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Harlan Ellison: “Life to me is a great ironic joke”

For more than fifty years, Harlan Ellison has entertained, and sometimes enraged, audiences with classic short stories, TV or film scripts and live appearances that mix foul-mouthed Lenny Bruce stand-up, barbed social  critique and comic voices that would do Mel Blanc proud. A natural performer, he'll stretch out uncommon words like Silly Putty, enunciating each syllable, and then unleash a stream of invective at a machine-gun pace that would weary his pal Robin Williams. His treasure trove of anecdotes feature everyone from Dorothy Parker to Patton Oswalt, all starring the once runty kid from Cleveland whose life, if written as fiction, no one would believe.

Ellison has always danced at cliff's edge. He marched with Martin Luther King in Alabama. He's assaulted TV executives, sabotaged William Shatner's toupee, and had his choice of footwear questioned by Frank Sinatra. Many colorful words have been used to describe Harlan, but the best remains writer -- of 1700+ published stories, screenplays, reviews, essays. Awards? Start with 8½ Hugos, four Nebulas, four Writers Guild of America Awards -- the list runs the length of a Manhattan phonebook. His new graphic novel "7 Against Chaos" prompted my talk with the elder statesman of speculative fiction.

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