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Harlan Ellison, Intensely Prolific Science Fiction Writer, Dies at 84 – The New York Times

By Richard Sandomir

Harlan Ellison, Intensely Prolific Science Fiction Writer, Dies at 84

9-12 minutes

By Richard Sandomir

Harlan Ellison, a furiously prolific and cantankerous writer whose science fiction and fantasy stories reflected a personality so intense that they often read as if he were punching his manual typewriter keys with his fists, died on Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 84.

His wife, Susan Ellison, confirmed his death but said she did not know the cause. He had had a stroke and heart surgery in recent years.

Mr. Ellison looked at storytelling as a “holy chore,” which he pursued zealously for more than 60 years. His output includes more than 1,700 short stories and articles, at least 100 books and dozens of screenplays and television scripts. And although he was ranked with eminent science fiction writers like Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov, he insisted that he wrote speculative fiction, or simply fiction.

“Call me a science fiction writer,” Mr. Ellison said on the Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy) in the 1990s. “I’ll come to your house and I’ll nail your pet’s head to a coffee table. I’ll hit you so hard your ancestors will die.”

Mr. Ellison’s best-known work includes “A Boy and His Dog” (1969), a novella set in a postapocalyptic wasteland of the United States, which was made into a 1975 movie; “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” (1967), a short story about a computer that tortures the last five humans on earth; “The City on the Edge of Forever,” a beloved back-in-time episode of the “Star Trek” television series in 1967; and “ ‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” (1965), about a futuristic society in which time is regimented by a fearsome figure called the Ticktockman.

“But no one called him that to his mask,” Mr. Ellison wrote. “You don’t call a man a hated name, not when that man, behind his mask, is capable of revoking the minutes, the hours, the days and nights, the years of his life. He was called the Master Timekeeper to his mask.”

Mr. Ellison was a fast-talking, pipe-smoking polymath who once delighted talk-show hosts like Merv Griffin and Tom Snyder with his views on atheism, elitism, violence and Scientology.

He could be wild, angry and litigious. He said that he lost his job with the Walt Disney Company — on the first day — when he stood up in its commissary (with company executives watching) and described how he wanted to make an animated pornographic film starring Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

He is said to have sent a dead gopher to a publisher and attacked an ABC executive, breaking his pelvis.

He frequently criticized studios and television producers when he believed they had copied his stories. His many lawsuits included one against the makers of the movie “The Terminator,” which accused them of plagiarizing “Soldier,” a script he wrote in 1964 for the TV series “The Outer Limits.”

And he remained upset for years that Gene Roddenberry, the creator of “Star Trek,” and others had made rewrites to his script for “The City on the Edge of Forever.” Decades later, he sued CBS Paramount TV for merchandising royalties that he felt he was owed from the episode.

Ms. Ellison said that her husband eventually put his “Star Trek” imbroglio behind him. But he would never watch the classic episode.

“Let’s not go that far,” she said in a telephone interview.

Harlan Jay Ellison was born on May 27, 1934, in Cleveland. His father, Louis, was a dentist and jeweler, and his mother, Serita (Rosenthal) Ellison, worked in a thrift store. Growing up, partly in Painesville, Ohio, about 30 miles northeast of Cleveland, he was bullied in school, largely for being Jewish. The experience made him feel like an outsider and fueled his anger.

“I survived their tender mercies with nothing more debilitating to show for it than a lifelong, blood-drenched obsession for revenge,” he wrote in “Harlan Ellison’s Watching,” a collection of film reviews first published in 1989.

That anger imbued his writing, said James Gunn, the founding director of the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

“Some writers were able to detach themselves and write objectively,” Mr. Gunn said in a telephone interview, “but you could always sense that Harlan was in there yelling. You could hear Bradbury in his stories, but he was not violent at all; he had a melancholy attitude.”

After his father died, Harlan moved back to Cleveland with his mother and his sister, Beverly, in 1949 and started the Cleveland Science Fiction Club, became a frequent moviegoer and worked as a runner for local mobsters, he told The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.

He left home several times, traveling around the country and variously working on a tuna boat, as a truckdriver and as a short-order cook, among other jobs.

Mr. Ellison attended Ohio State University but left after two years. At one point he punched an English professor who had told him that he did not see any writing talent in him. Thereafter, Mr. Ellison sent copies of his published stories to the professor.

In the mid-1950s he began publishing a torrent of work — in publications like Galaxy and Fantastic Science Fiction — that would continue for years. He wrote stories, novels and novellas. He edited anthologies like “Dangerous Visions” (1967) and a sequel. And he wrote episodes of television series like “Route 66,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,” the 1980s revival of “The Twilight Zone” and, improbably, “The Flying Nun” (an episode in which Sally Field’s character, Sister Bertrille, and two other nuns land on a remote island).

In 1965, he found he had become a character in Gay Talese’s celebrated New Journalism article “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold, published in Esquire magazine. By Mr. Talese’s account, Sinatra, annoyed at the boots that Mr. Ellison was wearing in the pool room of a private club in Beverly Hills, asked him what he did for a living.

“I’m a plumber,” Mr. Ellison answered.

When someone interjected that Mr. Ellison had written the screenplay of “The Oscar,” a forthcoming film, Sinatra replied: “Oh, yeah? Well, I’ve seen it, and it’s a piece of crap.”

Mr. Ellison then said, “That’s strange, because they haven’t even released it.” (It was released in 1966.)

He left after few more testy exchanges with Sinatra. (Sinatra, coincidentally, had a cameo role in “The Oscar.”)

By the time he encountered Sinatra, Mr. Ellison was already reviewing movies and writing essays about buddy films and other genres.

Most of the movies he reviewed were mainstream productions like “Rosemary’s Baby” (which he loved) and “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (which he called “stultifyingly predictable”).

In a review of “Harlan Ellison’s Watching” in The New York Times in 1989, Robert Moss wrote that “one is never tempted to stop reading” despite Mr. Ellison’s occasional windiness. His criticism, Mr. Moss added, “has some of the spellbinding quality of a great nonstop talker with a cultural warehouse for a mind.”

In recent years, Mr. Ellison wrote a graphic novel, “7 Against Chaos” (2013),” with the artist Paul Chadwick for DC Comics. About 30 of his stories were reissued digitally. He published “None of the Above,” an unproduced screenplay based on “Bug Jack Barron,” a story by Norman Spinrad, a science fiction writer who had been his friend since the 1950s.

Mr. Ellison was also the star of “Dreams With Sharp Teeth” (2008), a documentary feature about his life directed by Erik Nelson. In the film, which showcases Mr. Ellison’s fierce, volcanic and argumentative personality, he is described as a “hurricane,” “an alternately impish and furious 11-year-old boy” and, by his friend Robin Williams, “a skin graft on a leper.”

In describing her husband’s friendship with Mr. Williams, Ms. Ellison said, “Talent will find talent.”

His marriage to Susan Toth, his only immediate survivor, was his fifth; his four previous marriages ended in divorce.

Isaac Asimov once called Mr. Ellison “one of the best writers in the world.” But he lamented that Mr. Ellison had too often been sidetracked by his furies.

“It is simply terrible that that he should be constantly embroiled in matters which really have nothing to do with his writing and which slow him down tragically,” Mr. Asimov wrote in 1994 in his autobiography, “I, Asimov.”

He added: “He claims he is five feet four inches tall, but it doesn’t really matter. In talent, energy and courage, he is eight feet tall.”


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“Mind candy”

machine dispensing stories

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May 26, 2018 · 11:31 pm

Ian McEwan ‘dubious’ about schools studying his books, after he helped son with essay and got a C+

Ian McEwan, the award-winning author, has admitted feeling “a little dubious” about people being compelled to study his books, after helping his son with an essay about his own novel and receiving a C.

Source: Ian McEwan ‘dubious’ about schools studying his books, after he helped son with essay and got a C+

by Hannah Furness, Arts Correspondent, 8 May 2018

McEwan, author of works including Atonement, Amsterdam, and On Chesil Beach, said he remained unconvinced about the purpose of asking students to analyse his work.

“I always feel a little dubious about people being made to read my books,’ he told Event magazine, saying his son Greg was required to write an A-Level essay on Enduring Love several years ago.

“Compelled to read his dad’s book – imagine. Poor guy,” McEwan added.

“I confess I did give him a tutorial and told him what he should consider. I didn’t read his essay but it turned out his teacher disagreed fundamentally with what he said.

“I think he ended up with a C+.”

Asked for his thoughts on the literary landscape of 2018, McEwan suggested he was sceptical.

“Literary fiction is in a curious nosedive saleswise, down about 35 per cent over the past five years,” he said.

“Everyone’s got a theory: TV box sets, some sort of fatigue, who knows. Maybe it’s not just good enough.

“When people ask me who are the amazing writers under 30, I’m not in a position to judge. I start a lot of modern novels and don’t find myself compelled to continue.”

McEwan’s latest work has seen him adapt his novel, On Chesil Beach, for the screen after other books were turned into films by outside scriptwriters.

“I’ve learnt from experience that if you want to have influence, you have to get your hands dirty,” he said, admitting: “I tinker – I can’t stop.

“There’s one scene in the movie I know that if it had occurred to me when I was writing the novel, I’d have put it in.

“What’s also not in the book is the ending, because cinematically it’s irresistible.”



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One space between each sentence, they said. Science just proved them wrong. – The Washington Post

Obviously, there needs to be a standard. But do we really want to leave it to science?

Source: One space between each sentence, they said. Science just proved them wrong. – The Washington Post

In the beginning, the rules of the space bar were simple.  Two spaces after each period.  Every time.  Easy.

That made sense in the age of the typewriter. Letters of uniform width looked cramped without extra space after the period. Typists learned not to do it.

But then, at the end of the 20th century, the typewriter gave way to the word processor, and the computer,  and modern variable-width fonts.  And the world divided.

Some insisted on keeping the two-space rule.  They couldn’t get used to seeing just one space after a period.  It simply looked wrong.

Some said this was blasphemy. The designers of modern fonts had built the perfect amount of spacing, they said. Anything more than a single space between sentences was too much.

And so the rules of typography fell into chaos. “Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong,” Farhad Manjoo wrote in Slate in 2011.  “You can have my double space when you pry it from my cold, dead hands,” Megan McArdle wrote in the Atlantic the same year.  (And yes, she double-spaced it.)

This schism has actually existed throughout most of typed history, the writer and type enthusiast James Felici once observed (in a single-spaced essay).

The rules of spacing have been wildly inconsistent going back to the invention of the printing press. The original printing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence used extra long spaces between sentences. John Baskerville’s 1763 Bible used a single space. WhoevenknowswhateffectPietroBembowasgoingforhere.Single spaces. Double spaces.  Em spaces.   Trends went back and forth between continents and eras for hundreds of years, Felici wrote.It’s not a good look.

And that’s just English. Somewrittenlanguageshavenospacesatall and o thers re quire a space be tween ev e ry syl la ble.

Ob viously, thereneed to be standards. Unless    you’re doing avant – garde po e try, or    something , you  can’tjustspacew ords ho w e v   e    r   y      o        u            want.     That would be insanity. Or at least,


Enter three psychology researchers from Skidmore College, who decided it’s time for modern science to sort this out once and for all.

“Professionals and amateurs in a variety of fields have passionately argued for either one or two spaces following this punctuation mark,” they wrote in a paper published last week in the journal Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics.

They cite dozens of theories and previous research, arguing for one space or two.  A 2005 study that found two spaces reduced lateral interference in the eye and helped reading.  A 2015 study that found the opposite.  A 1998 experiment that suggested it didn’t matter.

“However,” they wrote, “to date, there has been no direct empirical evidence in support of these claims, nor in favor of the one-space convention.”

So the researchers,  Rebecca L. Johnson,  Becky Bui  and Lindsay L. Schmitt,  rounded up 60 students and some eye tracking equipment,  and set out to heal the divide.

First, they put the students in front of computers and dictated a short paragraph, to see how many spaces they naturally used. Turns out, 21 of the 60 were “two-spacers,” and the rest typed with close-spaced sentences that would have horrified the Founding Fathers.

The researchers then clamped each student’s head into place, and used an Eyelink 1000 to record where they looked as they silently read 20 paragraphs. The paragraphs were written in various styles: one-spaced, two-spaced,  and strange combinations like two spaces after commas,  but only one after periods.  And vice versa, too.

And the verdict was: two spaces after the period is better.  It makes reading slightly easier.  Congratulations, Yale University professor Nicholas A. Christakis.  Sorry, Lifehacker.

Actually, Lifehacker’s one-space purist Nick Douglas pointed out some important caveats to the study’s conclusion.

Most notably, the test subjects read paragraphs in Courier New, a fixed-width font similar to the old typewriters, and rarely used on modern computers.

Johnson, one of the authors, told Douglas that the fixed-width font was standard for eye-tracking tests, and the benefits of two-spacing should carry over to any modern font.

Douglas found more solace in the fact that the benefits of two-spacing, as described in the study, appear to be very minor.

Reading speed only improved marginally, the paper found, and only for the 21 “two-spacers,” who naturally typed with two spaces between sentences.  The majority of one-spacers, on the other hand, read at pretty much the same speed either way.  And reading comprehension was unaffected for everyone, regardless of how many spaces followed a period.

The major reason to use two spaces, the researchers wrote, was to make the reading process smoother, not faster.  Everyone tended to spend fewer milliseconds staring at periods when a little extra blank space followed it.

(Putting two spaces after a comma,  if you’re wondering,  slowed down reading speed,  so don’t do that.)

The study’s authors concluded that two-spacers in the digital age actually have science on their side, and more research should be done to “investigate why reading is facilitated when periods are followed by two spaces.”

But no sooner did the paper publish than the researchers discovered that science doesn’t necessarily govern matters of the space bar.

Johnson told Lifehacker that she and her co-authors submitted the paper with two spaces after each period — as was proper. And the journal deleted all the    extra spaces anyway.

Note: An earlier version of this story published incorrectly because, seriously, putting two spaces in the headline broke the web code.

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Why You Should Surround Yourself With More Books Than You’ll Ever Have Time to Read | Inc.com

An overstuffed bookcase (or e-reader) says good things about your mind.

Source: Why You Should Surround Yourself With More Books Than You’ll Ever Have Time to Read | Inc.com

Lifelong learning will help you be happier, earn more, and even stay healthier, experts say. Plus, plenty of the smartest names in business, from Bill Gates to Elon Musk, insist that the best way to get smarter is to read. So what do you do? You go out and buy books, lots of them.

But life is busy, and intentions are one thing, actions another. Soon you find your shelves (or e-reader) overflowing with titles you intend to read one day, or books you flipped through once but then abandoned. Is this a disaster for your project to become a smarter, wiser person?

If you never actually get around to reading any books, then yes. You might want to read up on tricks to squeeze more reading into your hectic life and why it pays to commit a few hours every week to learning. But if it’s simply that your book reading in no way keeps pace with your book buying, I have good news for you (and for me; I definitely fall into this category): Your overstuffed library isn’t a sign of failure or ignorance, it’s a badge of honor.

Why you need an “antilibrary”

That’s the argument author and statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb makes in his bestseller The Black Swan. Perpetually fascinating blog Brain Pickings dug up and highlighted the section in a particularly lovely post. Taleb kicks off his musings with an anecdote about the legendary library of Italian writer Umberto Eco, which contained a jaw-dropping 30,000 volumes.

Did Eco actually read all those books? Of course not, but that wasn’t the point of surrounding himself with so much potential but as-yet-unrealized knowledge. By providing a constant reminder of all the things he didn’t know, Eco’s library kept him intellectually hungry and perpetually curious. An ever-growing collection of books you haven’t yet read can do the same for you, Taleb writes:

A private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

An antilibrary is a powerful reminder of your limitations — the vast quantity of things you don’t know, half-know, or will one day realize you’re wrong about. By living with that reminder daily you can nudge yourself toward the kind of intellectual humility that improves decision-making and drives learning.

“People don’t walk around with anti-résumés telling you what they have not studied or experienced (it’s the job of their competitors to do that), but it would be nice if they did,” Taleb claims.

Why? Perhaps because it is a well-known psychological fact that it’s the most incompetent who are the most confident of their abilities and the most intelligent who are full of doubt. (Really. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect.) It’s equally well established that the more readily you admit you don’t know things, the faster you learn.

So stop beating yourself up for buying too many books or for having a to-read list that you could never get through in three lifetimes. All those books you haven’t read are indeed a sign of your ignorance. But if you know how ignorant you are, you’re way ahead of the vast majority of other people.

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New words to live by: “Blundermouth”

Time, once again, for New words to live by. This is a word or phrase not currently in use in the U.S. English lexicon, but might need to be considered. Other words, such as obsurd, crumpify, subsus, flib, congressed, and others, can be found by clicking on the tags below. Today’s New Word is created by taking two nouns and creating a new word. Without further waiting and just in time for spring, blundermouth.

Blunder, n. Gross, stupid, careless, thoughtless mistake.

Mouth, n. The opening through which a human speaks, or utters words and sounds.

Blundermouth, n. the act of uttering or speaking gross, stupid, careless, or thoughtless speech. Often do to a lack of concern for the information or the person being spoken to. Blundermouth can also be a verb.

Used in a sentence: Once again the U.S. President was a blundermouth, speaking openly of classified information about Russia while the press, the Russian diplomat, and other senior Russian officials where in the room. When asked about it, the White House Press Secretary replied, “The President blundermouths all the time. He considers his duty to do so to the fake media.”

Most recent new word: furture.

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Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

Ends on April 30, 2018

$20.00 USD

Submit stories and essays on any theme, up to 6,000 words each. The winning story and essay will each receive $2,000. Ten Honorable Mentions will receive $100 each. The top 12 entries will be published online. Judge: Dennis Norris II, assisted by Lauren Singer.

For this contest, a story is any short work of fiction, and an essay is any short work of nonfiction. You may submit published or unpublished work. This contest accepts multiple entries (submit them one at a time). Please omit your name from your entries. We prefer 12-point type or larger. Please avoid fancy, hard-to-read fonts. Double-spacing is recommended.

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