Waiting on the database analysts to upgrade our test environment. This project has resembled a fiasco since moment one. But, while I’m in the limbo ether of waiting, my mind sort of spiked off into a ramble-a-thon.
I’ve been on a Harlan Ellison kick recently. I read his Deathbird Stories anthology and am mostly through his Angry Candy anthology. Authors who excel and revel in the short story form are rare these days. The short is an under-appreciated and under-utilized format. I think most genre writers view it as more of a training ground than as meritous in itself.
Did I mention that I’ve met Harlan Ellison? The man’s amazing. Rather intimidating, but you can see the heart beating on his sleeve. There’s a picture of me with him at Dragon*Con floating around on a hard drive somewhere. Gotta get that.
Anyway, Deathbird seems to be much angrier than Angry Candy, ironically. The fire which is a hallmark of Ellison’s writing is . . . banked in Candy. It’s more despairing than angry. I think his works are best served simmering.
And on a tangent–I mentioned this was a ramble, didn’t I?–I’m seeing a trend in authors where their childhoods really shape what they write. Like with Ellison, he had a vicious childhood as a Jewish child at a time when anti-Semitism was still pretty prevalent in America. And, as anyone who’s met or seen Ellison knows, he’s never been one to back down from a fight. And he carries a lot of angry memories from that time, apparently. You can see it in the stories he writes–in the children’s faces, either innocent evil or oppression. While Ray Bradbury seems like he had a more idyllic childhood and he writes of long, beatific summers and the mystery and wonder of youth.
I kind of wonder that my childhood doesn’t shape my writing more. I mean, it was horrible. And it’s not like I’ve blanked it from my memory or anything. I’ve still got some pretty vivid memories of my mother railing abuses at me at the top of her lungs in public, and in front of my little school children non-chums who then proceeded to mock me with it. Plenty of emotional abuse, pain, and repressed fury, a ripe landscape to transfer into emotion-filled tales. But it doesn’t seem to figure into my writing much. Wonder why? And I wonder if I should try to explore that more, give my writing that edge of despair.
Or maybe it’s because it doesn’t really bother me anymore. My childhood was horrible, but it happened and I’m over it. It sort of feels . . . I dunno, feels odd somehow to consider intentionally trying to revisit it.
Aw Hell. I just need to write something. I’m in the middle of three stories now. Dammit, I need to finish one of them.
Enough rambling. It’s lunchtime.
“met” you at fantasm… yep yep.. shhhhh… let’s not let the coworkers find out…
Co-workers? What co-workers? *Glak* Ooops.
Checked out your pix on your LJ, btw. Cute high chair. Like the dichotomy.
and you, my dear, have a wonderful way of handling… fruit…
Mmmf. Well, it was an awfully good banana.
Harlan Ellison happens to be one of my heroes. When i first saw him on the sci-fi ranting on about the problems within the sci-fi community, I listened when keen ears. When I found out that he had written the original novella to one of the greatist post-apocalypic movies ever, “A boy and his dog,” I litterally went into back flips. I have quite a few of his books. His stories will stick with you for a while. But my favorite aspect of Harlan Ellison is that he does not tolerate the crap that some fanboys give most sci-fi/fantasy personalities. Reminds me of this episode of the Simpson where Homer had to voice the new charcter for Itchy and Scracthy. Anyway, he was at a panel and one of these nerds started asking an obscure question and Homer replied by critisizing the nerd as a person. (This was also the episode where the Comic Book Store guys catchphrase “Worst Episode Ever” premeired). That is what Harlan Ellison is like to me. Anyway, i hope that you have a good day now.
Ellison rocks. Yep. No contesting that. When he’s at his best, his stories are eloquent inspiration.
But y’know, I think listening to him–either ranting about something or reading his own work–is the highlight of a Harlan experience. When he speaks, it’s like fireworks. Man’s got ten feet of charisma in his five foot four inch body.
I am positively writhing-green with envy, if such a thing can exist. Talk about one of the few authors I’d like to meet!
There are a few things I can directly site as being influential to me as a writer. One of them is Harlan Ellison. I read both Deathbird and Angry Candy when I was a senior in high school and a freshman in college (among any other of Ellison’s books I could get my grubby mits on). Combine that with seeing him on the Sci-fi network ranting about various topics… Strangely it was the first time I realized that there were authors behind books, and these authors were honest-to-gawd people with personalities and lives! And couldn’t I do that too if I wanted? Anyway, it was a revelation to me. 😉
As to using the past (especially childhood) in stories: Yes, I think sometimes when the demons are put to rest, they become so inconsequential they are of no use in writing. I spent a while writing stories about angry broken families. But then I made peace with my own angry family and it (primarily) left my writing. But I think every writer has certain themes that show in their writings. For Bradbury and Ellison you see their childhoods, but for others it might be something different.
Okay, sorry… I haven’t been writing rambling entries lately, just rambling replies. 😉 Happy writing to you!
I saw Harlan Ellison for the first time at Dragon*Con 1998. My husband and I had seen him rant on the Sci-Fi channel and we’d read a few of his works, but really went to see him just as something to do at D*C, not ’cause we were seeking him out or anything. But after hearing him that first time, stunned and rather awed, we spent the rest of the convention adjusting our schedule so that we could attend every single panel he spoke at thereafter. My God the man’s an amazing speaker. Downright inspiring (and I’m not into “inspirational speakers” at all). We also stood in line to get one of his books signed and he ticked off the people in the front of the signing line–as is his habit, I believe–and stepped away from his desk and just wandered the line, picking people at random to chat with and sign their stuff. We lucked out and he paused at us. I was completely tongue-tied and all I could do was hand him my book. Snarf.
Then, I got to meet him at Dragon*Con last year. I’m staff with on-site publications at D*C and Harlan swung by the media room where I was typing up an article. One of the directors of on-site pubs knew I admired him and introduced me whereupon I proceeded to babble something incoherent at him (“I’m your biggest fan, ooh, Mr. Ellison-blah-blah-blah.”) I’m sure I came across as a gibbering idiot. But Dean-the-photographer (another on-site pubs staff member) managed to get a shot of me and Harlan on his digi-cam. So I’m assured it’s floating around on his hard drive somewhere.
And Harlan complimented me! I do remember this part. He actually cupped my face in his hands and said I had “such a pretty face.” My reply was, undoubtedly, rather inane and gushy. Heh. What can I say? I was utterly bowled over by his very presence. I’m such a groupie.
Maybe next time I’ll be able to string something coherent together.
My own life experiences are also strangely lacking in my writing. Partly because I write weird science fiction, and the kinds of experiences I’ve had don’t really take place in my settings. But still. That’s no excuse. The Human Condition, and all. Shouldn’t be able to escape from it that easily. Sometimes I think I should try to write some actual autobiographical accounts, just to ground myself in reality and emotions and such, so I could draw on those experiences in my more fantastical writings.
By the way, I reviewed your Achromaghph story. I’ll be putting mine in the queue pretty soon, too.
I think writing from the soul really gets some quality prose going. That whole “writing from life” thing and all. The strongest pieces I’ve written have bits of me in them. ‘Course the one that sold had nothing of me in it, except for my amusement with the mailmobiles at work. Damn. No one cares about my pain! Heh.
Although, amusingly, “Achromaghph” does have some of my childhood in it. My mother actually said some of the things Ellie’s mother said to her, to me. But it’s so strange, I didn’t feel anything when I jotted those down, just used them as dialogue.
Catharsis it ain’t. But then again, I don’t seem to need a catharsis.
Anyhoo, thanks for the critique. I haven’t seen it yet, but I appreciate you reading “Achromaghph”.