims that Ellison’s genius is often overshadowed by his big mouth; discusses how Ellison’s childhood was marred by anti-Semitic insults, how he went through a bout of depression for several years, and how he is driven to work harder.

Nicholls, Peter, ed. The Science Fiction Encyclopedia. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1979. An excellent, fact-filled summary of Ellison’s career, which carries the reader through the period of Ellison’s greatest accomplishments. The mere list of his activities demonstrates his extraordinary energy and ambition. The article emphasizes, however, that he will be remembered largely for his short fiction.

Platt, Charles. Dream Makers. New York: Berkeley Books, 1980. In this book of interviews and interpretations, Platt talks to Ellison in his Los Angeles home, crowded with books and memorabilia. The discussion covers the wide ground of Ellison’s interests and serves as a good introduction to his personality.

Priest, Christopher. The Book on the Edge of Forever. Seattle, Wash.: Fantagraphics, 1994. A detailed explication of some of the contretemps surrounding the nonpublication of The Last Dangerous Visions.

Slusser, George Edgar. Harlan Ellison: Unrepentant Harlequin. San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1977. In this interview, Ellison reflects on his early life as a writer and in a lively manner offers an analysis of how the genre magazines operated in the 1950’s.

Stone, Albert E. Literary Aftershocks: American Writers, Readers, and the Bomb. New York: Twayne, 1994. Ellison’s short stories are among many discussed in this study of the atomic bomb in literature.

Weil, Ellen, and Gary Wolfe, eds. Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2002. A wide-ranging collection of critical essays on Ellison’s work, including teleplays and film scripts as well as print.


Critical Essays