At the MNSpec writer’s group, there are three names that keep coming up. These three would be the Prince, Michael Jackson and Madonna of writers for our group. They are writers who not only pushed the boundaries of commercial speculative fiction, but have also stood the test of time. They are Stephen King, Anne Rice and Harlan Ellison.
So who the hell is Harlan Ellison?
I was asking myself that very same question. Despite knowing a bit about his antics (See this fantastic rant from Harlan.) I’d heard more about Harlan’s personality than I ever did about his writing. So when I tripped over a documentary called Dreams With Sharp Teeth I had to check it out.
Harlan is such an interesting and quirky person that even if you aren’t an author or an avid reader, you still might want to watch this well constructed and highly entertaining documentary, directed by Erik Nelson. Guests include Robin Williams and Neil Gaiman.
Scattered throughout the documentary are clips of Harlan reading from his work. The man definitely has a way with words. I’ve never read anything by Harlan Ellison, but with titles like “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman and I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream, I’ll be checking these out soon. My favorite parts of the film are clips of him being interviewed back in the 70’s. Harlan is one cool cat, no question. And his biting cynicism, worldviews, chaotic behavior and intolerance for stupidity made me feel like I just discovered my real father. (Harlan might actually be my real father for all I know. My mom told me I was dropped off by the gypsies… long story.)
Dreams With Sharp Teeth is an excellent documentary about a fascinating human being. If you were thinking it would be cool to sit down and have dinner with Harlan, make sure to check out the bonus feature where Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman and the director sit around a table eating pizza and telling stories until Harlan looks at them and says, “When are you guys going to leave?” Fabulous.