Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Aaron's Magazine of the Week :: Fantasy & Science Fiction July 1977 issue

F&SF July 1977The Magazine of the Week is the July 1977 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction. This was a special issue devoted to author Harlan Ellison, and so is a fitting way to begin our tribute to Harlan Ellison, recently named Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. The delightful cover illustration of Ellison being accosted by the denizens of his own imagination is by outstanding SF illustrator Kelly Freas.

The Grand Master honor is presented annually to recognize the career of one of the greats of science fiction and fantasy. Past Grand Masters have included such luminaries as Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, and Ursula K. LeGuin. Harlan Ellison belongs in this group on the strength of his heavily-charged short fiction. Ellison was never much inclined to write at novel length, but has won seven Hugo Awards and a great host of other awards for his short fiction, which includes such all-time classics of the field as "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream", "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman", "The Deathbird", and "A Boy and His Dog" (basis for the film starring Don Johnson, pre-Miami Vice). Ellison has also been an influential editor, assembling the landmark anthologies Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions. Early in his career he was an important screenwriter -- he wrote the scripts for what are widely regarded as the finest episodes ever made of both Star Trek ("The City on the Edge of Forever" with guest star Joan Collins) and The Outer Limits ("Demon with a Glass Hand" starring Robert Culp) and was credited with the concept for the film The Terminator (after suing James Cameron for plagiarism) -- but he gradually phased out this aspect of his career, because he could not get along with anyone in Hollywood.

Which brings us to Harlan Ellison's notoriously irascible personality. The Magazine of the Week has some examples of Ellison's excellent writing, including the first appearance of his short story "Jeffty Is Five", which went on to win the Hugo Award for Best Short Story of 1977. But is also features a typical Harlan Ellison essay in which he berates all his own fans. "How boring it would be if all of you were as predictable and dull as so many of you seem to be," he tells his readers. More on Ellison's acidic nature next week.

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