The world lost another great writer on Thursday, when science-fiction writer
Harlan Ellison died in his sleep at the age of 84. To celebrate his life and legacy, I've picked out 15 great quotes from Harlan Ellison for you to remember him by.
Harlan Ellison was the author of nine book-length works, more than two dozen short-story collections, and nine works of nonfiction. His most famous stories are
"I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" and "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktock Man," and his 1969 novella, A Boy and His Dog, was made into a film in 1975.
Over the decades he worked as a writer for print and the screen,
Harlan Ellison garnered a reputation as a cantankerous and combative creative force. He was fired from Walt Disney Studios on his first day, but went on to be involved in the production of a number of famous sci-fi TV shows, including Star Trek, The Outer Limits, and The Twilight Zone. Ellison's work on Star Trek was the source of much Hollywood drama, with writers on the show changing his teleplay to remove anti-war messages from the episode "City on the Edge of Forever," and he sued CBS Paramount Studios "seeking revenue from merchandising and other sources from the episode," which aired in 1967, in 2009. Ellison also filed suit against the creators of two films — Future Cop and The Terminator — alleging that they infringed upon his original ideas. The author won all three cases.
The following 15 quotes represent some of the best, wittiest, and most insightful moments in Harlan Ellison's work:
"I know that pain is the most important thing in the universes. Greater than survival, greater than love, greater even than the beauty it brings about. For without pain, there can be no pleasure. Without sadness, there can be no happiness. Without misery there can be no beauty. And without these, life is endless, hopeless, doomed and damned. Adult. You have become adult."
"The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity."
"My philosophy of life is that the meek shall inherit nothing but debasement, frustration and ignoble deaths; that there is security in personal strength; that you can fight City Hall and win; that any action is better than no action, even if it's the wrong action; that you never reach glory or self-fulfillment unless you're willing to risk everything, dare anything, put yourself dead on the line every time; and that once one becomes strong or rich or potent or powerful it is the responsibility of the strong to help the weak become strong."
"Art is not supposed to be easier! There are a lot of things in life that are supposed to be easier . . . but not Art. Art should always be tough. Art should demand something of you. Art should involve foot-pounds of energy being expended."
"The only thing worth writing about is people. People. Human beings. Men and women whose individuality must be created, line by line, insight by insight. If you do not do it, the story is a failure. . . . There is no nobler chore in the universe than holding up the mirror of reality and turning it slightly, so we have a new and different perception of the commonplace, the everyday, the 'normal', the obvious. People are reflected in the glass. The fantasy situation into which you thrust them is the mirror itself. And what we are shown should illuminate and alter our perception of the world around us. Failing that, you have failed totally."
"You create your own Heaven, and you have the opportunity to live in it, but you have to do it on your own terms, the highest terms of which you are capable. So sail this ship through the straits, navigate the shoals, find the island, overcome the foam-devil that guards the girl, win her love, and you’ve played the game on your own terms."
"I don't know how you perceive my mission as a writer, but for me it is not a responsibility to reaffirm your concretized myths and provincial prejudices. It is not my job to lull you with a false sense of the rightness of the universe. This wonderful and terrible occupation of recreating the world in a different way, each time fresh and strange, is an act of revolutionary guerrilla warfare. I stir the soup. I inconvenience you. I make your nose run and your eyeballs water."
"The trick is not becoming a writer. The trick is staying a writer."
"Like the wind crying endlessly through the universe, Time carries away the names and the deeds of conquerors and commoners alike. And all that we are, all that remains, is in the memories of those who cared we came this way for a brief moment."
"There was light filtering down from above, and we realized we must be very near the surface. But we didn't try to crawl up to see. There was virtually nothing out there; had been nothing that could be considered anything for over a hundred years. Only the blasted skin of what had once been the home of billions. Now there were only five of us, down here inside, alone with AM."
"I go to bed angry every night, I wake up angry every morning. There are certain injustices in this life you’ve got to do something about. You can’t just say that you can’t fight it, or it’s too much trouble, or that you don’t have the time or the effort, or that you can’t win. Forget all that. Fight them all! I fight them all because you never know which one is the big one. You never know which you give up and then it will come back and bite you in the ass. You never look away from a mountain lion, you lock eyes and you don’t let him get behind you."
"They were worshippers at a black mass the city had demanded be staged; not once, but a thousand times a day in this insane asylum of steel and stone."
"Now it's done, and it was never my intention to sadden the reader, but if a writer is what he writes, then perhaps anyone who picks up this book needs to know that the footsteps in which we walk are deep."
"You know the world is going to end. There's no question about it, no supposition, no ravings from a bushy-bearded fanatic that may prove false ... this is the real thing, we all go splat a week from next Wednesday. What do you do?"
"For a brief time, I was here; and, for a brief time, I mattered."