Harlan Ellison is not the kind of person who cares if Neil Gaiman retweets Margaret Atwood. “I’m a happily 20th century guy,” he says by phone -- land line -- from his home. He has never tweeted, doesn’t engage on Facebook and writes on a typewriter -- manual, not electric.
His friends. “They -- the nudge squad -- dragged me literally screaming and kicking like a witch to Cotton Mather’s gibbet,” he says.
Those friends include screenwriter Josh Olson (“A History of Violence”), comedian Patton Oswalt and fellow author Gaiman. “It’s like they’re punking me -- because they know I have absolutely no interest,” Ellison says. “If I can’t get people to drop a buck in my pocket at harlanellisonbooks.com it doesn’t do me any good.”
Ellison, of course, is the author and editor of about 100 books; he has won multiple Hugo, Nebula and Bram Stoker awards, just for starters.
Although his work often dealt with speculative visions of the future, he’s content without most hallmarks of our advanced technology, like smartphones -- he says he uses cups and string for communication, but he’s prone to hyperbole.
In addition to hyperbole, Ellison has been known for having strong opinions and the chutzpah to share them. In the 1990s, The USA Network’s “Sci-Fi Buzz” show (note: he hates the term “sci-fi”) brought Ellison to do video commentaries; some of these have been posted on his YouTube channel, with more to come.
In the commentaries, Ellison riffs on current events and lets loose on people of the moment; he says, for example, that Rush Limbaugh has a brain of bat guano. But as much as his repertoire consists of barbs, there is also a sad segment in which he pays tribute to his recently deceased friend Isaac Asimov.
The channel also includes short contemporary videos. In them Ellison does a version of his famous riff, Pay the Writer, as well as talking about his experience participating in the March on Selma.
“History will decide if I’m a villain or a hero,” Ellison says. And now a new generation of viewers-slash-readers will get to see for themselves.