Originally, I had intended to post the above video to further the ongoing conversation about what constitutes science fiction, as there can be few better authorities on the matter than a panel including Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison, and Gene Wolfe. But then, I discovered what had transpired shortly before this interview.
As it happens, Ellison’s view of science fiction was quite passionate. Carolyn Kellog, at the L. A. Times, reports that he had just come from assaulting his publisher for misclassifying “Spider Kiss” as a sci fi:
“I put him in a hold that I had learned from Bruce Lee. I took him to his knees. Then I duck-walked him back to his door,” on his knees all the way, Ellison recounts. The typing pool, all women then, stopped work and watched the show, he says, “with enormous pleasure.”
When they got back to the man’s office, the publisher on his knees, Ellison says he banged the man’s head into the door until he opened it. They went inside — the publisher, Ellison and Ellison’s editor, a woman he remembers fondly, who soon was huddling on a couch.
“I picked up a chair and threw it,” Ellison says. Rather than shattering the windows, “it bounced around the room.” The publisher had scrambled behind his desk and was dialing the phone.
“I jumped onto the desk and ripped the phone out of the wall,” Ellison says. Back in 1982, that’s how phones worked — they had cords, attached to walls. “He tried to crawl through the desk’s kneehole. I grabbed him by the collar and threw him across the room.”
From his comments in the interview, Mr. Ellison seems to share Margaret Atwood‘s view of the genre. Compare his comment to Mr. Turkel that sci fi is “women in brass braziers being molested by green-eyed monsters,” to Ms. Atwoods famous talking squids in outer space characterization.
We all know what was going on, back then. Certain authors didn’t want their books to be shoved in the back of the bookstore in the SF/F section. Writing is their bread and butter, and they wanted to get paid. Perhaps that is what made Harlan react with violence to the horrid insult of being called a science fiction writer.
Well, Harlan Ellison currently has 28 novels listed by WWEnd that we call “science fiction.” Perhaps I should get a bodyguard.