According to reports (and as first announced below on Twitter), Harlan Ellison, one of the most influential and widely read science-fiction authors of the 20th century, has died. He was 84 years old.
Ellison’s primary legacy is as a writer of novels and short stories; he is credited with well over 1,000 published pieces over the course of a career that spanned decades. Some of his more well-known literary works include A Boy and His Dog (which later was adapted into a cult film) and the short story “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream,” and “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman.”
Movie and TV fans know him for a few key things. Ellison wrote the original screenplay for “The City on the Edge of Forever,” widely regarded by most fans as one of the very best episodes of the original series of Star Trek. (Ellison was not happy with Gene Roddenberry’s changes to his work, and the pair feuded off and on for years, but the episode is still an absolute classic.)
Ellison was also a consultant on the 1980s iteration of The Twilight Zone (the first episode of the revival featured an adaptation of his story “Shatterday,” directed by Wes Craven) and Babylon 5. Ellison also contributed scripts to the original run of The Outer Limits; later he sued the creators of The Terminator, claiming it plagiarized his work on The Outer Limits episode “Soldier.” (The lawsuit was later settled, and home video versions of the film added a credit for Ellison, although James Cameron always insisted he did not copy Ellison’s work.)
Ellison’s combative personality sometimes threatened to overshadowed his work; there’s a famous story about him mailing a dead gopher to a publisher that wasn’t returning his calls and letters. But he also authored some of the most beloved sci-fi stories of all time. He also gave great, insightful interviews, some of which are available online and worth tracking down. For a lot of reasons, he will be missed.