Harlan Elllison

On June 28, 2018, Harlan Ellison passed away.

I feel little sorry for whatever entity has to deal with him now 🙂

He was one of the first writers (I won’t call him an SF writer, he didn’t like it 🙂 )  I had ever read.

To give some of you younger people some context. He was the writer for the script for the classic Trek  (think Kirk) ep called, “The City on the Edge of Forever”. Considered one of the best Trek ep’s ever made.

He worked on consultant on the 80’s revival of The Twilight Zone, and had stories submitted for and was involved in a  a magazine of the same title back then also. He was also  a consultant on the SF TV series Babylon 5.

He wrote a story a long time ago called “Soldier” that was the basis for the movie “The Terminator” (the “I’ll be back” one)

He’s written a ton of stuff. Most of his books don’t get reprinted because they are mainly  short stories and short story collections tend not to get re-printed unless they are from a very popular writer (Stephen King being the only one I can think of offhand).

He’s won pretty much every major writing award.

The very first story of his I read was “Along the Scenic Route”. I also read “Doomsman” and I don’t remember liking that very well. It turns out that novels weren’t really his forte. Short stories and TV screenplays were.

He was on the leading edge of what they were calling back then “new wave SF”. He edited  a book of SF short stories called “Dangerous Visions”. That anybody is a real SF fan has probably heard of AND has a copy of.

He is one of few writers whose books I will pick up unseen. I would add  Richard Matheson,  the big 3 (SF, look it up) to that list.

One of my favourite quotes is from Harlan Ellison himself:

“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”

So yeah, that elminates  95% of the people who post on Facebook. Hmm, I think I’ll also  post this blog there.




musically informed

Two of the very first songs i remember hearing and liking were “Come and Get It” by Badfinger and “Gotta See Jane” by R. Dean Taylor.

My very  first album, was a K-Tel album called “Out of Sight”. I saw it advertised on TV and got it for my birthday one year. My sister got a portable turntable (we called them “record players” back then) for christmas. I’m pretty sure i used that turntable more than she did. I played that album on her record player hundreds of times. The K-Tel album that came after that was called “Sounds Spectacular” and i played that hundreds of times also. Interesting to note that the Canadian versions of those albums had a much better track listing than the U.S. versions. Probably because of the Canadian content that legally had to be used.

I will do a K-Tel blog at some point because there are 3 of them that heavily influenced my musical choices.

These albums were my introduction to the world of pop/rock music. I had a friend who lived a few doors down who was heavily into Black Sabbath, another friend from school opened my eyes to ZZ Top, Rod Stewart, and KISS.

Friends of my sister’s made sure I heard my share of Donny Osmond, Bay City Rollers, and Leif Garrett (all the guys i knew said “leaf” but we’d get shouted down with “IT’S LAYFE” . The girls were vehement about it) . I already had a Partridge Family album, so i was covered there.

In shop class, I was hit with bad air/voice guitar versions of Nazareth songs (This Flight  Tonight, and Deep Purple (uh, Smoke on the Water).

the local community TV channel did a dj radio thing on friday nights from 8pm to midnight, and I heard Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Moody Blues “Nights in White Satin”, Robin Trower’s “Bridge of Sighs”. In the space of four short years i got a musical education.

All of that was when i lived in Shilo, Manitoba (like i said in an earlier blog, my formative years 🙂 )

When you are an army brat and you move, you get to start your new life with no friends in a place you don’t know and maybe don’t even like. For me i was able to compensate with lots of reading and listening to the radio. and i was lucky to be able to hit that record store i mentioned (Used Grooves) , so my album collection started to grow.

A soon to be friend moved in across  the street and he had an extensive record collection (looked like all pristine brand new albums too), but more  than that he had a book. It was a book called “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock”. My copy pictured below.


This book is pure rock music gold. I know this because this particular edition can be bought second hand for between $75 US and $3000 US. That second number was not a typo.

I read it from cover to cover. I read about groups i already liked. I read about groups i didn’t know I was about to like. I read about groups whose albums i wouldn’t buy till decades later.

My biggest revelation about reading all this musical information what that it stuck. I simply remembered most of what i read; dates that albums were released, complete discographies of classic rock groups, and band lineups for same.

if you are into classic rock and have any kind of record collection you want this book. you need this book. get a copy, you will thank me later.

Having said that you need a specific version of this book. If you go to Amazon you’ll find the “fifth edition”, the “6th edition”  or the “7th edition”. But if the “fifth edition is any indication of the way the book content was going, you can save your money. I have a copy of the fifth, but the  edition i’m raving about is  either the second or the third. it says “New Edition” so  i think it’s the second, the copyright date is 1976. The photo of the book above is the one you want.

[later: I think i found both the 2nd and 3rd, so i’ll update this blog when they come in.]

As good as the book is, it does omit  Canadian groups; Lighthouse, Stampeders, April Wine, Rush, Gordon Lightfoot and Heart (who were thought to be Canadian at one point), but does include Neil Young. There is a book called “Heart of Gold” which is a great history of Canadian music, worth having  if you like Canadian groups. Subsequent editions of the  encyclopedia  included the Canadian content, but sucked in other ways.

Fast forward a few years and we had to move again to Edmonton. Because army brat. one night when hanging out with a few of my sister’s friends (i had none of my own), one particular guy (that’s you Brian F.) (and his friend, whose name i think was Mike) started talking about music.

When i start talking about classic rock, i’m pretty much non-stop. friends just roll their eyes now, but at the table we were sitting around that night i had a captive audience. My sister told me a few days later that Mike couldn’t believe how much i knew about music (he was referring to classic rock of course).

At one point Brian asks me what i think about the group Yes.  I could tell by the way he asked that it was his favourite group. I told him that the only song i really knew was their song Roundabout (it’s off the Fragile album if you wanted some context) . I said i liked the song but for the most part i was  unfamiliar with progressive music.

Of course i told them my favourite group was T.REX but as i’ve come to get used to  that elicits blank stares from most people, that night wasn’t any different.

My answer seemed to satisfy him, but later we would talk more and more about music he introduced me to progressive music through his favourite group. he tried to get me to Genesis (in their progrock days) but that didn’t stick (sorry Brian, still no)

Anyway, one day his mom drove us to Edmonton public library.

I don’t know what it’s like now but at one point it had the most traffic of any library in North America. It was on one end of the LRT (University of Alberta was the other end at the time). It had 3 or 4 floors of to it.

One floor was dedicated entirely to music. If you’ve ever been to Sam the Record Man in Toronto (the one with the two huge neon signs that looked like spinning vinyl, you know the size i’m talking about. This was X 4. It. Was. Huge.

You were allowed to take out 10 albums at a time. Brian walked me through the process of getting my library card and the library in general. Kid in a candy store. 🙂

On the way there, Brian was riding shotgun, i was in the back seat and  Brian turned around to me and said “she’s musically informed by the way”  referring to his mom this was a term he coined with the obvious meaning.

I was impressed. none of my other friend’s (in the last place i lived)  mom’s could make that claim.

Since then i’ve only run into 3 people (one of my bosses from work, one person i used to work with years ago, and  my wife) who could make that claim (and not to toot my own horn) but they still have a ways to go 🙂


Earth Abides

i’ll get back to the T.REX entries next time.

When i was 10 years old, I read a book called “Revolt on Alpha C” by SF great Robert Silverberg. It was a Scholastic Book Services book, but it was in our Grade 5 “library”. It had a cartoonish space ship and and astronaut on the cover, so that could have been the initial draw for me. I was living in Nova Scotia at the time.

The only books i owned at that time were; “Harry the Dirty Dog” a book my grade 1 teacher had given me as a going away gift when she found i was moving from Brunssum, Holland, back to Canada (i.e. Greenwood, Nova Scotia). I still have the book. And from some current observation, it’s probably the perfect reading speed for a millennial.

Another book i had was “The Invaders: Dam of Death” by Jack Pearl. It was one of those Whitman young adult novels, that i didn’t read till almost seven years later. I also had the Whitman book “Star Trek: Mission to Horatio”, which i did read but gave away.

After living in Greenwood for 4 years, we moved to Shilo, Manitoba. I also spent 4 years there, from age 11 to 15. So, my formative years. i’ll have a few blogs about that later. but a lot of my experiences in Shilo, are the basis for the human i am today. for better or for worse 🙂

when i was 12 my parents were going through pocket books they no longer wanted and were going to give away. i don’t know, maybe i was miffed the they were throwing something out without asking me if i wanted it first. when i asked the response was along the lines of “why? you don’t read”. ok touche. my dad had a book shelf with about 800 books ranging from UFO’s, westerns, science-fiction, and horror.

most of the books he was getting rid of were science-fiction. i was told i could have whatever books i wanted to read from box.

Not counting the books i mentioned above, the first six books that started off my book collection, were; “Death On A Warm Wind” by Douglas Warner, “The Currents of Space” by Isaac Asimov, “Shock II” by Richard Matheson, “Red Planet” by Robert A. Heinlein, “The Animal People” by Stanton A. Coblentz, and “Night of the Saucers” by Eando Binder. i’ll blog about my book collecting at a later date.

Amongst my friends i was the sf guy, and i was given a number of books by them when they had read them but had no interest in keeping them.

One of them gave me a copy of “Earth Abides” by George R. Steward. Different editions pictured below:


The one he gave me is the taped up one on the bottom left, but the cover was the same as the blue ones in the middle.

back then, i used to get ready for bed around 7pm, sit up and read for 2 hours before turning out the lights at 9pm. i stayed up much later on weekends but for school nights that, time was safer 🙂

i read the book over 3 nights, keeping the above schedule in mind. my first thought when i finished was “wow, that was a good book” i remembered writing in my journal at the time (yeah, gonna blog about that later also). that i was thinking of collecting books with a similar theme.

the “theme” was: post-apocalyptic. Earth Abides is about the main character’s survival after a plague decimates most of the population. There is no gruesome descriptions of people with the plague, it just is. at the start of the book while the main character is up in the mountains camping, he gets bitten by a snake, is sick for a few days in a cabin, but comes back into a nearby town to find the world as we know it is over. the rest of the story is about what he does and other survivors he meets, etc.

It was written in 1949, and with the exceptions of some social attitudes, and the lack of modern technology (i.e. that’s no cell phones for you millennials, and no TV either, not that either would have worked given he circumstances anyway), you could not tell when it was written.

I’m actually working on a very long review of the book but i don’t know if that will be a blog or not.

Earth Abides is the best book i’ve ever read. i’ve only read it 4 times (once as an audio book), but i’m due for another read. it had a significant impact on me as a kid. there is a scene at the end of the black and white movie “Fahrenheiht 451” where several people are walking in the woods reading books out loud in an effort to memorize them. and i often though that Earth Abides would be my book to memorize if it came to it.

I have since collected hundreds of post-apocalypse novels, and i keep a list of same as i run into them. The ones that stuck with me are; “Dark December” by Alfred Coppel, “Dark Advent” by Brian Hodges, “Summer of the Apocalypse” by James Van Pelt, and Stephen King’s “The Stand”

What makes Earth Abides stand out from them is it’s relatively optimistic outlook. It has what i came to know as a bittersweet ending. completely satisfying, but bittersweet nonetheless. I often think about the book. most of my friends who know i’m an avid reader know this book is my favourite to the point of obsession 🙂

i guess i went on enough about the book that the friend who gave it to me wanted to read it. so i lent it to him. in three days, it come back with no cover and in three sections (hence the tape you see in the photo above). in 3 days. apparently he’d left it out over night in a school yard, and it had rained one of those nights.

i no longer lend out books.

obviously i picked up a new copy. the top of the middle blue ones in the photo i found at a second hand book store. the bottom one is brand new and for a long time was sealed in plastic. the ones are the right side are new editions, the top one second hand, and the bottom one new. i also have two hardcover book club editions. and i will order an original hardcover at some point. every time i see a copy second hand i buy it. i have given away copies 🙂

the edition on the top left is an original version of the 1954 publication. nice cover, but anyone familiar with the story will know what’s wrong with it immediately.

i have been thinking of re-reading it the last few weeks. i thought this blog entry would hold off the craving, but i think i’m going to have to read it again soon.