Harlan Ellison lives up to his contentious reputation at Star Trek Las Vegas

I don’t know what I thought I’d get at a talk by someone who was once described on his own book jackets as “possibly the most contentious person on Earth” but Harlan Ellison certainly lived up to that reputation at Star Trek: Las Vegas.

“If it’s a bad story about me, it’s probably true,” he announced at the beginning of his first appearance.

For those of you who don’t know, Ellison wrote the original screenplay of the famous TOS episode “City on the Edge of Forever,” and was very unhappy with changes made by Roddenberry and others that led to the final filmed version. Part of the reason Ellison was at con was to promote the new IDW comics based on his screenplay.

The first of Ellison’s three on-stage appearances during the weekend was definitely the most gobsmacking. One of my friends said, “It’s like watching a really articulate insult comic,” and later compared him to being “the Chuck Norris of Sci Fi writers.”

In addition to saying we should build a wall around the Middle East until the people there figure out how get along (“and if not, f*ck them”), ranting about lima beans, and bragging about how many times he was almost kicked out of the army, here are some of the other things Ellison said in that first appearance (after the jump because it involves swearing and sexist language – you are warned).


On not being willing to sell out in Hollywood:

  • “One of the solemn truths of the world, and I’ll give it to you for free, is that Geico, CBS, whatever guys you’re slaving for, all they can give you is money. They can’t give you courage.”
  • “I ain’t no whore; I can be rented but I can’t be bought.”

On women and sex:

  • “I wrote one episode of The Flying Nun because I wanted to f*ck Sally Field…It was only because I wanted to get next to her on stage, because I knew a couple of minutes in my company and I’d get laid.”
  • “I never cheated on my wife or anyone I was living with, but when I was single I’d do four [women] a day.”
  • “I stopped counting at 1700 [women I’d slept with], and that’s the truth.”

On plagiarism:

  • “Anyone puts their hand in my pocket, they come back with six inches of bloody stump.”
  • “J.J. Abrams will probably rip [“Demon With a Glass Hand”] off and sell it to you as a new idea and you won’t even know it.”

On Joan Collins apparently saying Edith Keeler was “Hitler’s girlfriend”:

  • “Joan Collins: not one of my favourite people…The first time I heard it I said: ‘What the f*ck, you dumb bitch?”
  • “Joan Collins could never get her head around the fact that she was not Hitler’s girlfriend, and now she’s a withered old crone.”

On why he never wanted a YouTube channel:

  • “Why? So that some dickwad in Dubai hoeing up yams will know who I am?”

On the audience:

  • “It saddens me that for most of you the names Shirley Jackson or Theodore Sturgeon or Kate Wilhelm mean nothing to you, but you know who won on The Voice last week.”
  • (to the relatively quiet crowd) “Jesus Christ, it’s like talking to a pointillist painting.”

On his pet peeves:

  • “Donald Sterling and his whore wife and his whore girlfriend…They should be submerged in a giant ocean of monkey vomit with imps going around them in motor boats making waves.”
  • “I don’t like being in the same time zone as lima beans.”

On himself:

  • “I’m a mean sonofoabitch. I’m also the most charming person you’ve ever met; that’s why I got laid all the time.”

So yeah, that was Harlan Ellison! On Day 2 he did a much more toned-down appearance along with Grace Lee Whitney, so all in all you could really see the “sonofabitch/charming person” dichotomy acted out. And it was…well…definitely an experience. Obviously I’m not trying to promote Ellison’s views, but I thought it was important to document because he’s an important part of Trek culture and he was the guest given the most time (three mainstage appearances) at this year’s world’s largest Trek convention.

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