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R.I.P. sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison

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As reported by Vulture and confirmed by his wife, prickly sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison has died. No cause of death has been released, but a statement from his wife, Susan Ellison, says that he died in his sleep today. As a writer, Ellison penned short stories like “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream” (which was later adapted into a video game), collections like Strange Wine, books like Web Of The City and A Boy And His Dog. Ellison was 84.


Born in Ohio in 1934, Ellison first began getting his work published as a teenager, with over 100 of his stories and articles getting printed over just a few years. His writing career got sidetracked in the late-’50s when he served in the military, and by the early-’60s he moved to California and began writing for movies and TV. He wrote for The Flying Nun, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and—most famously—Outer Limits and Star Trek. On the former, he wrote a couple of episodes that he believed were ripped off for James Cameron’s The Terminator, a claim that reportedly frustrated Cameron but got Ellison an acknowledgement in the credits.

On Star Trek, Ellison’s work included the episode “The City On The Edge Of Forever,” which is generally regarded as the best episode of the entire original series. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry rewrote Ellison’s original script extensively, infuriating Ellison and causing animosity between the two of them for years. Ellison had a habit of using a pesudonym—Cordwainer Bird—on works that he felt had been negatively impacted by influence from editors or producers, but Roddenberry ignored his wishes and put his real name on “The City On The Edge Of Forever.” When it came time for the Writers Guild Of America’s annual awards, Ellison submitted his original script and won for Best Episodic Drama Of The Year.

Ellison continued writing speculative sci-fi novellas and short stories, like “’Repent, Harlequin!’ Said The Ticktockman” and the aforementioned “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream,” which is about a handful of far-future humans being tormented for eternity by a malicious computer program. He also worked on the Twilight Zone revival in the ‘80s and Babylon 5.


Over the course of his career, Ellison won nine Hugo Awards, five Bram Stoker Awards, and four Nebula Awards—making him the only person to ever win the Best Short Story prize three times. He also received a Grammy nomination for his audiobook reading of Through The Looking-Glass And What Alice Found There.