I discovered Harlan Ellison with the original airing of this episode during Trek’s first season. Loved it and it sent me on a lifetime of reading great stories by one of the best writers to which I’ve been exposed. It was a few years later that I learned what had aired wasn’t exactly what Mr. Ellison had written and he was not happy about it. I first read his original version in a book, Six Science Fiction Plays edited by Roger Elwood, then bought a copy a few years ago when Ellison published it with a long introduction detailing his contentious relationship with Gene Roddenberry over the rewrite and things that had been said about the whole mess over the years.
My thoughts on his vision of the story are simple: much as I liked the aired version, it would have been more satisfying to see this one filmed. Roddenberry dropped the boat here in trying to put his stamp on someone else’s work. They kept the bare bones of Ellison’s story. That’s about all that can be said.
So it was with a lot of glee when IDW Comics announced they were going to give us the original in comic form.
Five issues that were gathered into this book. Hard cover, slick paper, and brilliant colors, it’s an amazing triumph. The adaptation is by Scott & David Tipton, story artwork by J. K. Woodward, and the cover art by Juan Ortiz(That weathered look is deliberate). Ellison has a short introduction, for him, that manages to get across his utter delight with the finished project and an afterword that he gives out thank-yous.
A section with the original issue covers is there and an article on all the Easter eggs sprinkled throughout. Story titles in the form of posters appear and even Ellison himself playing an important character in 1930 New York.
Quite a nice book. Can be ordered here.
Sixteen never before collected stories from Mr.Ellison’s early years as a writer. Most appeared in ’56-’57(his first sale was in ’55), though there are a few from the sixties.All but one crime stories, they all appeared in detective magazines, as well as a few “skin” periodicals. The cover is made up of a few of them. you can see his name on the covers of the detectve fiction mags, but not the skins(but then fiction wasn’t the star in them).
Jason Davis is the editor of the set. Mr Ellison gave hin a list of stories to choose from. They were in order, including the writer’s title, the published title , the venue, and what he was paid.
The title was Ellison’s and not strictly accurate. One story he got a half cent, another a cent and a half, and one to a slick publication for a nickel. But …at a penny word sounds so much better than at various rates a word.
Three stories feature Jerry Killian(pronounced kill-ee-un, he has a thing about that), ex-insurance investigator, ex-private eye, now working for a business protection agency. Another starred Big John Novak, a P.I. that gets blackmailed(*threats of lifting his license and pulling his gun caeey permit) by the police into assaulting an impregnable building to get a gunman that had killed five cops and shot a dozen other prople. You see, Big John had a talent the cops didn’t: he was three feet two inches tall.
Me. Ellison said he had intentions a rinning series of Big John tales(he was an adnirer of Rhird Prather’s Shell Scott tales and loved the way Richard Matheson captured the troubles a small person had in a life sized world).
The one story not a crime story. SADDLE TRAMP is a western. Ellison said he pretty much steered away from the western genre because of his admiration for Steve Frazee, Ernest Haycox, and Louis L’Amour. None og those stalwarts would have written this one.
And finally, there’s two versions of the one story: Ellison original and after turning a critical eye on it, the revised version that sold. He cuts some three thousand words from it.
A nice set. We see a young writer honing his craft and making a living while doing it.
Technically, WEB OF THE CITY is not a forgotten book and most readers of Patti’s meme have likely read it. But maybenot all will be familiar with Mr. Ellison. Hard Case Crime has recently released a new edition which includes a few connected short. Don’t have that one yet and will likely get it soon even though I probably have those in other Ellison collections. Nice to have them all together. I do have copies of the other two listed though and have been a fan of the book for as long as I can remember.
The story Ellison tells is of gang life in New York in the fifties and to do research he was a member for a while of a real life gang of young people. In the brief introduction(he says one should never write an introduction for a novel, but he will), he admits to a fondness for the book written by “that punk kid.”
I recall it fondly as one of his better novel length works(and there was only a few). I think he prefers the shorter length and was unparalleled in that regard.
For more truly forgtten books, check in today at Patti Abbott’s PATTINASE.
These stories were all published over a ten year period, mid-fifties to mid-sixties, in men’s magazines of the era. Considered risque at the time, they are rather mild compared to today’s fiction.
But they are Harlan Ellison’s work as a young man trying to put food on the table for his family. And a harbinger of things to come. The collection starts off with one of Mr. Ellison’s fine introductions where he speaks of the collection, how it came to be, and a few other things.
The stories herein:
1: THIS IS JACKIE SPINNING
2: DEAD WIVES DON’T CHEAT(as by John Magus)
3: PRIDE IN THE PROFESSION
4: PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A ZILCH WRITER(as by Paul Merchant)
5: GOD BLESS THE UGLY VIRGIN
6: A BLUE NOTE FOR BAYOU BETTY(as by Derry Tiger)
7: GANG GIRL
8: THE GIRL WITH THE HORIZONTAL MIND(as by Price Curtis)
9: AN EPISODE OF SUNBATHERS
10: CARRION FLESH(as by Paul Merchant)
11: THE SILENCE OF INFIDELITY
Worth a look.
For more forgotten books, as always, drop in on Patti Abbott every Friday at her blog, PATTINASE.
I first became aware of Harlan Ellison because of Star Trek(give me a break, i was only fifteen at the time; I learned). His one episode was a favorite for years until I learned that it was rewritten against his will and he was unhappy with the results. The first time I read his script was in Six Science Fiction Plays edited by Roger Elwood. Recommended is Harlan’s book, CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER, for the script and a long introduction by him on circumstances around the rewrite and his history with Gene Roddenberry.
While all this was going on, I had begun to seek out earlier, original works by Harlan and was rewarded every time out. One thing one can say about Harlan Ellison, he puts his all into his works. Each collection of his stories has an introduction, usually a long one, that I look forward to almost as much as the stories themselves. He never fails to give you value for your money.
I owe George Kelley thanks for pointing this one out. I likely would have missed it otherwise.
As pointed out, it’s not his best work. A young writer learning his craft, recently married, they were for the money. But they have that Ellison energy and make them worthwhile. My favorite was BOTH ENDS OF THE CANDLE, a humorous story of a young college football player named Asimov(certainly no coincidence) that was seeing a pair of women, a mother and daughter named Candle, on the sly from each other and the effects it was having on him.
There’s a second book from that era coming. I’m keeping a lookout for it.
For more forgotten books on Fridays, as always, check out Patti Abbott at her blog, Pattinase.
HARD CASE CRIME to publish definitive edition of WEB OF THE CITY
New York, NY; London, UK (June 11, 2012) – Acclaimed author Harlan Ellison has authorized the publication of a new edition of his first novel, Web of the City, by Hard Case Crime, the award-winning line of mystery novels from editor Charles Ardai and publisher Titan Books. The new edition, which will feature not just the definitive text of the book but also three thematically related short stories Ellison wrote for the pulp crime magazines of the 1950s, will mark the book’s first appearance in stores in three decades.
Harlan Ellison is one of the most renowned authors of the past 60 years. Although best known for his fantasy and science fiction and his always controversial essays, Ellison has also won the Edgar Allan Poe Award twice for his crime fiction. Other honors he has received include a record 10 Hugo Awards, 5 Nebulas (including the lifetime Grand Master Award), 6 Bram Stoker Awards (including their lifetime Grand Master Award), 4 Writers Guild of America Awards, and 2 World Fantasy Awards, as well as multiple other lifetime achievement awards. He has also been a finalist for the Emmy and twice for the Grammy. The film made of his life, Dreams with Sharp Teeth, starring Ellison, took 21 years to make, and is one of the most award-winning documentaries of the past five years.
Written in 1957 while Ellison was enduring Army Ranger basic training in Georgia, Web of the City tells the story of a teenager who sets out to leave the New York City street gang he runs with, putting his family in grave danger. Ellison wrote the book after going undercover for ten weeks as a member of an actual Brooklyn street gang, the Barons, an experience that also inspired him to write the famous “Memo From Purgatory” episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour starring James Caan (The Godfather) and Walter Koenig (Star Trek).
Hard Case Crime will bring the book out in April 2013, in paperback and e-book editions, with a new cover painting in the classic pulp style by Glen Orbik.
About Hard Case Crime
Called “the best new American publisher to appear in the last decade” by Neal Pollack in The Stranger, Hard Case Crime has been nominated for or won numerous honors since its inception including the Edgar, the Shamus, the Anthony, the Barry, and the Spinetingler Award. The series’ books have been adapted for television and film, with two features currently in development at Universal Pictures and the TV series “Haven” going into its third season this fall on SyFy. Upcoming titles include new novels by Stephen King and James M. Cain. Hard Case Crime is published through a collaboration between Winterfall LLC and Titan Publishing Group.
About Titan Publishing Group
Titan Publishing Group is an independently owned publishing company, established in 1981, comprising three divisions: Titan Books, Titan Magazines/Comics and Titan Merchandise. Titan Books, recently nominated as Independent Publisher of the Year 2011, has a rapidly growing fiction list encompassing original fiction and reissues, primarily in the areas of science fiction, fantasy, horror, steampunk and crime. Recent crime and thriller acquisitions include Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins’ all-new Mike Hammer novels, the Matt Helm series by Donald Hamilton and the entire backlist of the Queen of Spy Writers, Helen MacInnes. Titan Books also has an extensive line of media and pop culture-related non-fiction, graphic novels, art and music books. The company is based at offices in London, but operates worldwide, with sales and distribution in the US and Canada being handled by Random House. www.titanbooks.com
I’ve read this one, years ago of course, and remember liking it.
I‘m cheating a bit this week. An injury to the ring finger of my right hand will make my life a bit hard for a while, never mind writing. I likely will ease off for a bit on the posting. The finger is swollen, won’t bend, can’t grasp anything, reading is even hard, and I’m beginning to learn just how much I use it every time I feel that twinge.
A BOY AND HIS DOG was a film based on a Harlan Ellison novella. Actor L. Q. Jones, known mostly as a western actor, wrote the script and directed. Here's the link to my original post. It starred a very young Don Johnson(twenty-five at the time) and is one of my all time favorite movies, but hardly overlooked. At least by older generations. I’m not sure what the younger folks might think. Quaint probably.
I remember one amusing story back when it was released to theaters. I saw it with friends and a co-worker mentioned taking his young son to see it. He thought it was a Disney film with that title.
Here’s a link to the movie, however long it may stay up. It’s worth watching. At least check out the first few minutes. You might get hooked.
For more overlooked films, and related matters, as always, check out Todd Mason over at SWEET FREEDOM.,
Phoenix Without Ashes, published in 1975, was the novelization of Harlan Ellison’s award winning script, the pilot for a television series called The Starlost. Not the one that aired, which was an unholy mess rewritten against Mr. Ellison’s wishes, causing him to walk away at a large financial loss in order to preserve his integrity. Always fiercely protective of his work, he would not allow his name to be used and, instead, put in the pseudonym Cordwainer Bird to let fans know that what they were about to see was not his work.
At the beginning, there is a forward by Mr. Ellison that puts forth the story of how a decent idea for a new science fiction series was destroyed by the “money” people who were more interested in trading on the writer’s name than putting out anything worth watching. It details how every short cut was used, from cheap writers who didn’t know science fiction to special effects work that was lame even for the times. First he walked away, then Ben Bova, technical consultant, after viewing the first episode.
What eventually emerged last only some sixteen or so episodes before fading into irrelevance and history.
Here’s the plot.
It’s hundreds of years in the future. Way back when, Earth was going to die and a generational ship was built consisting of a number of connected biospheres a hundred kilometers wide. The stars winking in the sky are artificial. Each biosphere has a different culture preserved from Earth, the intent to seed planets and preserve the human race.
Sometime in the distant past, an accident had killed the crew and sent the ship off-course. In the hundreds of years since then, generations had grown and died. It was forgotten that they were on a ship. Each was a self-contained world, which was all theinhabitants knew these days.
Cypress Corners is an Amish type world, the inhabitants very pious, praying for up to eight hours a day. Devon is a dreamer and an outcast. He imagines about stars and space, not satisfied with his small world. This doesn’t sit well with the Elders who have banished him to the hills, believing he can repent when severe conditions will test him.
He survives with help from his only friends, Garth and Rachel, the young woman he loves. They want to marry, but marriages are arranged by genetic manipulation to ensure diversity and Rachel has been promised to Garth, though neither of them are happy about it either.
Devon learns the Elder Micah has manipulated the genetic data and goes with proof to his father. Religious man that he is, dad turns him in and he’s scheduled for death by stoning. Escaping, he flees to the hills and stumbles onto an iris that opens, swallowing him up, falling down a long tube to another biosphere.
In exploring and learning to adapt, Devon finds the control room and learns the horrible truth. In five years, the generational ship will plunge into a sun! Now they will have to listen to him! Yea, right.
Once again, he runs, this time taking Rachel with him to look for help somewhere in the giant ship. The Elders won’t follow down the tube, but send Garth to bring them back.
The idea was each episode would visit a different culture as the young people look for anybody that knows anything about ship operations. Originally it was to be a miniseries, a dozen or so episodes(Mr. Ellison believed it the maximum to sustain the series), but before he knew it, it had been turned into a weekly show.
Reading the longish introduction, one gets a glimpse into just how much the television business values writers, which is to say not at all. It doesn’t seem likely that much has changed all these years later. Also, Ben Bova wrote a novel, The Starcrossed, based on what happened.
Below is a clip of The Starlost’s opening: