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Harlan Ellison, publicity hound

Tom Jackson • Mar 23, 2010 at 6:26 PM

As a longtime science fiction fan, I was very aware that more than a few of the writers I enjoyed reading were from Cleveland. I recently posted an article about Roger Zelazny, and I have a fan tribute area on the Internet for writer George Alec Effinger, including a FAQ I wrote about the writer.

I was also a big fan for years of Harlan Ellison, who writes in a variety of genres but is best known for his science fiction and fantasy stories.

Alas, Ellison's transition from an angry young man to a consistently nasty old one has not been a pretty sight, as this recent story from the Cleveland Plain Dealer illustrates. The article relates how Ellison turned down the Cleveland Arts Prize, calling it a fraud and a sham.

The administration of the award apparently is not above criticism. When Ellison was phoned and asked about the award, he was asked if he knew anyone in Cleveland who would buy an ad in the program book. ("Mr. Hemingway, you've won the Nobel Prize for literature! Say, do you know anyone in Stockholm who can buy an ad for the official program?")

But the victim in this incident is not Harlan Ellison, but Cleveland author Les Roberts, who nominated Ellison and now gets to see Ellison manufacture a controversy to generate a little publicity. This goes into the "no good deed goes unpunished" category.

Current science fiction writers in Cleveland include Geoffrey Landis, Mary Turzillo and S. Andrew Swann.

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