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Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison(1934- )
In a career spanning more than 40 years, Harlan Ellison has written or edited nearly 80 books, more than 1700 stories, essays, articles and newspaper columns, two dozen teleplays and a dozen movies. He has won Hugos, Nebulas, Silver Pens, and is the only writer to have won the Writers Guild Award for Outstanding Teleplay four times.
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The Voice From the Edge Volume 1: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

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I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream: The Voice From the Edge Vol. 1 by Harlan Ellison

Probably everyone who knows anything about Harlan Ellison knows he’s a jerk (please don’t sue me, Mr. Ellison). I had to consciously put aside my personal opinion of the man while listening to him narrate his audiobook I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream: The Voice From the Edge Vol. 1. I was disgusted by some of these stories, but I have to admit that even though I suspect Ellison delights in trying to shock the reader with his various forms of odiousness (mostly having to do with sex), the stories in this collection are all well-crafted, fascinating, and Ellison’s narration just may be the best I’ve ever heard. Here are the stories:

"I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" — (1967, IF: Worlds of Science Fiction) Harlan Ellison spends the introduction to I Have No Mouth and I Must Screa... Read More

The Voice From the Edge Volume 2: Midnight in the Sunken Cathedral

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The Voice From the Edge, Vol 2: Midnight in the Sunken Cathedral by Harlan Ellison

As much as I dislike the man personally, I have to say that Harlan Ellison writes great stories. Even the stories that I don’t like — because they’re violent, gory, gross, or full of others varieties of ugliness — are good stories. And if there’s anything that Harlan Ellison does better than write great stories, it’s narrate them. He’s a superb story teller. That’s why I’ve picked up all of his Voice From The Edge recordings at Audible.com. Each is a collection of Ellison’s stories which he narrates himself. This second volume, Midnight in the Sunken Cathedral, contains these stories:

“In Lonely Lands” — (first published in 1959 in Fantastic Universe) This very short story is about loneliness, companionship, and dying. It’s touching and thought pro... Read More

The Voice from the Edge Volume 3: Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes

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The Voice from the Edge Volume 3: Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes by Harlan Ellison & Robert Bloch

This is the third collection of Harlan Ellison’s short stories which he has narrated himself. Each of these Voice from the Edge audiobooks is quite excellent. I can’t say that I like every story — some of them are just to gross for me — but I can say that Ellison is a great storyteller and that there’s no better way to read his stories than to listen to him read them to you.

This collection contains:

“Between Heaven and Hell” — (first published in 1994 in Mind Fields: The Art of Jacek Yerka, the Fiction of Harlan Ellison) This is a very short piece (3 minutes) in w... Read More

The Voice from the Edge Volume 4: The Deathbird & Other Stories

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The Voice from the Edge Volume 4: The Deathbird & Other Stories by Harlan Ellison

The Deathbird & Other Stories: The Voice from the Edge Vol. 4 is the fourth installment in Harlan Ellison’s 5-volume THE VOICE FROM THE EDGE series. He’s a born storyteller, without question the most passionate, intense and brilliant audiobook narrator I’ve ever experienced. He captures the characters’ quirks and attitudes, and narrates with masterful pacing and tone. This is the ideal showcase for him to read his favorite stories from a career spanning over 60 years.

Vol. 1 featured some of his best stories and narration, Vol. 2 was also excellent but not quite as brilliant as Vol. 1, and Vol. 3 had some top-notch stories and finished with two horror tales, the first narrated by Robe... Read More

The Voice from the Edge Volume 5: Shatterday & Other Stories

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Shatterday & Other Stories: The Voice From the Edge Vol. 5 by Harlan Ellison

Shatterday & Other Stories: The Voice From the Edge Vol. 5 is the final installment in Harlan Ellison’s 5-volume THE VOICE FROM THE EDGE series. It’s been quite a ride, and it’s hard to dispute that Ellison is a superb storyteller who can take an idea and run with it in the most original and twisted way, frequently delving into the dark and cruel side of human nature, but also celebrating moments of nobility and pathos along the way. His voice is powerful, unique, and very charismatic, so hearing him narrate his own work is a treat.

Like Vol. 4, not all the stories in Vol. 5 are narrated by Ellison himself. Fortunately the supporting cast are very skilled, and the stories really l... Read More

Ellison Wonderland: Annoyingly pompous, but still entertaining

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Ellison Wonderland by Harlan Ellison®

Harlan Ellison® comes across as pompous, overbearing, aggressive, and obnoxious, but I wouldn’t miss any of his stories. He’s one of the best story tellers in speculative fiction and I have no problem separating the man’s fiction from his personality (though that abrasiveness often comes across in his fiction, too). And, as much as I don’t like his personality, I have to admit that he’s interesting. Partly that’s because he does interesting things such as getting expelled from THE Ohio State University after assaulting a professor who criticized his writing, but mostly it’s because he’s been involved in the SFF scene since a couple of decades before I was even born, so he’s got a lot of stories to tell about the industry and about some of my favorite writers. Read More

Deathbird Stories: This 35 year-old collection has aged well

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Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison®

If Harlan Ellison’s afterword from 2010 is to be believed, Deathbird Stories is a short story collection about the merits of religion and the religious. Given that Ellison is perhaps as confrontational as he is influential in sci-fi circles, we can expect him to crush eggshells as he goes. However, with a few exceptions (“Bleeding Stone,” for example) these stories tend to examine the values and ideas that we have placed at the forefront of our society. In short, Ellison explores the West’s changing values and the new deities of the 20th century.

New gods? Some readers may already be thinking of Neil Gaiman’s popular novel American Gods. Deathbird Stories was originally publ... Read More

The City on the Edge of Forever: Harlan Ellison’s original teleplay

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The City on the Edge of Forever by Harlan Ellison, Scot and David Tipton, illustrated by J.K. Woodward

“The City on the Edge of Forever” is almost universally considered one of the best, if not the best, Star Trek episodes. Famously penned by Harlan Ellison, and nearly as famously changed quite a bit, IDW Comics has come out with a comic of Ellison’s original Hugo-winning teleplay. Done in five installments via collaboration between Ellison and Scot and David Tipton, and illustrated by J.K. Woodward, the end result makes for a fascinating read that stands on its own with the eventually produced episode.

The general plot is of course similar to the TV episode (warning, spoilers to follow, if one can spoiler a 40-year-old story). A crewmember from the Enterprise beams down to the planet below, trave... Read More

The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Vol 2: More disturbing than Vol 1

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The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2 edited by Gordon Van Gelder

I read the first volume (The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology, published 2009) before I tackled this one, published in 2014. It's only been five years, but I detected a darkening of the tone. Maybe I'm imagining it, maybe it's just me, but it seemed to me that the earlier volume contained stories that set out to go to strange places and, as a consequence, were sometimes disturbing, while this one contained stories that set out to be disturbing.

Consequently, given that "dark and disturbing" isn't my preference, I very nearly gave this one three stars instead of four — reflecting my reduced enjoyment, not reduced quality. These are still... Read More

Women Destroy Science Fiction! The Stories: Special audiobook edition

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Women Destroy Science Fiction! Lightspeed Magazine Special Issue: The Stories edited by Christie Yant, Robyn Lupo, Rachel Swirsky

Last June, Hugo-winning Lightspeed Magazine, which is edited by John Joseph Adams, devoted an entire issue (Women Destroy Science Fiction!, June 2014, issue #49) to female science fiction writers and editors. Under Christie Yant’s and Robyn Lupo’s editorial leadership, they accepted 11 original short science fiction stories and 15 original pieces of SF flash fiction. Rachel Swirsky chose and reprinted 5 stories previously published elsewhere. Last month, Skyboat Media and Blackstone Audio released an audio version of the stories from Women Destroy Science Fiction. They gave these their usual excellent attention, casting each story’s... Read More

Magazine Monday: Nebula-Nominated Short Stories

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Seven short stories from six sources have been nominated for the Nebula Award. Six of them are available for free online, so by following the links in this article, you’ll be able to find them and pick the one to which you’d give the prize.

The only exception to the “available online” category is Harlan Ellison's story, “How Interesting: A Tiny Man,” which was pulled from the internet when the Nebula voting period ended, and which is therefore available only in the February 2010 issue of Realms of Fantasy. In my opinion, you’re not missing the winner if you can’t track this one down. It’s a well-written story, as one would expect from Ellison, about a man (the narrator) who creates a five inch tall man whom he teaches to speak, refuses to name, and dresses in tiny suits. All is going well until the creator and the man ... Read More

Magazine Monday: Primeval: A Journal of the Uncanny, Issue One

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The first issue of Primeval: A Journal of the Uncanny, wasn’t what I expected. I thought I was getting a magazine featuring horror stories and essays about horror. Primeval’s self-description on its website didn’t lead me to expect anything different, poetically explaining that it is a publication that examines “the convergence of contemporary anxiety and ancient impulse.” Sounds very Lovecraftian, doesn’t it? The website also promises that each issue will feature “fiction and essays exploring horror, the macabre, and that which should not be — yet is.” And yet, as much as I enjoy fiction that falls into that vast category known as “the Weird,” I found that Primeval offered more incomprehensibility than horror, work that was more odd than Weird.

One exception is a reprint of Read More

Magazine Monday: Jamais Vu, Issue One

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New magazines fascinate me. These days they seem to be popping up on the internet like mushrooms after a summer rain. Jamais Vu: The Journal of Strange Among the Familiar is the latest of these ventures to cross my desk. The first issue, dated Winter 2014, opens with a message from the Editor-in-Chief, Paul Anderson (the one who makes the content decisions, as opposed to the Executive Editor, Eric S. Beebe, who bills himself as a figurehead who pays the bills). Anderson explains that Jamais Vu is an experiment arising from Post Mortem’s start as a publisher of anthologies. Rather than continuing with anthologies, which don’t sell particularly well, or resorting to the $.99 digital “short” that’s all the rage on Amazon these days, Post Mortem decided to try a magazine. If the quality of the magazine consistently matches that of the first issue, this venture ought to be a success.

The first s... Read More

Magazine Monday: Jamais Vu, Issue Two

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Issue Two of Jamais Vu does not fulfill the promise of Issue One (reviewed here).

“Valedictorian” by Steven Wolf is a post-apocalypse story, though there is no hint exactly what happened; we only know that few have survived, none of them adults, and the world is littered with dead bodies.  Wolf’s first-person narrator is a high-school-aged boy who, with his friend Gretchen, shows up at the local high school every school day. Gretchen is the one who insists on this, and she engages in serious self-study. The narrator just sleeps, although he changes classrooms on schedule and eats during the “assigned” lunch period. The two of them regularly interact with a group of younger children, around nine or ten years of age, who soon make it apparent that this story is a variant of William Gold... Read More

Magazine Monday: Subterranean Magazine, Summer 2014

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To the dismay of all lovers of great speculative short fiction, the Summer issue of Subterranean Magazine is its last. This magazine was notable not just for the quality of its fiction, but for its willingness to publish short fiction at the novelette and novella lengths. The Summer issue ably demonstrates just what we’re going to be missing.

The magazine begins with Caitlín R. Kiernan’s “Pushing the Sky Away (Death of a Blasphemer).” The first person narrator is in desperate straits, her water and morphine gone, lost in a building of endless hallways, caught in a dispute between the Djinn and the Ghûl. Yet despite the fantasy setting, science has a place in this tale, as Cesium isotopes and radiation poisoning play a role. Kiernan’s language is chosen carefully, turning parts of t... Read More

The Living Dead: Zombies aren’t the point

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The Living Dead edited by John Joseph Adams

I never knew there were so many ways to tell a zombie story. I pretty much thought that the George Romero version was it — dead people wandering around holding their arms out in front of them and calling out “braaaaaaains,” looking to munch on the living. I never did know why they had to hold their arms that way, but they all did — I thought.

John Joseph Adams has chosen his material wisely in The Living Dead, a collection of short stories about zombies by some of the biggest and best names in the horror business, as well as the newest and hottest. I resisted this book for a long time because I’ve never been fond of zombies, but upon diving in, I discovered that the zombies aren’t really the point; the point is to tell a good story. And these authors do that, with a vengeance.

... Read More

The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology

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The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology by Gordon Van Gelder (ed.)

The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology is an excellent collection of 23 stories picked from the treasure trove of short fiction that's been published in the eponymous magazine over the past 60 years. Editor Gordon Van Gelder — also the editor of the magazine since 1997 — has done an admirable job, picking stories that illustrate the diversity of both the genre and the magazine. As such, this is a great anthology for SF&F fans as well as newcomers looking for a taste.

The line-up of authors in this collection looks like a veritable Who's Who of speculative fiction: Ray Bradbury, Read More

Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories

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Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories edited by John Joseph Adams

Even people who don’t usually read science fiction will often be familiar with a few classic titles in the “dystopian SF” sub-genre. After all, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and of course the famous Aldous Huxley novel Brave New World are some of the few SF titles that have entered the mainstream literary canon to such an extent that they’ve become assigned school reading for many students. However, novel-length dystopian SF didn’t stop with those venerable classics, and can even be said to be thriving at the moment. See, for example, the recent success of Paolo Bacigalupi’s... Read More

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories

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The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

I haven’t actually read every page of The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, yet I’m giving it my highest recommendation. Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Master and Mistress of Weird, The Weird is 1126 pages long and should really be considered a textbook of weird fiction. It contains 110 carefully chosen stories spanning more than 100 years of weird fiction. Here’s what you can expect to find in this massive volume:

A “Forweird” by Michael Moorcock gives us a brief history of the weird tale, discusses how it has defied publishers’ attempts to categorize it into neatly-bordered genres, and gives examples of writers who are revered by modern reade... Read More

Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury: Four great stories make it easy to recommend

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Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury edited by Sam Weller & Mort Castle

Thanks to our recent book chats here, I’ve reread a bit of Ray Bradbury lately, so I was well primed to pick up the 2012 tribute anthology edited by Sam Weller and Mort Castle, entitled Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury, which collects 26 contemporary authors who were asked to write a story inspired or informed by Bradbury. The task was sufficiently non-restrictive that the stories run a gamut of style and type: horror, fantasy, dystopia, science fiction, as well as several with no fantastical element whatsoever, which may surprise those who know Bradbury only through classic novels like Fahrenheit 451 or Something Wicked T... Read More