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Harlan Ellison
Ellison in 1986
Ellison in 1986
Born Harlan Jay Ellison
(1934-05-27)May 27, 1934
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
Died June 28, 2018(2018-06-28) (aged 84)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Pen name Cordwainer Bird, Nalrah Nosille, and 8 others
  • Author
  • screenwriter
  • essayist
Period 1949–2018
Genre Speculative fiction, science fiction, fantasy, crime fiction, mystery, horror, film and television criticism
Literary movement New Wave
Notable works Dangerous Visions (editor), A Boy and His Dog, "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream", "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman", "The City on the Edge of Forever"
  • Charlotte B. Stein
    (m. 1956; div. 1960)
  • Billie Joyce Sanders
    (m. 1960; div. 1963)
  • Loretta (Basham) Patrick
    (m. 1966; div. 1966)
  • Lori Horowitz
    (m. 1976; div. c. 1977)
  • Susan Toth
    (m. 1986; his death 2018)

Harlan Jay Ellison (May 27, 1934 – June 28, 2018) was an American writer. His published works include more than 1,700 short stories, novellas, screenplays, comic book scripts, teleplays, essays, and a wide range of criticism covering literature, film, television, and print media. Ellison won numerous awards, including multiple Hugos, Nebulas, and Edgars.


Ellison was born to a Jewish family in Cleveland, Ohio, on May 27, 1934, the son of Serita (née Rosenthal) and Louis Laverne Ellison, a dentist and jeweler. He had an older sister, Beverly (Rabnick), who was born in 1926. His family subsequently moved to Painesville, Ohio, but returned to Cleveland in 1949, following his father's death. Ellison frequently ran away from home, taking an array of odd jobs—including, by age 18, "tuna fisherman off the coast of Galveston, itinerant crop-picker down in New Orleans, short-order cook, cab driver, lithographer, book salesman, floorwalker in a department store, door-to-door brush salesman, and as a youngster, an actor in several productions at the Cleveland Play House". In 1947, a fan letter he wrote to Real Fact Comics became his first published writing.

Ellison attended Ohio State University for 18 months (1951–53) before being expelled. He said the expulsion was for hitting a professor who had denigrated his writing ability, and over the next 20 or so years he sent that professor a copy of every story that he published.

Ellison moved to New York City in 1955 to pursue a writing career, primarily in science fiction. Over the next two years, he published more than 100 short stories and articles.

He served in the U.S. Army from 1957 to 1959. His first novel, Web of the City, was published during his military service in 1958. After leaving the army, he relocated to Chicago, where he edited Rogue magazine.

Ellison speaking at an SF convention, 2006

Ellison moved to California in 1962 and began selling his writing to Hollywood. He co-wrote the screenplay for The Oscar (1966), starring Stephen Boyd and Elke Sommer. Ellison also sold scripts to many television shows. Ellison's screenplay for the Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever" has been considered the best of the 79 episodes in the series.

In 1965, he participated in the second and third Selma to Montgomery marches, led by Martin Luther King Jr.

Ellison continued to publish short fiction and nonfiction pieces in various publications. "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" (1965) is a celebration of civil disobedience against repressive authority. "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" (1967) is a story where five humans are tormented by an all-knowing computer throughout eternity. The story was the basis of a 1995 computer game; Ellison participated in the game's design and provided the voice of the god-computer AM. Another story, "A Boy and His Dog", examines the nature of friendship and love in a violent, post-apocalyptic world and was made into the 1975 film of the same name, starring Don Johnson.

From 1968 to 1970, Ellison wrote a regular column on television for the Los Angeles Free Press.

A frequent guest on the Los Angeles science fiction / fantasy culture radio show Hour 25, hosted by Mike Hodel, Ellison took over as host when Hodel died. Ellison's tenure was from May 1986 to June 1987.

Ellison's short story "The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore" (1992) was selected for inclusion in the 1993 edition of The Best American Short Stories.

Ellison as an audio actor/reader was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children twice and has won several Audie Awards.

Ellison married five times; each relationship ended within a few years, except the last. In 1986, he married Susan Toth, and they remained together, living in Los Angeles, until his death 32 years later. Susan died in August 2020.

Harlan Ellison died in his sleep, at home in Los Angeles in the morning of June 28, 2018. His literary estate is currently executed by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski.


Ellison on occasion used the pseudonym Cordwainer Bird to alert members of the public to situations in which he felt his creative contribution to a project had been mangled by others, beyond repair, typically Hollywood producers or studios.

Other pseudonyms Ellison used during his career include Jay Charby, Sley Harson, Ellis Hart, John Magnus, Paul Merchant, Pat Roeder, Ivar Jorgenson, Derry Tiger, Harlan Ellis and Jay Solo.


  • Web of the City (1958) (originally published as Rumble)
  • Spider Kiss (1961) (originally published as Rockabilly)
  • "A Boy and his Dog"
  • The Starlost #1: Phoenix Without Ashes (1975)


Ellison won eight Hugo Awards, a shared award for the screenplay of A Boy and his Dog that he counted as "half a Hugo", and two special awards from annual World SF Conventions; four Nebula Awards of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA); five Bram Stoker Awards of the Horror Writers Association (HWA); two Edgar Awards of the Mystery Writers of America; two World Fantasy Awards from annual conventions; and two Georges Méliès fantasy film awards. In 1987, Ellison was awarded the Inkpot Award.

In his 1981 book about the horror genre, Danse Macabre, Stephen King reviewed Ellison's collection Strange Wine and considered it one of the best horror books published between 1950 and 1980.

Ellison won the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1993. HWA gave him its Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996 and the World Horror Convention named him Grand Master in 2000. He was awarded the Gallun Award for Lifetime Achievement in Science Fiction from I-CON in 1997.

SFWA named him its 23rd Grand Master of fantasy and science fiction in 2006 and the Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted him in 2011. That year he also received the fourth J. Lloyd Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award in Science Fiction, presented by the UCR Libraries at the 2011 Eaton SF Conference, "Global Science Fiction".

As of 2013, Ellison is the only three-time winner of the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. He won his other Nebula in the novella category.

He was awarded the Silver Pen for Journalism by International PEN, the international writers' union, in 1982. In 1990, Ellison was honored by International PEN for continuing commitment to artistic freedom and the battle against censorship. In 1998, he was awarded the "Defender of Liberty" award by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

In March 1998, the National Women's Committee of Brandeis University honored him with their 1998 Words, Wit, Wisdom award.

Ellison was named 2002's winner of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal's "Distinguished Skeptic Award", in recognition of his contributions to science and critical thinking. Ellison was presented with the award at the Skeptics Convention in Burbank, California, on June 22, 2002.

In December 2009, Ellison was nominated for a Grammy award in the category Best Spoken Word Album For Children for his reading of Through the Looking-Glass And What Alice Found There for Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films (USA)
  • Golden Scroll (Best Writing – Career 1976)
American Mystery Award
  • "Soft Monkey" (best short story, 1988)
Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine Reader's Poll
  • I, Robot screenplay (Special award, 1988)
Audie Awards
  • The Titanic Disaster Hearings: The Official Transcript of the 1912 Senatorial Investigation (Best Multi-Voiced Presentation, 1999)
  • City of Darkness (Best Solo Narration, 1999)
  • The Dybbuk (Audiobook Adapted from Another Medium, 2000)
Best American Short Stories
  • "The Man who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore" (included in the 1993 anthology)
The Bradbury Award
Bram Stoker Award
  • The Essential Ellison (best collection, 1987)
  • Harlan Ellison's Watching (best non-fiction, 1989 – tie)
  • Mefisto in Onyx (best novella, 1993 – tie)
  • "Chatting With Anubis" (best short story, 1995)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, 1995
  • I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (best other media – audio, 1999)
British Fantasy Award
  • "Jeffty Is Five" (best short story, 1979)
British Science Fiction Award
  • Deathbird Stories (best collection, 1978)
Deathrealm Award
  • Chatting with Anubis (best short fiction, 1996)
Edgar Allan Poe Award
  • "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" (best short story, 1974)
  • "Soft Monkey" (best short story, 1988)
Georges Melies Fantasy Film Award
  • Demon with a Glass Hand / The Outer Limits (Achievement in Science Fiction Television, 1972)
  • The City on the Edge of Forever / Star Trek (Achievement in Science Fiction Television, 1973)
Hugo Award
  • ""Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman" (best short fiction, 1966)
  • "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" (best short story, 1968)
  • The City on the Edge of Forever (best dramatic presentation, 1968)
  • Dangerous Visions (Worldcon special award, 1968)
  • "The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World" (best short story, 1969)
  • Again, Dangerous Visions (Worldcon special award for excellence in anthologizing, 1972)
  • "The Deathbird" (best novelette, 1974)
  • "Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans: Latitude 38° 54' N, Longitude 77° 00' 13" W" (best novelette, 1975)
  • A Boy and His Dog (film – best dramatic presentation, 1976. The Hugo was originally given to L.Q. Jones, the film's producer and screenwriter. After the ceremony, Ellison complained that as author of the original story upon which Jones's screenplay was based, he deserved to share in the award. No extra Hugo statuette was available, so to mollify Ellison, he received a Hugo base, which he called his "half Hugo".)
  • "Jeffty Is Five" (best short story, 1978)
  • "Paladin of the Lost Hour" (best novelette, 1986)
International Horror Guild Award
  • 1994 Living Legend Award
Jupiter Award (Instructors of Science Fiction in Higher Education)
  • "The Deathbird" (best short story, 1973)
  • "Jeffty Is Five" (best short story, 1977)
Locus Poll Award
  • The Region Between (best short fiction, 1971)
  • Basilisk (best short fiction, 1973)
  • Again, Dangerous Visions (best anthology, 1973)
  • The Deathbird (best short fiction, 1974)
  • Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans: Latitude 38° 54' N, Longitude 77° 00' 13" W (best novelette, 1975)
  • "Croatoan" (best short story, 1976)
  • "Jeffty Is Five" (best short story, 1978) (best short story of all time, 1999 online poll)
  • "Count the Clock that Tells the Time" (best short story, 1979)
  • "Djinn, No Chaser" (best novelette, 1983)
  • Sleepless Nights in the Procrustean Bed (introduction) (best related non-fiction, 1985)
  • Medea: Harlan's World (best anthology, 1986)
  • Paladin of the Lost Hour (best novelette, 1986)
  • "With Virgil Oddum at the East Pole" (best short story, 1986)
  • Angry Candy (best collection, 1989)
  • The Function of Dream Sleep (best novelette, 1989)
  • "Eidolons" (best short story, 1989)
  • Mefisto in Onyx (best novella, 1994)
  • Slippage (best collection, 1998)
Nebula Award
  • ""Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman" (best short story, 1966)
  • A Boy and His Dog (best novella, 1970)
  • "Jeffty Is Five" (best short story, 1978)
  • Grand Master Award (at Tempe, Arizona, May 6, 2006)
  • "How Interesting: A Tiny Man" (best short story, tied with Kij Johnson/"Ponies" 2011)
Prometheus Award
  • ""Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman" (2015 Hall of Fame Inductee)
Writers Guild of America
  • Demon with a Glass Hand / The Outer Limits (Best Original Teleplay, 1965)
  • The City on the Edge of Forever / Star Trek (Best Original Teleplay, 1967)
  • Phoenix Without Ashes / The Starlost (Best Written Dramatic Episode, 1974)
  • Paladin of the Lost Hour / The Twilight Zone (Best Anthology Episode/Single Program, 1987)
Writers Guild of Canada
  • The Human Operators / The Outer Limits (2000)
World Fantasy Award
  • Angry Candy (Best Collection, 1989)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, 1993
J. Lloyd Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award in Science Fiction
  • 2011 recipient (Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy, University of California–Riverside Libraries)

See also

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