Harlan Ellison, the prolific speculative fiction author and screenwriter whose multiple Hugo, Nebula, and Edgar awards and influential screenwriting career were perhaps overshadowed by his notoriously combative, litigious, and predatory personality, died in his sleep on June 28. He was 84.
Ellison was the author of a handful of science fiction's best-loved and most-anthologized short stories, including the post-apocalyptic body horror "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" and " 'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman," an anti-establishment narrative advocating civil disobedience. His narrative cycle A Boy and His Dog was adapted into a film of the same name in 1975. He also edited two influential anthologies of speculative fiction, Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions. (A third volume remains unpublished.)
In addition, Ellison was a writer for TV series including Babylon 5, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Outer Limits, and, most famously, Star Trek, for which he wrote one of the original series' most beloved episodes, "The City on the Edge of Forever." He also wrote, on occasion, for Marvel Comics, and was awarded the Silver Pen in Journalism award by PEN International for his early documentary writings.
Famously litigious (and often successfully so), Ellison won a number of lawsuits relating to his work throughout his life, making him more than a handful of enemies in multiple businesses. He feuded with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry over edits to the script for the 1967 episode "The City on the Edge of Forever," and, displeased with the final result, insisted that he be credited under a pseudonym, "Cordwainer Bird," a request Roddenberry refused. Ellison sued CBS Paramount Television in 2009 over revenue from merchandising and other sources from the episode; the suit was settled half a year later.
The author also successfully sued James Cameron, among others, over The Terminator, which he claimed stole material from episodes he had written for The Outer Limits. (The film's production company and distributor settled the case, and Ellison's work was acknowledged in the film's credits.) A few years earlier, he successfully sued ABC and Paramount Studios for copyright infringement over the short story "Brillo," which he wrote with fellow sci-fi author Ben Bova.
In addition to his penchant for lawsuits and vendettas, Ellison was also known for tendencies toward violence and sexual harassment. Most famously, in 1985, he allegedly assaulted author and critic Charles Platt at that year's Nebula Awards banquet. Platt (who is the father of an editor at Publishers Weekly) did not take legal action following the incident. In addition, Ellison groped fellow sci-fi author Connie Willis on stage while accepting a lifetime achievement award at the World Science Fiction Convention in 2006.
Despite this, Ellison's work remains admired in the speculative fiction community. Stephen King, for instance, remarking upon his passing on Twitter, called him "angry, funny, eloquent, hugely talented," adding that "there was no one quite like him in American letters, and never will be."
Update: This piece has been update with further information, and for clarity.