In Which Harlan Ellison Apologizes

I had forewarning of this a few hours before it was posted but wanted to wait until it was published. This went up on Harlan’s message board earlier:

– Friday, July 24 2009 16:35:36

Dear Ms. Bradford:

You have a number of good friends who also happen to be good friends of mine. They have rallied on your behalf, to contact me by phone (four today alone), to tan my bottom in regards to my, well, at best, at very minimally best, my “snarky” response to what I perceived to be yet another Total Stranger Meanspirited Internet Troll Assault. I fear there is still a tot too much “street” in me to let such perceived calumny go unanswered.

Apparently, I received inadequate information, some of which I interpreted incorrectly, some of which was simply wrong.

One of the heartrending epiphanies of the current Paradigm Shift is that the most adolescently ignorant demographic of this far-from-perfect society needs to (as my President said today) “ratchet down the noise-level.” The moment one such as I goes for the okeydoke and begins to believe this “geezer” bullshit, is the moment one realizes that we like in a Momentary-Celebrity Culture, and for everyone claiming sexism, racism, elitism, et al … there are 10,000 arrogant little twits, semi-literate, semi-humanoid, and less-than-semi-courteous, who truly believe that to have SURVIVED and STILL BE PULLING THE PLOW, is to grant them power over you. Depression and anger and suicide follow therefrom.

I am 75. I’m old, I ain’t senile.

I still work, I still publish, I still have very cool thoughts and do very cool deeds, every day. I’m not quite ready yet to let monkeybrain bloggers who need Google to know who Colette or Guy de Maupassant are, predicate my existence.

Mmm. I’ve drifted. Your friends tell me to back off and not attempt to exact the demonic vigerish that is my wont. Several people known and unknown to me personally advise me that you are rather a cranky soul yourself, so you shouldn’t be TOO ‘tude about my responding in kind.

That it turns out you’re not as deserving of my bestial attentions as others I’ve used as objects of scaphism, warms my li’l ole heart, and if any part of my reply to your various blogs here’n’there was over the line, consider this a gentlemanly apologia. I know this message will get to you, via one or another conduit, so here’s my IfYouTalkTheTalk you’d better be ready to WalkTheWalk: I have no idea where you live, but if you are anywhere near where I am, please name the time and the day, and my wife, Susan, and I would be condign taking you for an excellent meal at one of the great joints I frequent.

THEN–and ONLY then–you’ll be able to make your own informed judgment about me. And you won’t have to poison yourself with the fanboy/fangirl gossip that substitutes for ratiocination on this electronic asswipe of a medium.

You know where to find me.

Respectfully, Harlan Ellison

The person who forewarned me was one of the folks who called Harlan and the apology she reported to me was less equivocal than the above, but either way Harlan has said he’s sorry. And, as I suspected, someone or several someones have been feeding him “misleading” information about the whole discussion.

I have three things to say about this. The first is: wow, four people were willing to call Harlan Ellison on my behalf. I know who one of those persons are. I must say, you’re all very brave and very good friends. Thank you. (Also thank you to everyone who has commented here or on other posts expressing outrage and support of me, it means a lot.)

Second, I plan on accepting this apology and not worrying to much over some of the extant details because, as I said in my other post, I have no desire to “get into it” with Ellison. I’m glad someone gave him the facts, which is what I had wanted, but would rather re-enter the world where Harlan doesn’t care about what I say or do. That said, I can’t dictate what the rest of you do. There’s issues here and you’re free to discuss them.

Third, I’m sure some people’s heads are exploding because I got this apology, and not all for the same reason. I don’t expect to get apologizes from certain others but I do expect you all to show at least this level of decency now and in the future, okay? Okay.

ETA: for the defenders of Harlan’s honor who, strangely, started showing up en masse last night: Harlan APOLOGIZED. He apologized! It’s over. Go home! I’m not letting your increasingly bizzare attempts to defend/explain/make better what he did and what he said out of moderation because they are not helpful or appreciated. Plus, they are negated by the fact that he apologized. I accepted, I’m moving on. Why can’t you? Seriously.

79 thoughts on “In Which Harlan Ellison Apologizes

  1. Just wishing you the comfort of friends around you who can laugh and cry with you about the incredibly fucking ridiculous offense and more ridiculous apology.

    Deep admiration of all you do.

  2. A couple of online sources that establish a bit of Ellisonian history for this sort of thing:

    1) From his board’s archives. Search the page for ‘tupac’ and you’ll hit Harlan’s comments from 2006 on meeting Tupac Shakur. The comments are from March 7 and March 10 2006:

    2) From an online interview from 2007, right around the time of the Don Imus affair. Just scroll down — when you start hitting Don Imus and Michael Richards, you’re there:

    Cheers, Jon

  3. Not that it matters a whole lot to you personally, but the last couple of days have been the final straw for me. I used to frequent the Ellison boards quite a bit until I was banned awhile ago. I still kept in touch with some that frequented the site, including a moderator and the webmaster, but I cannot any longer.

    They have allowed this type of environment, through inaction, and an inability to help Ellison understand when to keep his mouth shut. Maybe it’s an impossible task to give Ellison a cup of STFU, but failure to address any of the issues Ellison puts himself in does him a disservice, and makes them complicit. They’re more than willing to let the apologists and sycophants take over the boards, but naysayers and gadflies are discouraged and insulted.

    If you think Ellison is bad, just try to post a contrarian opinion about Ellison and see how long before you get jumped on.

    1. I’m a fellow refugee of the Ellison board, and I can attest to the truth of everything Rich has written. (I posted as “Jim Davis” there, btw.) They enable every one of Ellison’s worst habits, and they deny to their last breath that they do it.

      I mean, someone actually dropped a dime on you, Tempest. Never mind they got virtually every fact wrong, some losers thought it was important to tell HE that, oh noes, someone was writing bad stuff about him on the intrawebs. (Can you imagine the kind of craven mentality that took?)

      In any case, his reputation is fucked, and he has no one but himself to blame. So if you enjoyed his works in the past, do what I do–pretend the vibrant, witty guy who wrote them died from that heart attack 15 years ago, and there’s just some looney imposter who took his place. Works for me!

      1. BTW:

        I’ve noticed in several places that folks wanted to leave a comment on Ellison’s board (, but couldn’t. Just click on “Squeeze in and pipe up,” fill out your name, fill out “Susan” for “This is a site for Harlan Ellison and his wife,” write your post, then click “Send.” That’s it.

        And please don’t post just to hurl insults; that’s exactly what they expect.

      2. Thank you so much for your willingess and the strength you exhibited in addressing this issue on Ellison’s board. I am long-time lurker there. And, before this situation, a long-time Ellison fan. I was just amazed at his handling of the entire matter.

    2. Rich,

      I left a thank you message for Jim Davis and now I would like to say thanks to you also for the comments you made on Ellison’s board about this matter. I am a long-time lurker on Ellison’s board and have been a fan of his since about 1978, I am appalled at his use of the racial slur and his handling of the entire matter.

  4. Warren, you were absolutely right when you said: “I realize I should just stay out of this and let all of this stand.”

    Not a smart move defending the indefensible.

  5. Tempest, you don’t know me, but I’m fangirling you like crazy because you are dealing with an INCREDIBLY stressful situation (and every time you think it’s over, out pops another defender with another rant), and dealing with all this with unfathomable amounts of grace and dignity. Me, I’d have reached the profane insults stage days ago, and you’re still keeping your temper and being reasonable iwth complete dickwads. You rock (although I really wish the dickwads would shut up and go away. You shouldn’t NEED to rock this much).

  6. Tempest, just wanted to toss in a little cheer for you here. You’ve been handling this with so much grace. Keep your spirits high; time is on your side, and so am I.

  7. Tempest, I’m not saying it was a nice letter. I’m not saying that anyone should be happy with anything he said in that letter. I don’t blame anyone for being upset with the tone of the letter and with what he did say. I’m only saying that putting words into his mouth is wrong. I think you have plenty to be angry about without making it any uglier than it may already be.

    1. Warren, I get that. But this particular point is not under dispute. What do you think NWA means? Also, if it wasn’t aimed at me, why did Harlan specifically ask to be forgiven for it? No one is putting words into his mouth, It’s what he said. You may not like it, you may think it casts him in even worse light than before, but it’s what was said. Deal.

    2. Warren, is there something seriously wrong with your judgment that you think making this argument — “he didn’t REALLY call you a n—–, he just tossed that word around!” — is going to help you and your magazine in any way?

      I’m going to urge everyone I know to avoid “Realms of Fantasy” based not on anything that came before (not the cover, not Doug’s idiocy), but on your ridiculous and pointless defense of Harlan’s blatantly sexist, racist slurs.

      You’d almost managed to come out of this looking like a decent person (granted, that was in comparison to your idiotic art director), but great job on blowing that all with this single comment.

  8. Warren, like so many other who’ve hitched their wagons to the Ellison train, you are reduced to writing very long apologia for your good pal. You’ve joined a very large club, and someday you may reflect on just why the club is indeed so populated. There’s an awful lot of smoke to fan away, and here you are, explaining away the fire like all the rest who’ve been roped into that duty.

    Meanwhile, Ellison has gone to great lengths to insult the only real market he (and you, by virtue of publishing him) has left: people blogging on boards like this. Since he’s made it clear what he thinks of the Internet, polite disoourse, and all of us, there’s virtually no reason to buy any magazine that would bother publishing someone so angry and out-of-touch with his potential readership.

  9. I realize I should just stay out of this and let all of this stand. There is nothing that I can possibly gain posting this, but Harlan is a friend of mine and though I certainly did not want him to enter the fray I know that he did it, in part, because we are friends and he thought I was being treated unfairly. Frankly I’d have been happier if everyone on my end would have stayed out of it and allowed me to deal with the entire thing myself. That didn’t happen and so here I am to bring a reality check to a lot of what is being said here.

    First Harlan never called Tempest a Nigger (I hate even typing that word) as many of you are stating here as bald fact. Moreover Harlan did not even call Tempest a NWA. Now I realize why many of you think this is what he said. Here on her Blog, Tempest said, “he hurls several insults at me, but some of my favorites are: I’m in the NWA, a Women of Cuhluh, and a swineherd.”

    As to the NWA what Harlan actually said was “She has dummied-up a truly insulting mock-cover of REALMS that is intended to be offensive to anyone who values my sixty years’ work. Now: watch your step. She is apparently a Woman of Color (which REALLY makes me want to bee-atch-slap her, being the guy who discovered and encouraged one of the finest writers and Women of Color who ever lived, my friend, the recently-deceased Octavia Estelle Butler). And she plays that card endlessly, which is supposed to exorcise anyone suggesting she is a badmouth ignoramus, or even a NWA.”

    If you take the time to actually parse the sentence in question you’ll see that what is actually being said is that Tempest plays the race card whether the person she’s interacting with is just disagreeing with her or if said person is calling her a member of the NWA. The latter would, of course, deserve to have the card played; the former would not. He did not say, “Tempest is….” That just didn’t happen. Tempest misread the sentence and I can only assume all of her friends either didn’t check the original or they also misread it.

    Harlan also did not call Tempest a Women of Cuhluh. What he actually said was, “Well, folks, if you’d like to give this termagant a taste of her own approbrium[sic], you got the Public Name in a Public Place, so have at it. Even those of you who are Merely Women, or even Women of Cuhluh.” The name in question is clearly intended for those minions of his that he is sending to do battle with Tempest, not for Tempest herself. As for calling Tempest a swineherd, yeah, he did call her that.

    I am not trying to defend anything that Harlan said here, he can do that for himself. If you want to think of him, or call him, a racist because he called Tempest a swineherd or because he said he wanted “to bee-atch-slap her” or because he claims she plays the race card to her own advantage, you have every right to your oppinion. I won’t agree with you, but I won’t try to say you are wrong for feeling that way. What you cannot do is say Harlan is a racist because he called Tempest a nigger or said she was a NWA because that did not happen. If you are going to make these kinds of accusations against anyone you have an obligation to get it right.

    1. Your explanation as regards NWA/Nigger don’t fly, though, Warren. Because, in that sentence he says “anyone suggesting she is a badmouth ignoramus, or even a NWA.” but by anyone he was clearly including himself, because it wasn’t in quotes and, in public, no one that I’m aware of has called me a badmouth ignoramus or an NWA. These are both things Harlan came up with himself.

      Also, he did not say “member of the NWA”, he said “a NWA”. Do you know what NWA stands for, Warren? Not Northwest Airlines. Not Neighborhood Watch Association. It stands for Nigger With Attitude.

      How do I know he meant that? because of the end of that paragraph which you left off: “Ooooh, did I say that?”

      People often try to pass off racist remarks by pretending they’re being edgy and fake naughty.

      Pretty much every person I’ve encountered, many of whom even bothered to post the whole of what he said, read and understood what he was about with that sentence.

      And further, I have email from one of the people who called Harlan in which she relayed some of the things he said once the whole situation was explained. As I mentioned in the post, his apology was much less equivocal and he specifically said: “Please forgive me for the ‘NWA’ remark.”

      Now, I had not intended to post anything from that email because Harlan indicated he’d be posting himself and the person in question didn’t get specific permission to put it on the Internet. But if people are going to keep attempting to minimize what went on, I’m going to bring out the big guns.

      You are right in that he did not specifically call me a Woman of Cuhluh. That he typed it out is bad enough. It’s stupid, even when not aimed at me.

      1. Not to mention that he’s used “nigger” in public before–the last time was at the premiere of Dreams With Sharp Teeth, the documentary about him.

        So, yeah, it’s obvious what he was saying, even if he was saying it in a jokey “ain’t-I-cute” manner.

    2. “I am not trying to defend anything that Harlan said here, he can do that for himself.”

      Except that that’s exactly what you’re doing. You’re claiming he didn’t say *what he said* because you want to give him the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t mean to be a hateful jerk because (a) he’s your friend and (b) he was ‘defending’. He *actually said* that Tempest plays to race card to keep people from being willing to call her an ignoramous or a nigger with an attitude. That’s what “NWA” stands for, Mr. Lapaine, whether you’re comfortable with that or not. So yes, Ellison *did* call Tempest the N-word, because he was clearly including himself in the “anyone” in that sentence. I can understand why *you* didn’t parse the passage that way because you so completely ignored the final “Oops, did I say that out loud,” that Ellison added at the end. He meant to say it and more importantly, he *did* say it. All your claiming otherwise doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

  10. Sorry you’re having to deal with this awful BS and keep being awesome and classy.

  11. What a dropkick. Someone needs to teach him what “apology” means cause he clearly has no idea.

  12. Yes, how dare that old white man say anything against You. He must be racist and sexist, obviously.

    1. So….saying he wants to slap her, calling her a nigger with attitude, using the gendered racialized insult “Omorosa”, and calling her “cuhluhed/colored” was nothing? Good to know.

      1. I’m always so glad when folks show up to help us with reading comprehension! Otherwise we might gt the wrong idea and stuff.

  13. You are wise. And you write well. We have met in the hall at WisCon with large legible name badges and like that.

    I am not going to take up space on your blog to talk about Harlan Ellison’s cluelessness.

  14. When I was seventeen, Harlan Ellison was my favorite writer in the whole world. I wish I’d had you instead.


    1. The only coherent response I have to this is utter and deep gratitude. also, I shall now fangirl at you. *fangirl*

      1. This doesn’t make me very coherent either. You are most welcome, and thank you very much.


  15. Good Lord.

    Well, if the Grab the Boob stunt hadn’t done it, this certainly seals the deal for me. Never had any desire to read his stuff anyway.

    This guy needs to STFU while he’s behind. Sorry you had to go through all this.

  16. Ellison has been irrelevant to anything that matters to me in SF for a long, long time. I have been following your career, had the honor to meet you in the dealer’s room at WisCon, and have been buying your stuff. You, my dear, are the future of the field. -from a far side of middle-age, white fan.

  17. That is not an apology. But I’m not surprised.

    I am, however, so impressed with your restraint and generosity, and your ability to find a silver lining: “wow, four people were willing to call Harlan Ellison on my behalf.”

    Four people who have his phone number. I’m sure many more would’ve called on your behalf.

  18. I’m not sure what the hell he was trying to say in there, but I’m not getting an apology out of that mess of words.

    Should you be at worldcon, I’d love to buy you a drink!

  19. He does this all the time…slams into people viciously, then issues a grand apology later, and the victim is stuck having to play nice and accept it. Bottom line is he got some press for his upcoming story. Sorry you had to be in the middle of it.

  20. that’s one fucked up ‘apology.’

    I admire the hell out of you for accepting it, given that he didn’t really apologize for any of the actual shit he did. regardless of how faulty his information was, he chose to react to that information with some really offensive shit.

  21. Wow, “Kay,” I was going to say that you joined an elite club when H.E. went after you, but now you’ve joined an even more elite club – someone he’s apologized to, too. Sort of. Close enough for the membership certification. I did say when this first broke that “a lot could happen, but he’s never gonna apologize.” I was at least half-wrong.

    All of which is a long preamble to saying that you are one class act and then some.

  22. I don’t know how you make it. I want to spit at the racist bastard. How the hell being racist and sexist is… a way to show you were wrong?

  23. Wow. That’s… something, all right.

    Tempest, you’re awesome, and I really, truly appreciate your blogging and the way you go out and start conversations about sexism and racism and etc., offline, too. You’re hella brave on top of being all kinds of smart. Just wanted to say that.

  24. What a fascinatingly self-aggrandizing semi-apology, encrusted with buck-passing and non sequitors.

    For a guy who decries the stupidities of the internet so loudly, he sure seems to let a tiny cadre of online sycophants jerk him around like a tool.

      1. I claim words don’t matter or have meaning, yet I am a professional author. WOO!!

  25. My head’s not exploding.

    It matches what I’ve heard about Harlan and some observations I’ve had of Harlan in action. It’s genuine and–from what I know of the Two Harlans, while he’s a nasty foe, he is an incredibly loyal and strong friend. He was very supportive to a mutual friend during a dark time, and at that time the friend in question was nowhere near the top of the SF writing world.

  26. Honest to whatever, Tempest, my admiration for you just keeps growing and growing and growing. (Not like it was small before.) You completely rock!

  27. As far as I can tell, Harlan does his best to be a professional horse’s ass. The whole “angry young man” was okay when he was younger. It just makes him look like a git now,

    It’s a weird apology. And I don’t ever, ever use the “n” word. It’s an epithet my father used and It offends me greatly. Even when the guys at the bus stop use it to one another.

  28. “Other people have spoken on your behalf because their words matter and I didn’t bother to read yours. You should totally understand my use of genocidal slurs at you because I imagined you said something bad about me. People say a lot of stuff on the internet so I don’t listen to anyone. I’m really awesome. You can come by for dinner and be my New Black Friend (TM) that proves it’s all ok even after I used demeaning words at you.”

    I don’t know about science, but there’s certain fiction in there…

  29. I’m so tired of the whole non-apology apology. Why would he waste that much effort on something that says nothing? Better not to say anything at all.

    And he didn’t apologize for calling a black woman the n-word. That’s an insult to the entire SF industry, not just you.

    But fine; if you’re cool, I’ll shut up.

    Did ya’ll ever go out for that drink?

  30. I will endeavor to play nice. I make no promises. Overall this whole thing has left me tired. Even though I’ve had plenty of forewarning about Ellison somehow I failed to grasp the reality of his staunchest supporters. Someone told me I should be so lucky as to have him insult me and I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you didn’t feel lucky when this fat hit the fire. IDK I’m not trying to make this all about me it just seems like every time fandom fails the fail is just a little bit uglier.

      1. I’m sorry you had to put up with this mess, Tempest.

        Karnythia, can I put up a post deconstructing the issue and apology in Take Back Sci Fi? Or is it too much to put up with? Because I think the issue of BUT HE’S ALWAYS BEEN LIKE THAAAAATTTTT and the non-apologies are worth deconstructing. But you’re tired.

    1. this is one of the most intelligent comments i’ve read regarding fandom in quite some time. “…when fandom fails…”

      btw Harlan Ellison once wrote an essay germaine to thsi conversation titled “Xenophobia,” it presents horrific vignettes.

      only good things,
      longtime Harlan fan, brand new Tempest fan

      p.s. glad this misunderstanding was resolved in such a mature fashion.

    2. this is one of the most intelligent comments i’ve read regarding fandom in quite some time. “…when fandom fails…”

      btw Harlan Ellison once wrote an essay germane to this conversation titled “Xenophobia,” it presents horrific vignettes.

      only good things,
      longtime Harlan fan, brand new Tempest fan

      p.s. glad this misunderstanding was resolved in such a mature fashion.

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