Friday, 1 March 2013

Meeting Harlan Ellison

Dave Sim & Harlan Ellison, 1982
(Backcover photo, Cerebus #292, July 2003)
DAVE SIM:
(from Cerebus #292, July 2003)
Meeting Harlan Ellison on the last stop of the U.S. Tour 1982. He was scheduled to do a signing two days or so after ours at one of Chuck Rozanski's Mile High Stores in Colorado. I saw one of the fliers and mentioned that I was sorry I couldn't be there because I would sure like to meet him. The staff at the store heaved a sign of relief. Evidently he was in town and they asked if he wanted to meet us and he had said that he wanted to meet us if we wanted to meet him and they couldn't think of a diplomatic way to ask if we wnted to meet him. I had no idea that that was how the world of fame worked, but it is a very good rule of thumb. Make sure somebody wants to meet you before you agree to meet them. He actually read Cerebus, which was mind-boggling to me. He invited me to come out to visit him at Ellison Wonderland, which I did sometime in the next year. He was going through a backlash at the time, as I recall. Having been considered the ne plus ultra of science fiction authors for a number of years he was suddenly being assailed right, left and center. It got a whole lot worse for him before it started getting better. I remember him telling me that I would hear a lot of awful stories about him that weren't true. Being just a kid and unwise to the ways of the world, I couldn't for the life of me see why anyone would want to say bad things about Harlan Ellison. In the ensuing twenty years, of course, I've had more than sufficient first-hand experience with what seems to be the centerpiece of human nature. Of course, Dave Sim and Cerebus have never been acknowledged in the comic book field as being anything so for me it has really been a matter of going from being universally ignored to being universally hated - not altogether different conditions. I can't imagine what it must have been like to go from being universally exalted by the madding crowd to attracting the level of vituperation that Harlan went through. "Living well is the best revenge," he told me on that visit. Revenge? I remember thinking. What does Harlan Ellison need to have revenge for? Harlan's life was just one continuous victory, wasn't it? Like I say, I was just a kid and unwise to the ways of the world.

2 comments:

Tony Dunlop said...

I was a HUGE Harlan fan in the 70s, but I don't recall his falling out of favor in the "speculative fiction" (DON'T CALL IT SCI-FI!) community by the 80s. Anyone know what he was getting heat for?

M Southall said...

"Of course, Dave Sim and Cerebus have never been acknowledged in the comic book field as being anything so for me it has really been a matter of going from being universally ignored to being universally hated ..."

Well, no. As a dear friend of mine put it, "It's true that you feel this way, but that doesn't mean it's true."

Regardless of the merits of his observations elsewise, when it comes to himself Dave's views are remarkably obtuse - spectacularly at odds with those of people outside looking in. It may be true, as Gerhard has confided, that Dave has never felt he has gotten the acclamation he felt he deserved. But that is hugely different from the considerable acclamation Cerebus, he and Gerhard have received, which is not nothing.