Harlan Ellison’s reluctant book sale

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Would you like a book by Harlan Ellison, the multiple Nebula-winning, Hugo-award winning, Edgar-award winning writer? How about a book by Ellison from Ellison’s own collection? This week, fans and collectors are lining up for a part-online, part-analog book sale; it began Tuesday and concludes on Thursday.

‘I feel a little uncomfortable with it,’ Harlan Ellison told Jacket Copy. ‘I’ve always gotten extra copies, which I put into my vault.’ He’s been publishing for 55 years and has accrued lots and lots of books. He’s having the sale -- of books, screenplays, comics, magazines, DVDs, posters and other ephemera -- at the behest of his wife Susan.


Ellison, who describes himself as a bit of a pack rat, explains that despite building ‘an addition on the house called The Keep just to store books and toys,’ there is just too much to hold. ‘Susan says we’ve got to get rid of the stuff,’ he explains. At one point he tried to dissuade her from the sale by suggesting they auction the molds from his bridgework on eBay. She asked, Ellison says, ‘Are you demented?’ and set about picking out the sales items on her own.

The items that she designated to be sold were piled in the living room. ‘At night, when she would go to sleep, I would sneak in and snatch stuff back,’ Ellison admits. ‘It is utterly insane. Finally she had to slap me upside the head.’

What’s for sale? Hardcover first editions ‘Dangerous Visions’ and ‘Again, Dangerous Visions,’ the landmark anthologies edited by Ellison; a first edition of ‘Love Ain’t Nothing But Sex Misspelled,’ Ellison’s first hardcover publication; a first edition of Ellison’s ‘Alone Against Tomorrow’; paperbacks of ‘Slippage’, ‘Rumble,’ ‘Approaching Obilivion,’ ‘Deathbird Stories,’ ‘The Glass Teat,’ ‘Ellison Wonderland’ and many more. There are two copies of ‘The Sandman: Book of Dreams,’ edited and signed by Neil Gaiman, a 1947 copy of DC Publications ‘Real Fact Comics’ #5, and a 1977 2-LP set of ‘Blood! The Life and Future Times of Jack the Ripper,’ written and read by Robert Bloch and Harlan Ellison.

Ellison’s library -- that would be the non-purge-able library -- contains 250,000 volumes, but he hasn’t read them all. ‘Who the hell wants a library of books they’ve already read?’ he asks, echoing a character in his short story, ‘Paladin of the Lost Hour’ (it was made into a 1985 ‘Twilight Zone’ episode).

This is the third book purge Ellison has agreed to in 25 years. Who knows how long it will be before he is willing to do it again.

-- Carolyn Kellogg