August 30th, 2006

Steven Brust

On Harlan

Apparently, Harlan Ellison did a Bad Thing at Worldcon and fandom has taken him to task for it, as is proper. Those who want the details can find them in pnh's livejournal. He has apologized. Some don't feel the apology sincere, some do.

Okay, whatever.

There are a lot of things one might say about Harlan--about his writing (he seems to do his best storytelling in his essays, but at his worst he's good), or about his attitude, or the controversies around him. And, of course, there aren't that many people who have had as strong an effect on our field. I consider it a positive effect; others might disagree. And, yes, it is true that to some degree, in some ways, he has become a parody of himself.

But there is one point I would like to make. It is not only rare today, but it is even considered gauche to believe in something--anything--so much that one is willing to risk one's career, reputation, and livelihood because the principle is that important. Harlan is one of the very few who has shown and continues to show a willingness to do that.

Some of the issues he has demonstrated a willingness to take a strong position on are ones I don't think terribly important. On others, I come down on the opposite side.

But fuck all that.

When we think about Harlan, let us remember that most of what has been accomplished that was worthwhile in this sad world was accomplished by people who had principles, believed in them, and held to them in spite of everything, and that this is bloody damned rare these days.

I admire the hell out of Harlan Ellison, on many different levels.