Speed Reads


Science fiction writer Harlan Ellison dies at 84

Harlan Ellison, the award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer, died Thursday. He was 84.

Ellison's death was confirmed by his fifth wife, Susan, who said he died in his sleep. He wrote novels, comic books, television scripts, and short stories, with his first published piece an article for the Cleveland News when he was 15. Born in Cleveland in 1934, Ellison worked numerous jobs, including as a bodyguard and truck driver, before attending Ohio State University; he was expelled in 1953 after trying to punch a professor critical of his writing.

He then moved to New York City, where he joined a Brooklyn gang called the Barons in order to have material for his debut novel, Web of the City. In 1962, he was fired by Roy Disney almost immediately after he was hired by Walt Disney Studios, after Disney overheard him making a joke about making a pornographic film starring Disney characters.

Ellison spent decades writing scripts for television, and when he wasn't pleased with a final product, asked to be credited for his work under the fake name Cornwainer Bird. He wrote the 1967 Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever," one of the most critically-acclaimed episodes of the series, but he wasn't happy with the revised script, and asked for Cornwainer Bird to receive credit, The Hollywood Reporter said. Gene Roddenberry denied the request and used Ellison's name, causing friction; Ellison's original script received a Hugo Award and was named the best episodic drama of the year by the Writers Guild of America.