My Visit With Harlan Ellison

The Legendary Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison left the earthly plane on June 28, 2018. He was a beyond-prolific writer and legend and probably one of the most notorious contributors to the Now Write! series. When I consulted film industry friends on approaching Mr. Ellison about contributing to Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, the response was invariably, “Don’t bother.”

Harlan’s philosophy: “We’re all stupider than we should be.”

Harlan had a reputation for being, er, um, ah, difficult. He once sent a dead gopher to a publisher (an incident he recounted with glee during my visit.) He’s also known in the entertainment industry for being lawsuit-happy, most famously settling out of court with James Cameron over Cameron’s admitted use of one of Harlan’s Outer Limits episodes for TERMINATOR.

Despite the warnings, I was undaunted in my quest to include him in the book.
Still, I was a little surprised when he graciously agreed to allow a reprint of an
article he wrote in the seventies, with the new addition of a writing exercise that
cropped-book-coverwould make it fit for our Now Write! format (
“First, There Was The Title” in the “Theme and Meaning” chapter.)  I honored his specifications – including the registered trademark symbol after his name – and we never had a problem.

After the book came out we had a phone conversation in which he gave me a lot of good advice as an editor. He then invited me to his home for a face-to-face visit – an offer I couldn’t refuse.

H-Ellison-Aztec-front-of-house-wide-crop-sm

THE LOST AZTEC TEMPLE OF MARS

“Harlan’s home, high in the hills above Sherman Oaks, is a work of art and a wonder to behold. My meager talent at tippy-tapping out words falls far short of coming to grasp with the idea of the concept of describing Harlan’s home. Even Ray Bradbury would pause and frown in thought. This is Ellison Wonderland, and evidently, it has undergone a re-christening, as Harlan’s address as listed in _Contemporary Authors_ Vol. 46, New Revised Edition, 1995, reads The Lost Aztec Temple of Mars, CA.”

(Quoted from his website – where you can find a lot more Harlan FAQs.)

MY VISIT WITH HARLAN

He had suffered a recent stroke, and I found Harlan physically weak, but mentally quite strong. He wasn’t able to give me a tour but still allowed me to roam his domain, which really is a work of crazy art: the décor and mind-boggling collections of books, art and kitsch, custom ladders, odd-shaped rooms, secret entrances and Aztec exterior made this a fitting home for a one-of-a-kind eccentric genius like Harlan.

These pictures can’t possibly do it justice, but may serve to give you some idea:

his office

 

Harlan can quote from his thousands of stories and books, as well as rattle off how many of each glass, knife, comic book or action figure he’s collected. Despite his recent stroke, the man’s mind remains sharper than a steel trap, which he claims is both a blessing and a curse. I believe him.

During several hours of candid conversation we hit it off better than I expected, including an in-depth discussion of philosophy and relationships.

I learned he had a close friendship with Robin Williams, who he said was too gentle and kind to ever be at ease in the cutthroat entertainment industry.

dean5He spoke glowingly of Roger Dean, designer and artist best known for fantasy posters and album covers for conceptual rock bands, and who shared a common experience of suing James Cameron – in Dean’s case it was for his paintings being the inspiration for much of the look and feel of AVATAR. (Enjoy Dean’s desktop downloads.)

PW-SR-0813Harlan also introduced me to Pen World Magazine, which we both sort of drooled over before his lunch arrived. I had been invited to stay but didn’t want to wear out my welcome.

Harlan is a true character, a bit of a curmudgeon, definitely not the type to suffer fools. I’m grateful he didn’t deem me as such – it was a surprising and memorable visit indeed!

Now Write! Editor, Laurie Lamson

FYI there’s a Harlan Ellison YouTube channel.

Now Write! at Genre-La 2/23/18

Now Write! Editor Laurie Lamson will be at West Coast Writers’ Genre-LA Creative Writing Conference.

Friday, Feb 23, 3:15pm
Great Beginnings Openings – Your First Line, First Page, First Three Pages

You hear from editors and agents that if the first paragraph of your story isn’t strong enough, they won’t read the first page, let alone the first fifty. Separate fact from fiction and remain true to your story. Writing a first line that will grab an editor and immediately announce your authority as an author.  A unique opportunity for you to learn how real pros consider the merits of the material and the intent of the author, then offer improvements covering everything from glaring grammar errors to story-structure flaws to the overall storytelling and more.  Bring 5 copies of your first 3 pages. Selected pages will be read aloud, so the audience can follow along and learn how the panel reviews and may suggest improving the samples.  Sara Anne Fox (Moderator), Mike Robinson, Whitney Davis, Deanna Brady, Laurie Lamson (Panelists.)

Friday, Feb 23, 5:45pm
Writing Secrets from Masters of the Speculative Genres

Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror provides rare access to writing secrets from masters of the speculative genres.   Now Write! editor Laurie Lamson will lead a creative writing workshop using an exercise from the “Ideas and Inspiration” chapter from one of the most celebrated contributors.

 

RIP The Scariest Guy in America: Jack Ketchum

RIP Dallas Mayr aka Jack Ketchum

I was deeply saddened to learn that Jack Ketchum passed away on the morning of January 24, 2018.  He left quite a legacy of real-life horror inspired by his deep humanity.  See below the conversation I had with him at Center for Fiction and more about his work.  He will be missed.

A Conversation With the Scariest Guy In America

NowWriteSFFHorIconLaurie Lamson, editor of the new Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror book of writing exercises, had a conversation at Center for Fiction in New York City on April 15, 2014 with one of the contributors:  Jack Ketchum.

You might think a true-life crime and horror speculative fiction author, who Stephen King has referred to as, “the scariest guy in America”, would be intimidating.  But meeting and speaking Laurie&Dallassmwith Jack Ketchum was quite the opposite.  He is a warm and caring person who uses his skill as a writer to exercise (and probably exorcise) his imagination, expose evil in the world and entertain audiences with a fascination for the darker side of life.

He was generous in sharing his insights about craft and answering a lot of thoughtful questions from the audience:

More about Jack Ketchum

JackKetchum-Copyright_Steve_Thornton
photo by Steve Thornton

Jack Ketchum is the pseudonym for novelist Dallas Mayr.   As a teenager, he was befriended by Robert Bloch (author of Psychowho became a mentor to him. He supported Ketchum’s work, just as his work was supported by his own mentor, H.P. Lovecraft. 

Before becoming a full-time writer, he worked as a private garbageman, a lumber salesman, a copywriter, editor of the paleontological magazine “Fossils,” and as a literary agent for Scott Meredith, Inc., where he served as agent for author Henry Miller. He also worked in off-off Broadway and summer stock as a reviewer, playwrite and director.

offseasonIn 1980, Jack Ketchum published his first novel Off Season, about a real-life family that lived in a cave and had a lifestyle of murder, cannibalism, and incest.  Mainstream reviewers hated it, but fans felt otherwise.

His next publication was Hide and Seek and more of his successful novels include She Wakes, Cover, Road Kill (aka Joyride), Only Child (aka Stranglehold), Ladies’ Night, and Triage (a collection of novellas) with fellow writers.  In 1990 he published Offspring, the sequel to Off Season.

TheCrossingsHe concentrates mainly on real-life monsters, but also writes otherworldly and surreal stuff, like a dark Western novella The Crossings, and “The Haunt”, a short supernatural tale.

So far, Jack has won the Bram Stoker Award for his short stories “The Box” and “Gone”, and his collections Closing Time and Peaceable Kingdom.

thelostSome of his most powerful novels have been turned into films: RED, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, THE LOST, THE WOMAN, OFF SPRING.

Two short stories were made into short films: “Mail Order” and “Olivia”.  By the way, you can hear Jack read an excerpt from “Olivia”.  He also wrote a book that is auto- and biographical of influential people in his life called Book of Souls.

NOW WRITE! WORKSHOP: A Creative Writing “Incubator”

  • crumpled-paperWant to write a book but not sure how to get started?
  • Having trouble completing a novel, story, memoir, or screenplay?
  • Overwhelmed with ideas?
  • Or maybe you’re just feeling stuck?

This workshop is for you!

Sunday, October 16, 2016, 9:30 am – 1:00 pm

Honor and empower the writer in you.

Now Write! editor Laurie Lamson will lead a creative writing “incubator” workshop designed to give you:

  • The kick-start you need for a specific project or just to get you writing in general.
  • Help developing your unique voice and staying motivated as a writer.
  • Deeper understanding of the overall culture purpose of storytelling.
  • A break from the inner critic and a nonjudgmental, idea-inspiring approach to feedback.
  • Thought-provoking creative writing exercises to get your juices really flowing.

The result: you will improve both your craft and your relationship with yourself as a writer.

photo by Renee RobynQuiet the inner critic and get your creative juices flowing.

You will be guided through some of Laurie’s favorite exercises from the Now Write! series to quiet the inner critic, get your creativity flowing and work on key elements of writing.

A safe creative environment will be established through a non-judgmental approach to feedback to avoid premature criticism that tends to stifle good writing.

This interactive Master Class is limited in size, so you receive a maximum amount of individual attention in a workshop environment. Become a better more empowered writer.  Get personal attention on your work and career– insight you will not receive anywhere else!

Workshop Leader: Laurie Lamson

Laurie April 2016Laurie Lamson is a professional writer, filmmaker and editor. Many of the videos of her educational and corporate scripts won multiple awards. She has written several screenwriting projects on assignment and has three of her own scripts in development with producers.

She created the Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror book, was co-editor of Now Write! Screenwriting and Now Write! Mysteries books. She was also telecon host for three years for the International Screenwriters’ Association.

Laurie is a lifelong student of creative and dramatic writing whose natural evolution is to help educate and inspire fellow and sister writers. She edited three writing exercises anthologies published by Tarcher/Penguin: Now Write!Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Now Write! Mysteries and Now Write! Screenwriting.

As a screenwriter she has three projects in development with producers. As a filmmaker she directed, co-produced and co-wrote the short romance Eternal Waltz, the award-winning reggae music video “Live and Learn,” the feminine comedy Family Values In The Goddess Years, and a variety of other short projects.

Hosted by West Coast Writers and Greater Los Angeles Writers’ Society.

Sunday October 16, 2016
10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Early bird Registration
$99 all segments, half day

Week of Event Registration
$149 all segments, half day

Location
DoubleTree by Hilton
Los Angeles – Westside
Hermosa Beach Room
6161 West Centinela Avenue
Culver City, CA 90230

Register Now and Save
Class size is limited.

Now Write! Panel: Capturing Your Dreams – How to Craft a Bestselling Fantasy Novel

GLAWS Special Speaker panel Sat. Sept 17, 2016

stackcroppedContributors to Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror will discuss craft in a way that goes beyond the usual writers’ panel.  Our panelists will speak candidly about their own writing and share their favorite tools.  Be inspired by Kim Dower’s encouragement to capture material from you dreams, learn Michelle Newman’s secrets on how to effectively ground fantasy in reality and have fun with Derek Taylor Kent’s approach to character development.  We will do one of our guests’ exercises during the event, so bring a notebook, pens will be provided.  Moderated by Now Write! editor, Laurie Lamson.

Kim-DowerKim Dower

(“Steal From Your Dreams With a Twist of Fevered Writing” in Ideas and Inspiration chapter.)

Kim Dower is a poet with three collections: Air Kissing on Mars (2010), Slice of Moon (2014) and Last Train to the Missing Planet came out earlier this year (all published by Red Hen Press.) Her poems have appeared in journals including Ploughshares, Eclipse, Rattle, and Barrow Street. She has taught creative writing at Emerson College and teaches Come Dressed as Your Favorite Poem, at Antioch University Los Angeles.

Derek Taylor KentDerek Taylor Kent

(“FUNdamentals of Writing” in Memorable Heroes, Villains and Monsters chapter.)

Derek Taylor Kent is an author, screenwriter, performer and director based in Los Angeles. His award-winning book series Scary School (written under pen-name Derek the Ghost) has become one of the most popular new series for middle-readers ages 7 to 12. His bi-lingual picture book El Perro Con Sombrero came out August 18, 2015 through Holt/Macmillan and was a #1 best-selling new release. His first novel for an adult audience, Kubrick’s Game, is set for release September 26, 2016 through Evolved Publishing.

Other books include the award-winning educational picture book Simon and the Solar System and the magical adventure Rudy and the Beast, both available now. Derek also specializes in writing narrative scripts for Virtual Reality content.

Michele N. 241Michelle Newman

(“Make It Real” in Scene Construction and Style chapter.)

Michelle Newman is completing her first historical fantasy novel, “Mistaken Knights,” while trying to save the world one kilowatt hour at a time: She moonlights for a company that creates green energy solutions for small and medium-sized businesses.

Schedule

2:00 – Doors open to the public – Register & Network with other writers
2:30 – Announcements
3:00 – Now Write! Panel
4:15 – Q&A
4:45 – Meet the Speaker(s)
5:30 – Library must close
6:00 – Guest of Honor Dinner – Members-only by RSVP.

Location

Palms-Rancho Park Library
Ray Bradbury Room
2920 Overland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
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