By Harlan Ellison
What’s making me happy today; I found a Harlan Ellison book I hadn’t read before. Back in the 80’s and 90s, I was a Harlan Ellison fan. The kicker for me… well there were two of them, actually.
One was The City on the Edge of Forever. A Star Trek episode, Bones goes insane with an accidental medical injection. Then he goes through a time portal and changes history, which means he will (and all of the Federation) not exist. Kirk and Spock follow him to prevent the disaster, but the price to do so is high. Kirk needs to let the woman he loves die. At the time, one of the best pieces of sci-fi I’d ever known. And it still stands up today (and I stand by that statement).
The second was “Repent, Harlequin!” said the Ticktockman. A story about civil disobedience. The Harlequin is a rebel who is never on time, and indeed slows other people down. The Ticktockman brainwashes him and returns him to society, repentant. But the Ticktock man, it turns out, was then behind schedule. This appealed to the teenager/early college student that I was. And its influence remains strong with me even today.
Neither of these are in Slippage. I’ve recently discovered Archive.org, which has an online lending library. I started by reading some of the Harlan Ellison that I had missed. The guy was amazingly prolific. Slippage, is a collection of short stories from the late 90’s, and I’m having the same reaction I did earlier. Um, wow.
Occasionally, he can be a little long. I think that the modern aesthetic is more toward brevity. Just look at all the flash fiction that’s out there. But it’s still pretty amazing. The way he lets the creativity flow is a thing to see. And while Ellison is known for science fiction, he also shows up in other genres as well. I read Mefisto in Onyx in an anthology of noir fiction. And noir it was, with plenty of fantastic elements.