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'An Edge in My Voice' Harlan Ellison's views on art, morality, feminism, justice

Harlan Ellison at LA Press Club 1986 via Wikimedia Commons
Harlan Ellison at LA Press Club 1986 via Wikimedia Commons
Attribution: By Pip R. Lagenta from San Mateo, San Mateo [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

An Edge in My Voice by Harlan Ellison


If you’re fans, Harlan Ellison , the noted author and screenwriter (A Boy and His Dog, Demon with a Glass Hand) loves you. “May Yog-Sothoth hit me with a bolt of lightning in the pancreas if I’m not strictly wild about the whole slobbering, warbling pack of you,” he writes. At the same time, a piece of advice (among others) he offers his fans is to brush their teeth before approaching him. He concludes that particular column, the fourth in the present collection, by noting that next time he will be responding to reader postcards:

“Usually, I wouldn’t touch some of you with a leper’s claw. But then, I’m seldom invited back to the same house for dinner, so who’s to say.”

The mockery for the readership along with self-mockery wafting up from the writing here is consistent with the rest of the book, which is comprised of collected columns originally published in Future Life and then LA Weekly after the former folded. Included are a foreword by the late NBC anchorman Tom Snyder, an unpublished column, an introduction and an afterword written by Ellison.

The first column appeared in March 1980 and the last in January 1983. The collection was published in book form in 1985.

At times, Ellison sets all mockery aside either for joy and praise, as is the case with Voyager I’s approach to Saturn and some of its satellites in November 1980; or with a singer he knew from years before who “sings like an angel.” On other occasions, he vents outrage. In one instance, he sees the decline of Western civilization personified in a couple at a showing of “The Omen” because they, along with the rest of the audience, laugh at a scene in which a man is beheaded.

The book’s language is salty, to say the least. Nor does the author shy away from the vulgar. On the other hand, he is a stalwart supporter of the then-hot issue Equal Rights Amendment and mentions several times that he marched with Dr. Martin Luther King. Amid the at times overweening content and the snarling with readers who disagree with him, however, are nevertheless some interesting and even amusing items. Oreos or Hydrox cookies? Most profound perhaps, are his contemplations of the complex morality of his being judge at a “Miss Tush” beauty pageant.

At the end, though, there is only one right way to see things, and that is Ellison’s. For this reviewer, it’s difficult to read these columns, even on points of agreement, without thinking, “What a blowhard.” Other thoughts occur, of course, but best to leave them as thoughts.