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DRAGONCON - Part One

This piece is a strange story to find in printer’s ink, it’s about one geek’s journey from being a convention carpet kid to becoming a dealer to being a guest on stage with the greatest.

In the great scope of human events it is a rather small tale. It’s not a blinding battle over a beautiful broad in Troy, it’s not an epic. It’s just a baby step in life, but one that I find particularly enthralling because, you see, it happens to me.

In just a few days I would be attending a comic book, fantasy, film, science fiction and gaming convention in Atlanta, Georgia.

Not really a big deal, I’ve been to hundreds of conventions as a dealer, selling musty blankets of cinematic advertising, and tomes of illustrated heroism. I was born and raised into this gypsy guild of pop culture anthropologists. A vagabond group that traveled the world in search of shards of the past that left whispers of “cool” in their wake.

I lived in film rooms in every state of the union, I was babysat by Johnny Weissmuller, drew chalk abstractions of pachyderms with Harlan Ellison, saw Sinbad cinemas with Ray Bradbury, and flipped through stacks of 27” by 41” illuminated advertisements with Ray Harryhausen. I’ve led an odd life.

In that life I never dreamed of being a ‘Guest’, someone that was on the otherside, that had ‘Fans’, that knew what lay on the flip side of the Green Room Door.

I was scared to death.

The day before leaping the distance between here and there, I found out that Forrest Ackerman was not on the panel... In his absence Harlan Ellison was joining the fray.

Fear.

It coursed through me, occupying my every thought, my every inkling of bravery soiled the clothes I wore. Harlan is known to dislike the internet, young successful types and seems to destroy people with wills. Witness his recent visits with Tom Snyder and Politically Incorrect. He left those shows with mental scars and wilted prides. He would... destroy me.

I am not the most literate of beings, and now I had two of the most tactful tellers of tales and a god named Harryhausen. What was I... a dealer... a rugrat... a larva... going to do on stage besides be crushed. I braced myself.

I announced the trip on my website and instantly began hearing nightmare after nightmare. Stories of physical battles wherein Ellison broke collarbones and egos. The man has no room for hooligans like me. He slaps them to the side. I was terrified.

Everyday I found myself with more and more information about Harlan, some good some bad, it seemed it would be a test of the mettle of which I’m made. What would happen?

I meet Harlan in an elevator on the way down to the awards banquet Friday Night. I introduce myself as being on two panels with Mr Ellison and he looks at me and says, “YOU’RE on two panels with ME?!?,” while looking me over in disgust/curiousity.

I follow far behind Ellison, descending the mechanical stairwells into the belly of this stunning hotel. Till I saw him, I believed that perhaps he’d blow it off, perchance he’d not bother, but then that is not the way of Ellison.

There in the crowd was Forrest Ackerman and Ray Harryhausen, two high school friends that changed the lives of men.

Ackerman created, nurtured and held court over fandom from it’s beginning. In fact my father would not be the man he is without the help of Famous Monsters Of Filmland #2. A flare, that led to other fans. That spoke of others with a love of that which is yet to come and of that which lies in the darkened alleys, down cobblestone streets with a dash of fog hiding their gruesome figures.

Harryhausen is a god to folks like me. He’s the man that singlehandedly frame by crafted frame brought to life that magic of mythology. He expanded that which we dreamed and delivered it as a wakened visions of fancy.

The two were giddy, in the way children are, the way mischevious boys at a Halloween ball with rubber rats and pint of rum.

When we were all seated I was one row of tables behind them. I watched the two long time friends, then there was a cry in the room of, “Look it’s Bradbury!” Ackerman and Harryhausen’s heads spun around as a smile split their heads in two. Tears welled up, and sure enough Bradbury was in their gaze. Soon there was much embracing, as a trio of best friends all gathered together.

If you have seen FRANK AND OLLIE, the documentary about the fantastic duo of animators from Disney that have spent their lives in the greatest of friendships, you’d know exactly how this scene was. Three Legends, each an equal of accomplishment in their chosen field. Each alive, boiling over with enthusiasm. It was beyond touching.

Bradbury was sitting with Harlan Ellison and Julius Schwartz. Harlan seemed to be everywhere, hugging people, talking to people, running there and over there. Anthony Daniels was walking from table to table like a head waiter asking if anybody needed anything. Tom Savini was seated with a buncha fans and Peter David was preparing to talk.

It was a very cool gathering.

The night was very much dominated by Harlan Ellison, the strongest personality of the evening. The one that left the impression. I was quite honestly left a bit flustered by his energy and his passion. I had doubts about how I would do.

As Father Geek and I traveled to my room, I discovered a sputtering stutter I had developed, rousing tides of doubt. This would not be a... how to put it.. a piece of cake. This would require thought, something I am often accused of doing without.

So I do some reading that night, some research to prepare my introductions. I begin fretting over which credits to mention in their introductions. What would be the smartest, with giants with their credentials, what could I do differently? I’m sure they had each been introduced at innumerable functions, and literally every mix of credits and accolades has been piled on. What ta do?

Then it hits me, where I had met each of them before. That’s the unexpected. The place each of them first came into my life, and how they had similarly touched thousands and millions in such a way without knowing it.

I’m still nervous as hell, stomach twisting and turning. It’s not everyday you meet those that helped to make who you are. Much less share a stage for an hour. This would be fun... I hoped.

I put earplugs in and begin to go to sleep. I knew Father Geek, Quint and Tom Joad would all be returning from the GWAR concert talking and yapping away. I needed sleep, I needed to be fresh. My wits needed to be intact.

I had been asleep for a scant 40 minutes or so when the three arrived. Loud and laughing were they. Filled with cheer and merriment. Stories of naked women, blood and guts... yes, fun was had by the three. I thought of sitting up, of listening, but if they knew I were awake, the stories would continue, the jovial jousting would never let up till the asscrack of dawn in this 21st floor room. So I feigned sleep, and soon the voices and the lights died... and rest had come.

The next morning I was awakened by a shaking of my father. He had heard the post-dawn call of the front desk, the bugle-like belch of Ma Bell tolling for the sleep to awaken. This was the morning I had to be perfect.

I showered, brushed the teeth and dressed accordingly. The whole time going through the motions, actually not paying attention to my physical actions, rather I was concerned with my opening remarks. I had advice from hundreds of emails, hours of reading. And I was going with my gut. I hoped this would go... well. That’s not true, that’s a lie. In no way did I hope this would go... well. I wanted this to go perfectly. I wanted to provide a great panel for the audience. And most of all I didn’t want to look the part of the fool.

I had already decided to be a moderator, my title for the panel, which meant I should moderate the conversation between these three men. The people that came to the MASTERS OF FANTASY panel did not want to hear Harry Knowles, maggot, they wanted to hear Ray Bradbury-Harlan Ellison-Ray Harryhausen, Gods. So I would stay out of the fray as much as possible.

I had a panel a few hours later where I would become a panelist, that’s where I would come out of a cocoon. That’s where I would unfurl my wings. Here... here I’d be the gnat staring at three suns hoping not to be struck blind.

I walked down to the room, it was gigantic. A huge hall. I was so doomed. A quiver formed from my bottom lip. My mouth went dry. Come on Harry pull it together. I kept putting one foot in front of the other, till I was behind a black curtain, in the preparation area. Behind the scenes, hidden from the eyes of man.

It wasn’t long now. I held my ‘intros’ a back up you see, a few bits of words assembled in a strained sense of order. Mind you, they were not poignant, poetic or great. They were just the words of a bug trying to describe real men.

That’s when Bradbury and Harryhausen arrived backstage. This is all too real. There they are. Sure I’ve met them before, but never before have I talked to these two before an audience, that raises the stakes.

The technical people came out and began prepping the stage and the microphones. This was actually going to happen.

Where was Ellison?

Bradbury begins to talk about heading on up on stage and taking our seats, I head up the stairs. As I turn around to see if either of them needed or wanted help, I beheld a small moment.

A small moment in that it was a twenty second exercise of simplicity. What I saw was a ritual act of friendship. And my god did it warm me. This was a moment for me.

The two were engaged in one of those YOU FIRST bits.

“Age before Beauty”

“Grace before Girth”

“Old friend you never could beat me up a flight of stairs”

“Hahahahaha”

Like I said it was a small moment, like the way a pair of friends play silly games like “Slug Bug” or “I Spy”, but here were these two engaged in similar. My nerves died, these were normal men of extraordinary gifts, but they were still people like you and me, with the same bits of character.

As we approached the table, Ellison suddenly appeared. He walks right past me to greet Harryhausen and Bradbury. Yes, this was the way I imagined it.

From left to right we were seated as thus: Harry Knowles, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison and Ray Harryhausen. As soon as the crowd saw those three... deafening applause. As soon as the volume dialed down, I spoke the words. “Welcome to the Masters of Fantasy Panel, I’m Harry Knowles,” cricket chirping sound, “and on my right is Ray Bradbury,” a roar followed by standing thunderous applause, “on his right Harlan Ellison,” the applause continues, “and on the end is Ray Harryhausen.” Wow I’m doing a great job, I’ve spoken 29 words and received a gigantic standing ovation that was threatening to bring the house down. Just kidding.

The thought of skipping my introductions and just getting to the topics occurred to me, but I thought quickly that if I didn’t do those intros... well I wouldn’t be speaking much at all. I wasn’t setting this up to be a conversation with me and these three. It was to be a conversation between the three with an occassional bone thrown in by me.

So I began the intros. I started with the Bradbury/1974 San Diego advance screening of Golden Voyage of Sinbad. He was surprised, as that kid was three, quite a bit shorter and about 260 lbs lighter. Then I moved on to Ellison and the 1975 AggieCon where we drew Elephants and he bought golden age funny animal comics from my father. Harlan was quite taken with this. Looking at me, then smiling and nodding away. Then I did the Harryhausen bit from 1992 when he walked into my booth in Dallas, Texas and talked with me about George Pal’s abandoned Time Machine 2 project. He remembered it instantly.

Each man was surprised by this intro process. I was on easy street now, I felt. They liked this. So I began by asking them about what was wrong with fantasy films of the last 15 years or so.

The question was knocked around for about 15 minutes, as answers about small minded executives, arrogant directors with no respect for the script, an over-focusing on technology instead of mythology. The lack of heart... Ellison brought up Conrad Veidt in THIEF OF BAGDAD, a fantastic Alexander Korda production that is quite simply a work of brilliance. He discussed the scene in which Conrad Veidt has the woman of his dreams in his power, he’s just moments away from making his triumph perfect. It is in his power to make her love him, he can do it. But right as he’s about to seize victory he can’t do it. He can’t MAKE her love him, for that would not be true victory. That brief moment of nobility in the villian is all it takes to create a classic character, and today moments such as that are gone. Not because they cost too much, not because they are impossible to think of, but because many producers and execs don’t think such moments are worthy of their screen time. There are things to explode.

Bradbury feels that big blockbuster films are co-sponsored by Petroleum companies due to the sheer volume of gasoline explosions that occur.

Harryhausen brings up the structure of Kong, and how it took the time to develop the characters, both human and inhuman. How it reached in and grabbed it’s audience. He talked of great scores, and how important they are.

I wish I had a full recording of it all, alas I do not.

Next I asked about the audience, and rather a loss of innocence made genres such as fantasy to be made ineffective due to the suspension of disbelief needed to make the films work.

Once again long answers were given. Bradbury launched into a tale about when he and Harryhausen were right out of High School, films... classic genre films were few and far between. After one played it would be perhaps 5 years till you saw it again. How when they were poor they would save their nickels for films, and eat at a restaurant that would feed them for free, all for their love of film. How he, Harryhausen and Ackerman would cross town together to see a doublebill of SHE and FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE. And how special moments like that were. Today, sure you can rent the films on ‘video’ but it’s not the same, it holds far less importance, there is no hushed anticipation. My sentences do his words no justice.

Harlan came next, but was flustered in memory. He was struggling to remember what the double bill Bradbury saw was.. Then it suddenly became clear, it was SHE and THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEI. Bradbury was shocked that Harlan knew because it was before he was born, and Ellison explained the fact he saw them reissued together in the fifties. This was actually something I knew as well, no I had never seen them double-featured, but I did have the poster at home that had them double-billed. But I stayed out of it. Let these guys shine.

When I mentioned Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings project Harlan said, “Weeeellllllll, that’s something the world is reeeeaaaallllllyyyyy crying for...” He then went on to say that the world didn’t need a movie about those “furry footed fuckers in search of that goddamned ring.” I almost lost it in laughing. I had heard he... disliked THE LORD OF THE RINGS, but almost died laughing with his comments.

Around this time I was half way through the panel, that’s when I opened it to the audience for questioning. Most of the questions dealt with the problem of people reading in today’s society. Something that Bradbury feels strongly about.

He feels that we (society) is raising a generation of overly dependent (on computers) morons that don’t read, that don’t imagine, that are automatons. He talked about firing of teachers, and testing them. About challenging children, especially boys (who often stray from the path) to think. He talked about giving them science fiction, fantasy, anything to keep them reading. To get them on the path.

Ellison answered with a problem with too many people reading harlequin romances, Xena books, Star Trek books, X-Files and Star Wars books. Shit and garbage he called them. It would be better to stare at commercial television day in and day out. He said perhaps it would be a good thing if they (the non-readers) started with spoken-word novels, but overall he felt that if one were not brought up reading, that you would never read at all.

Then a lady complained that the books he mentioned were cheap reading and how all the ‘great’ books were hardcover at twenty-five bucks a pop.

Harlan began shaking. He grabbed the mike and began saying, “NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!”

He explained the way of finding books at used stores, she then complained that she didn’t know what to find there, he then yelled at her about having to educate her in front of all these people. He then said, “Start with Ulysses and work your way down, then come back and we’ll talk.” She sat stunned. The wrath of Harlan was unleashed.

There were other questions, but over the course of the panel all were entertained and informed. It was a fantastic panel. Hopefully if someone recorded it I could get a tape or a written version to put up for everyone. IT was great.

Afterwards all three panelists were quite happy with the panel, saying, “That was a great panel.” That’s all I wanted to hear them say. I was sated.

Sometime later this week, I’ll be posting more, including what happened in the John Carpenter panel, the critic panel with me and Harlan and Brinke Stevens, et al. Those two were absolutely fantastic. But now I must sleep. I have to go to Los Angeles tomorrow, and see the premiere of RUSH HOUR. I’ve been watching Jackie Chan films and TRADING PLACES to prepare myself. I’ll be in L.A. for three days, during which I will try to hook up with some spies to get more info on what’s going on inside our favorite flicks. After this trip, things should calm down for a month or two... hopefully. It’ll be nice to just relax and work here at home. It’s so much more peaceful.

Till later,

Harry

Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 8, 1998, 2:04 a.m. CST

    by Toby O. Notobe

    Hey, I know a lot of people don

  • Sept. 8, 1998, 3 a.m. CST

    FIND ANOTHER SITE, YE APES!

    by YellerDog

    If you guys don't like this site, go to DH or something. By visiting repeatedly, you're only bothering yourself. Go clean your cages or something.

  • Sept. 8, 1998, 6:30 a.m. CST

    Harry's posts

    by Justin Keeling

    I've never posted before on Talkback, and no doubt after this message I'll sink back into the anonymity from whence I came. But I think this point is especially important enough to be stressed here: if there's one thing that sets AICN apart from other major news sites, it's the personal touch from its editor. AICN is a living, breathing manifestation of the power of internet as a tool for democracy. Apart from the other sections, it's basicaly just one guy, with an infectious love of cinema and a nice angle on reportage which absolutely can't be replicated anywhere else (i.e., his personality). If you just want pure, robot-objective, austere news, I think you're in the wrong place. This site was never about that, so don't pretend its changed. It's about getting to know the writer through his writing, and through that, knowing when and when not to agree with his editorial. Personally, as a writer myself, I think it's sad that people here are crying out for souless, personality-bereft writing when 99% of the other news media is already right there. Some people don't seem to comprehend the line between commercial impartiality, and just writing about one's feelings. Don't listen to naysayers in talkback Harry. As you can probably attest from your email inbox, 99% of readers love AICN as it is, and would indeed probably abandon the site if you lost that personal touch. Thanks for all the hard work. I hope you feel it has all paid off some day. Justin

  • Sept. 8, 1998, 6:42 a.m. CST

    Harry at Dragon*Con

    by AZ

    Great report on your panel, by the way... Dunno if you will remember, but I was one of the security goons watching over John Carpenter when you (or somebody that looks like you) came thru the autograph line and had Mr. Carpenter sign one of his pics to "Ain't It Cool News". I overheard your request for him to make it out to that, and I made some comment about it... ;-) Just another personal "touch" on the con... ;-) And...just as a sidenote... If you think Harlen is an ass in public, you should try being his escort sometime...sheesh... -Az

  • Sept. 8, 1998, 6:53 a.m. CST

    Harlan vs. (?) Harry

    by Serdar

    First off, Harry: great essay. Write from your POV; tell us how YOU saw it. That's a strong piece of good personal journalism. Second: Harlan is, if nothing else, opinionated, and I'm rapidly beginning to believe that he is in fact nothing BUT opinionated. I do agree with what he has to say about the majority of published fiction being either for a market or just recycled junk, but I'm constantly annoyed at the way he advertises his beliefs with so little grace or courtesy. Being right does not give you the license to be a prick. That said, Bradbury and Harryhausen sounded like they had their finger right on the pulse of what was wrong. Once upon a time, there was real magic and anticipation; I am just old enough to remember the dog-end of that era. Now we cram ourselves into a $8.50 seat and peer around the head of the guy in front of us, and see something with a number slapped on the end of it, or a recycled TV show (God forbid). The system is heartless and bloodless, but I think people are catching on -- look at the way GODDAMNZILLA was received with only lukewarm attention, especially after the mind-numbing hype machine had finished with us. We do need people like this to give us a hint of where things are going wrong... but Harlan, do you have to be such a stick in the heiney about it?

  • Sept. 8, 1998, 7:21 a.m. CST

    Harlan Ellison

    by Rick Ralsten

    I figured I would post under this new topic since most of the Ellison debate will probably be moving over here. I realize that many people find him to be pompous or egocentric or just generally an asshole, but after having met him on several occasions over the past 8 years or so, I can safely say that he is one of the most fascinating people I have ever encountered. He is tirelessly passionate about the things that he believes in; like Bradbury, he is deeply concerned with the younger generation's lack of literacy and with people forgetting the past masters who paved the way for the present stars. One of his most famous quotes about the younger generation is "Nostalgia is what they had for breakfast." Harlan was the keynote speaker at the Diamond Comic Distributors retailer seminar a few years ago (yes, I'm a comics retailer) and the speech he gave about the importance of remembering the great Golden Age comics creators was one of the most moving and impassioned presentations that I have ever heard. And anyone who disparages Ellison's writing ability has obviously not read the right things. Please go out and read the excellent novella MEFISTO IN ONYX, or the superb short stories "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream," "Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes," "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs," "The Deathbird," or "A Boy and His Dog," just to name a few. Oh, the Star Wars thing. You can find the truth of the matter in HARLAN ELLISON'S WATCHING, an excellent collection of his movie reviews that appeared in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Harlan never said that he disliked Star Wars; in fact, I recall that he found it entertaining. Harlan was simply noting that Star Wars--while assuredly good entertainment--was, like most Hollywood science fiction movies, bad science fiction because most of the science was wrong (i.e. noise in space). That is the extent of the Star Wars bit. One sure way to get Ellison riled up, though, (and I'm curious if anyone did it at DragonCon, so let me know, please) is to ask him about THE LAST DANGEROUS VISIONS. Hehehe.

  • Sept. 8, 1998, 9:28 a.m. CST

    Dragon*Con

    by Kate White

    Harry -- I attended The Masters of Fantasy panel and the panel about movie criticism and thought they were great. I felt you (and Mr. Bradbury) did a fine job keeping Ellison reined in. Also, thanks for getting him to include Gattaca in good science fiction movies of recent years. It was a kick seeing you on stage!

  • Sept. 8, 1998, 9:54 a.m. CST

    Panel

    by Devolver

    Harry, I was there in the audience rooting for you. I helped take the Ellison Shoe in the groin after your LOTR question. My left nut still hurts but my right is much better. Yes, his reply was funny as everything he says is funny. But it still sucked. I had hoped you would ignore him and ask Harryhausen what he thought but I know I couldn't have either. Actually I probably would have chickened out and opened it up to audience questions from the get go. But you did well and I learned alot. I kind of wish Ellison would have not dominated the panel so much. I love the two Rays and would have liked to have heard more from them as I heard Ellison plenty over the weekend. On a post-note, after the panel I was out in the lobby and the DragonCon folks were interviewing Ray Bradbury. Really cheasy neo-journalistic type of guy. And he asked Ray if this was his first DragonCon. Ray said it was his first and last because he didn't have any plastic vampire teeth to wear. hehehehe

  • Sept. 8, 1998, 11:34 a.m. CST

    Dragon

    by Stil

    I was at Harry's panels as well. It is good to know that we have found a natural force to rein in Mr Ellison - that force is Ray Bradbury. Don't get me wrong, I respect Ellison in many ways, but he does have a tendency to overtake conversations. I cannot believe that women who commented on the availability of good fiction to Ellison and Bradbury -ELLISON AND BRADBURY! Geez, she deserved to get shot down. I liked the criticism panel also. Each person had their own views on criticism, which was cool. For those not there, it was an amazing con - as usual - with amazing guests, AICN's soul included.

  • Sept. 8, 1998, 11:36 a.m. CST

    Very cool.

    by Andy

    Excellent article, Harry. It's really great getting such a personal view of the masters. Ellison can be well, uhh, shall we say, edgy, but he does have some good stuff to say. (Not that I always agree with all of it.) He was great on Vortex, back when it was on the Sci-Fi Channel. I doubt I would have the guts to get on stage with him, he can really go off on people. By the way, The posts so far have been fun reading. This is how it oughtta be, debating who's the better writer, what movies deserve praise, etc. Much nicer than the personal attacks that have become so common. Thanks, guys. - Andy

  • Sept. 8, 1998, 2:21 p.m. CST

    Literature

    by Devolver

    One more thing I wanted to say. I think the question asked by the lady about being able to buy the classic books and which ones to buy was misunderstood. I think she was talking not about herself but about children. When you walk into a bookstore, you don't see the classics, the good quality books. You see the trashy money making, best selling tripe that you see advertised by Oprah. You can find it in the big bookstores but not smaller ones. And in some townes that is all you have. You have to order anything decent. But, what I'm concerned about is 20 years from now. When my children will be of age. Will they be able to find them at all? Will they still be printed even? 30 years from now? I doubt it. This planet is going down the drains. And it's not just the fault of the governments, though they don't help at all. Society is decaying, morally and intellectually. T.V. is taking over, I agree with Bradbury. We need to do something about it! There, I feel better and am stepping off my soapbox. I just wanted to say that that's what I think the woman meant and it is a shame that it didn't get addressed. Thank you.

  • Sept. 8, 1998, 2:46 p.m. CST

    Out of curiosity, Seth...

    by Bowie Hawkins

    Just how many books have you published? Because all issues of ill-temeredness aside, Ellison is to writing what Mark McGwire is to home run records. Oh, and Harry? Love the site.

  • Sept. 8, 1998, 4:57 p.m. CST

    Finding Great Literature

    by Noodles

    Don't forget that even in smaller towns there's a thing called a library. Lots of great literature there, and it's all free.

  • Sept. 8, 1998, 5:39 p.m. CST

    That woman at the panel

    by Will

    Hey, Harry! You might not remember, but I was the guy by the water cooler before you darted backstage before the panel who said good luck. You did an excellent job. As for that woman and her idiot question/comment about the bookstores not selling good books at cheap prices or displaying them prominently, all I have to say is that my thought at the time (even before Harlan roared) was that those bookstores aren't a public service. They can sell whatever they want, and if she (or whatever disenfranchised group she wanted to defend) can't find the books, that is a fault of her resourcefulness, not the bookstore. Those bookstores have no responsibility to sell "good books," or even to do so at reasonable prices. They're in it for the money. And only when readers take their money somewhere else will they understand that they stand to lose a large audience by just selling the same tired set of media tie-in novels. So I'm not sure she was misunderstood, per se. She might not have expressed herself very well, but still I think her point was ridiculous. Great page, Harry! You did a great job on the panels, especially the criticism one. It was great to see you and Harlan bantering about the movies.

  • Sept. 8, 1998, 5:56 p.m. CST

    Harlan Ellison

    by Nightwing

    I met Harlan Ellison at one of the Detroit con the other year and he is VERY intimidating. My first words to him were "Don't Kill Me". He just laughed and then took the time to talk for arounf five minutes. Great guy and spectacular writer in all media. If you're unfamilar with him, start with the first Edgeworks volume or if you're really brave, read his book on Star Trek's The City on the Edge of Forever. You'll get a great sense of him from these books.

  • Sept. 8, 1998, 8:08 p.m. CST

    BRADBURY

    by Spender

    THIS IS PROBABLY INNAPROPRIATE BUT WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES MOVIE? I HEARD IT WAS BEING ADAPTED BY RAY BRADBURY. SOUNDS LIKE A CROC OF SHIT TO ME.

  • Sept. 8, 1998, 8:38 p.m. CST

    Sheesh what an a**:-)

    by Ender

    I'd have to agree with Seth on Harlan.If it wasn't for SW,ST and Tolkien I probably wouldn't have read a lot of the past masters.Oh well his opinion is not going to change mine.

  • Sept. 8, 1998, 9:39 p.m. CST

    yeah!

    by klickink

    harry, great writing, great fucking writing! this surpasses your godzilla-vegas preview a few months back. i hope to god you're saving this stuff for a book. some of your commentaires that involve events like this - not overall reviews - are worthy of print...and would get read by film-fans! yeah, you need to polish your grammer. for pete's sake hire an editor! they won't changer your words, only correct a few minor problems here and there. but jesus, your talent shines through! that opening bit with the panel is tremendous! good job. mks http://rampages.onramp.net/~klickink

  • Sept. 9, 1998, 5:55 a.m. CST

    Harry Knowles-Cub Reporter

    by smilin'jackruby

    Thank you, so much Harry. So damn glad there's someone like you out there. I can't wait 'til you start publishing a couple volumes of your writing. You're becoming quite the eloquent correspondent.

  • Sept. 9, 1998, 6:42 a.m. CST

    Harlan and TLDV

    by Rob Terry

    Actually, someone did bring up TLDV during Harlan's first thing (An Edge in His Voice) and he handled it well. He defused the bomb, didn't go on a tirade about it, but instead was nice, kind, and didn't scream and yell. Anyone who doesn't believe in Harlan as a writer hasn't read his stuff. Some of it isn't that damn important, but Harlan is a master of stylistic capabilities, even when he's ranting and raving. So what if he didn't like The Lord of the Rings? The main point of his comment was that it isn't important... and that there are some things that Hollywood could be spending their money on that would be more important, more universally touching. Harlan views fantasy period as a way to escape reality, and tries in his own stories (99% of the time) to keep a secret bullet of truth, however small a fragment and one only he may believe in, to sock you in the gullet and make you hurt if you haven't wanted to. Harlan is very passionate about his beliefs, intellegent, and suffers from Poor Impulse Control. He does what he thinks about doing... and gets in trouble for it. Some people don't like that, and mistake his frequent blowups (and later blowdowns) for the acts of an unrepentant asshole. Rob (btw, Harry... I liked the post and your job on the Masters of Fantasy panel)

  • Sept. 9, 1998, 7:09 a.m. CST

    Regarding Media Tie-In Novels....

    by Leto II

    Oh, I have to agree wholeheartedly and with absolute vigor with what Messr. Ellison stated regarding the current proliferation of media tie-in garbage now accumulating more and more space upon our bookstore shelves. Less and less real science-fiction writing is being produced nowadays, prose magazine circulations are on the decline, and an overabundance of "sci-fi" books, i.e., "Star Trek", "Wars", "Xena", "Magic: The Gathering", et al, are now being selected by young people over works written by such visionary writers as Greg Egan, Alexander Jablokov, and David Brin! Just the other day, in fact, I was perusing a compilation volume of several of Spider Robinson's novellas (a fabulous stream-of-consciousness SF scribe, BTW), at my local Barnes & Noble, when I espied a young man, approximately college-aged, walk into the SF (not "sci-fi"; Harlan has said that the word resembles the sound two crickets make whilst fucking) section adjacent to me..."Oh, good!" thinks I--"Perhaps he might pick up a true novel as opposed to a hollow, manufactured studio tie-in..." Alas, this was not to be the case. The guy makes a bloody *beeline* directly for the "Magic: The Gathering" novels and begins searching through those upon one knee, and, after this is complete, with books tucked safely under arm, he begins walking to the next aisle over. Curious, I follow him. He heads straight for the "Star Wars" novels and spends the next ten minutes deciding which book he desired to purchase there before racing for the check-out lanes. Is this to be the future of written science-fiction? Professionals within the field claim that not enough young people today are reading books or magazies, and those that are are more often than not picking up titles with the logos of their favorite series upon the cover, or Fantasy Novels Which Rewrite Tolkien Yet Again To The Nth Degree, Ad Nauseum. I do not believe that all series novels are bad (the "Babylon 5" novels, actually by-god *APPROVED* by the series' creator and carefully tying into the continuity are definite exceptions to the above), but new and better efforts must now be made in order to stem the rising tide of media knock-offs and shoddily-written Hollywood "event" movies and re-introduce some semblance of LITERACY into the myriad creative processes.

  • Sept. 9, 1998, 7:29 a.m. CST

    Ellison and reading

    by DwDunphy

    Harlan Ellison and I have never seen eye to eye. Since I've never met him, I mean that literally. Beyond that, I don't cotton to his exaltation of 'hard-science' sci-fi while he damns the 'pop-fiction' of Star Wars and such. I've always believed that, "sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't", or sometimes you'll reach for Steinbeck, sometimes Vonnegut, and sometimes you just get the latest Grisham paperback for the hell of it. I do agree, however, that there is a level of dumbing-down in the world, a lowering of standards. Think about this country of ours, for instance. No matter how effective our President is, he still carries on like some trailer-park giggolo, taking a piece of whatever pie is left on the windowsill to cool off. Our culture is dominated by a complete disrespect for the english language, and has discombobulated and bastardized it to mega-millions, all the while praising themselves for word talents exhibited by those only learning the language, as opposed to anyone who took the time to master it. I am not a professor or teacher, or even the most proficient speaker, but Harlan Ellison is speaking of things far more expansive and detrimental that just the effect of Lord of the Rings on the public. Good God, I'm agreeing with the man... That cannot be good. ---Dw. Dunphy P.S. Wondering what Ellison thinks of C.S. Lewis' 'Narnia' saga.

  • Sept. 9, 1998, 3:04 p.m. CST

    Ellison a Jerk? Sure, but he has a point

    by Oberon

    Pulp literature has always been with us, going back to the dime novels of the last century. The current trend of low-end "retail" literature is nothing new; it's the booksellers equivalent of junk food -- it sells better than the stuff in the fresh vegetables section, and a little of it won't hurt you. Unlike years gone by, however, the printed page must compete with a barrage of other media: internet, movies, TV, games, etc. There's more competition to reach these young minds with quality literature -- whatever the genre. Ellison may be acting his usual jerkish self, but I think most of us here agree that he has a point. And it's part of the reason why so much current SF and fantasy movies are atrocious. There's no concern about good writing, either by the producers, the writers, or, sadly, much of the audience these days.

  • Sept. 9, 1998, 11:17 p.m. CST

    Ellison's behaviour is understandable

    by Andy Richter

    well I always thought it's just a matter of time until Knowles gets to know the downside of his so called 'personal view' style. I mean Harry Knowles, in his function as the geek god, is the most opinionated person himself. And he has raised to some questionable influence, matter of fact. He writes reviews based on his personal feelings, i.e. he's bad tempered because he's on a diet (see the review to 'Dark City'..it really happened). Now on such days he slashes a movie he otherwise would have loved. You can't trust him. He's just too full of himself, and does not care at all what his comments do. Any hard working person must hate a behaviour like this. You really put your heart and soul into a project, then some self-centered, ignorant prick comes along and takes your movie to let out all his personal anger and problems. This is definitely not journalism. It's a huge mess. bye

  • Sept. 10, 1998, 12:43 a.m. CST

    AINT IT COOL HAS GONE DOWN THE DRAIN.....IT SUCKS

    by Harry Knowles

    THIS SITE REALLY RAUNCHES NOW

  • Sept. 10, 1998, 8:01 a.m. CST

    It's nice to be right

    by Daniel Taylor

    Sorry I missed your panel: I was commuting to the hotel from home, and I arrived just as the panel was breaking up. Damnit. But great report! Didn't I tell you it would be fine? Maybe next time you'll believe me. How many times do I have to say it? HARLAN ELLISON IS NOT AN OGRE. But ask a stupid question, and he'll tell you it was a stupid question. "The wrath of Harlan is unleashed", indeed. It was a stupid question, Harry. The woman actually said, in front of witnesses, that the licensed properties books are cheap reads and the "good" books are too expensive! What planet is she from? I would have taken her apart myself, and I would have applauded had I been in the room. Admittedly, any reading is better than no reading, but that's not really the point here. As for the "You're on two panels with ME?" exchange: That's the man's way of joking, Harry. And taking your measure. I'd consider the fact that he nodded and smiled during your introduction to be more indicative of his opinion of you. If you're worried about it. Oh, and Harlan WAS asked about THE LAST DANGEROUS VISIONS a few times, and apparently it ISN'T "a sure way to get (him) riled up". He answered with grace and humor. And he was as cooperative as we could wish for at the Saturday night performance with Anthony Daniels, Brinke Stevens and Jonathan Harris. (Did you catch that?)

  • Sept. 10, 1998, 10:27 a.m. CST

    ellison web

    by ari

    I've seen Ellison many times over the years (including a benefit for the Comic Art Museum in San Francisco), but the most fun was when he wrote a story in the window of <a href=http://www.booksmith.com>Booksmith</a> based on an opening line provided by Robin Williams. There is a great page on Ellison at www.menagerie.net/ellison/ellihome.htm and this <a href= www.menagerie.net/ellison/iwrite/>page</a> includes the text of Palladin of the Last Hour as well as Ellison reading the story: www.menagerie.net/ellison/iwrite/

  • Sept. 11, 1998, 8:50 a.m. CST

    Harry, and Harlan, and Harryhausen, OH MY!

    by jeannie

    I was at the "Masters of Fantasy Panel," too, and I thought Harry acquitted himself very well - I certainly couldn't tell he was nervous at all! His Intros were a really nice touch... Reading his POV about the panel was very interesting (and entertaining!) and I loved the "warm moment" story about the two Rays. As for that woman's "stupid" question, I think she was misunderstood, too. Yes, the library IS a great place to find the truly great books, and used book stores ARE an invaluable resource for finding said great books at a great price -- but when a person enters those places, they must ALREADY POSSESS the knowledge about exactly WHICH books are the great ones _before_ they can attempt to find/buy them! Where do people obtain this knowledge in the first place? I certainly didn't receive it in elementary or high school, where students read one, or maybe two, assigned "good" books a year. Libraries will give patrons a list of "The Top 100 Classics," and other "Best of" lists, but once again - a person ALREADY has to have a certain level of knowledge/desire before they even know to ASK for the lists. So the question becomes, HOW do we reach children - while they are young (I did agree with Harlan on age being a factor) - and teach them which books to search out? How do we instill the DESIRE to read good books? Parents who read to their children are, of course, the ideal solution -- but far too many children are deprived of that. I certainly wasn't in that ideal situation, but I was lucky enough to have stumbled across "A Wrinkle in Time" on the library shelves when I was 6 years old, and that turned me on to a lifelong love of books - science fiction in particular - but that was pure, blind luck. After that, I wanted to read Ms. L'Engle's other books, which led me to "related topics," which led me to other science fiction stories, etc. -- but I was a very self-directed kid, and not all that many children are like that. It's a shame that Mr. Ellison spent so much time berating that woman - playing educator would have been so much more productive than playing executioner. And Geez! - if Ray Bradbury can joke about wearing vampire teeth to a convention, just think of how much good it would do Harlan to run around in a Yoda costume for a while! The man definitely needs to chill...