Harlan Ellison's career fizzled long before he left this mortal coil. His contentiousness caused friction with most who tried to publish his work. He offended many with his brusque manner and dismissive attitudes.

A wildly inappropriate and unwise attempt at humor at the expense of Connie Willis harmed Ellison's reputation more than anything else. Do a search for the two names if you are curious about the details.

The Harlan Ellison persona outgrew the man himself. Over the years he developed a reputation for rude words that brought on a lot of hatred. Harlan's detractors either didn't know or didn't care about his fights against racism and other forms of bigotry. His efforts to help struggling older writers, his endless and often Quixotic battles for creative rights.

So much has been said about the man. A lot of people only know him, and often dislike him, for his reputation.

Hopefully some of that is about to change. With the help of his friend J. Michael Straczynski, the works of Harlan Ellison are coming back to print. The first boundary-breaking Dangerous Visions anthology is already available. The second, Again, Dangerous Visions, is coming in June. And at long last, with Mr. Straczynski's help, the long, long awaited third volume will see publication in the Fall.

A best-of collection of Harlan's fiction is now in print. Perhaps people will see the reasons the man became a legend. Behind the ballyhoo, the animosity, the sensation, is the work. The short stories that made Harlan Ellison the most decorated and honored writer the worlds of imaginative fiction have ever known.

Straczynski chose the contents, and there's no way there isn't going to be a lot of back seat driving about it. For one, I cannot imagine an Ellison collection without "Shattered Like a Glass Goblin". I understand "Goblin" is a bonus story in the audio edition.

The biggest omission to me, at least at first, is "A Boy and His Dog". It's one of Harlan's signature pieces and it's the only work that's ever been made into a full-length motion picture. How could it be left out?

Well, I guess the story could leave a bad taste in a lot of mouths. "A Boy and His Dog" could easily be considered misogynistic. I personally do not think it is. I believe part of the story is about blurred lines between animals and human beings in a post apocalyptic world. I could easily be accused of mansplaining. That's the kind of gunk-brained, anti-intellectual twaddle Harlan would have despised.

There are others I would like to see in Harlan Ellison's Greatest Hits, but Straczynski hit most of the major points. Of course "Jeffty is Five" is present. So is "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream". "Paladin of the Lost Hour", "Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes", and "Mefisto in Onyx" are no-brainers.

I wish "Grail", "Croatoan", and "Loneyache" would have been included, but you can't have everything. At least my very favorite Ellison piece, and one of my favorite works of fiction of all time, "All the Lies That Are My Life", made the cut.

I strongly feel "The Hour That Stretches" should be in the book instead of "I'm Looking For Kadak". Again, it was Straczynski's choices, and no two editors would have used the same stories. Harlan Ellison's Greatest Hits is a good introduction to the man's literary legacy.

I know the book is selling fairly well. I have all the stories in earlier books, but I bought a copy anyway. I hope it's an enormous success. I'd love to see more books coming out. And I'd like more people to have the privilege of reading the masterworks of Harlan Ellison.

My biggest hope is to see a greatest hits edition of Harlan's nonfiction. His writing is as vital and important as the best of Hunter S. Thompson. And it's just as funny and explosive as Hunter's was.

I've been a fan since I was in my early teens. I haven't read some of the stories in Harlan Ellison's Greatest Hits since those days. They are having an enormous effect upon me.

I often read in my car before starting work. After ingesting a few stories last week I went in and I felt alienated and vaguely superior. I was taken places the worker drones couldn't imagine in their wildest dreams. The stories carried me to another plane, a brighter and more enlightened state of being. The kind of profound effect only the greatest pieces of art can provide. We emerge from works like this as transformed individuals. Smarter, elevated, enriched.

Thanks, Harlan. You were one of the best of us, and great talent often brings forth complicated lives. You didn't always carry the burden of your gifts with grace or dignity, but you touched and benefited so many of us. It's high time the secret is revealed to the masses. God knows we all need it.

Written by Mark Sieber

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