Harlan Ellison, one of the world’s foremost science fiction writers, has died at 84. His death was announced by family friend Christine Valada via twitter. Though Ellison was a longtime resident of Los Angeles, the location of death was not disclosed.
Tweeted Valada, the widow of Wolverine creator Len Wein: “Susan Ellison has asked me to announce the passing of writer Harlan Ellison, in his sleep, earlier today. “For a brief time I was here, and for a brief time, I matter.’ – HE, 1934-2018. Arrangements for a celebration are pending.”
Among Ellison’s highly influential and very popular novels and novellas are 1969’s post-apocalyptic A Boy and His Dog (made into a 1975 cult film starring a young Don Johnson) and, among the very many short story collections, 1980’s Shatterday, which included the remarkable title story that became the basis for the very first episode of the rebooted 1985 Twilight Zone.
Among Ellison’s Hollywood work was the screenplay for the non-sci-fi The Oscar, starring Stephen Boyd, and he also wrote for such TV shows as The Flying Nun, Route 66, The Outer Limits, Star Trek and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
Ellison’s Star Trek episode, “The City on the Edge of Forever,” is often cited as among the original series’ very best. Ellison himself was no fan of the end result, though, often complaining about rewrites. The 1967 episode had Captain Kirk (William Shatner) traveling back to 1930s New York and falling in love with a pacifist memorably played by Joan Collins. The twist: Kirk is faced with the prospect of saving the life of his new lady love, but doing so would altar the course of history to the extent that Germany would win World War II.
Revisions made to the script by, among others, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, so angered Ellison that the two feuded for years.
Decades later, on March 13, 2009, Ellison filed a lawsuit against CBS Paramount Television for income from the episode; a settlement was reached with amounts not disclosed.
Along with the Star Trek episode, Ellison’s 1964 Outer Limits installment “Demon with a Glass Hand” is widely considered among the best of its series. The bizarre, uncanny episode starred Robert Culp as a man who wakes with no memory but an apparently all-knowing glass hand. For years, rumors persisted that “Demon” inspired Terminator, though Ellison was quoted to have said, “Terminator was not stolen from ‘Demon with a Glass Hand,’ it was a ripoff of my OTHER Outer Limits script, ‘Soldier.'” According to a 1991 Los Angeles Times article, Ellison once again sued and settled.
His 1964 episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, “Memo From Purgatory,” starred a young James Caan as a writer who goes undercover to write about violent youth gangs of Brooklyn. The script was inspired by the Cleveland native’s move to New York to research a novel about street gangs.
Ellison also was a creative consultant to both the 1980s Twilight Zone reboot and Babylon 5.
Biography A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison by Nat Segaloff was published last year.
Among the many awards won by Ellison are multiple Nebula, Hugo and Edward awards, along with Edgar Allen Poe and Writers Guild of America trophies.
Ellison was married five times, with no children. A full list of survivors was not available. Arrangements for a life celebration are pending.
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