Harlan Ellison is odd fellow. At age 72 when Dreams With Sharp Teeth was put together, he seems just this side of madness as he rants and raves about the world around him. But then, he has always ranted and raved about the world around him.
I have never been a huge fan of Harlan Ellison’s writing. I can’t name even a single story of his that I can remember reading, though I must surely have stumbled across one or two over the years. No, it’s more stories about Harlan Ellison than story by Harlan Ellison that spring to mind.
After seeing James Cameron’s Terminator, Harlan Ellison decided to sue because, well, it was a science fiction movie, and well, Harlan writes science fiction, so he should be credited for helping to create it. At least, that’s the way I have always heard it. Much as A.E. Van Vogt sued the creators of Alien for stealing the idea that a spaceship might run into aliens at some point while it was in space. I’m not sure why these two have not sued virtually everyone who has produced any sci fi in any form.
Another Harlan Ellison story has to do with Star Trek. City on the Edge of Forever is one of the best episodes of Star Trek the Original Series. But it was not filmed as Harlan Ellison wrote it. This so pissed him off that he wrote an entire book about it and included the original script so that everyone could see how superior it is to the episode that every Trekkie dearly loves. He reads a few lines from City on The Edge of Forever, doing a pretty good imitation of William Shatner’s famous pause acting.
Harlan Ellison is easy to understand, he just want things to be done his way-and he becomes outraged when they are not done his way. This means that even though he likes working in the movies and TV, he has so many conditions in place that very few people are willing to work with him. He dismisses this reality with a shrug.
Throughout Dreams with Sharp Teeth we are shown bits of tape featuring Harlan yelling at people. Mainly he yells at them for being so very stupid. One of the great little bits in the film is when he talks about watching The Weakest Link. The contestant was asked what famous star of Laurence of Arabia also wrote a very popular newspaper column about Bridge. The Contestant answered Naomi Campbell instead of Omar Sharif. Harlan was so flummoxed by this that he has turned into a running gag with his wife-the answer to virtually any question is now Naomi Campbell.
I grew up reading the last of the great Sci Fi writers, Issac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and Arthur C Clark, among others. Harlan Ellison was always the star of the Next Generation of great sci fi writers. I remember that he was friends with Issac Asimov and that he wrote a very good script for Issac’s book I, Robot. It was never filmed, of course, but it was about a million times better than that abomination starring Will Smith.
I have fallen by the wayside of current sci fi and have no idea who the big names of today are. Like everyone else these days I tend to read more stories about werewolves and vampires than Martians and Ray-guns.
Harlan is an old school kind of writer-he expects to be paid for what he writes. He doesn’t care about bloggers and he doesn’t like other writers who give away everything they do. He illustrates this by telling the story of an interview he did about Babylon 5 and how Warner Brothers asked if they could use the interview on the DVD. He said Sure, all you have to do is pay me. They didn’t pay him.
And so on and so forth. Dreams with Sharp Teeth is two hours of Harlan Ellison talking about all the things that bother him in general and the countless cases of personal grievances he has suffered in particular. Sprinkled in are interviews from a couple of his friends and lots of old footage. This is all great stuff.
Thanks to Agent139 for bringing it to my attention.