Literary Birthday – 27 May – Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison was born 27 May 1934 and died 27 June 2018.


  1. The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.
  2. There is no nobler chore in the craft of writing than holding up the mirror of reality and turning it slightly, so we have a new and different perception of the commonplace, the everyday, the ‘normal,’ the obvious.
  3. To say more is to say less.
  4. I don’t mind you thinking I’m stupid, but don’t talk to me like I’m stupid.
  5. You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. Without research, without background, without understanding, it’s nothing. It’s just bibble-babble.
  6. The only thing worth writing about is people. People. Human beings. Men and women whose individuality must be created, line by line, insight by insight. If you do not do it, the story is a failure.
  7. Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you – as if you haven’t been told a million times already – that writing is harder. Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching.
  8. I talk about the things people have always talked about in stories: pain, hate, truth, courage, destiny, friendship, responsibility, growing old, growing up, falling in love, all of these things. What I try to write about are the darkest things in the soul, the mortal dreads. I try to go into those places in me that contain the cauldrous. I want to dip up the fire, and I want to put it on paper. The closer I get to the burning core of my being, the things which are most painful to me, the better is my work.
  9. Don’t start an argument with somebody who has a microphone when you don’t. They’ll make you look like chopped liver.
  10. I don’t know how you perceive my mission as a writer, but for me it is not a responsibility to reaffirm your concretised myths and provincial prejudices. It is not my job to lull you with a false sense of the rightness of the universe. This wonderful and terrible occupation of recreating the world in a different way, each time fresh and strange, is an act of revolutionary guerrilla warfare. I stir the soup. I inconvenience you. I make your nose run and your eyeballs water.
  11. The trick is not becoming a writer. The trick is staying a writer.
  12. Entertain, yes. That goes without saying. But a good writer does that automatically, it’s built into the machine. Telling a thumpingly good, mesmerising story is what one does without question. But beyond that, any writer worth his/her hire knows that all writing, one way or another, is subversive. It is guerrilla warfare against the status quo.
  13. That’s probably one of my biggest gripes with the Internet – that it settles for mediocrity and disinformation, which puts all information on the same level. Everything has the same value, whether it’s Albert Einstein speaking, or

Harlan Ellison was an American writer. He published more than 1 700 short stories, novellas, screenplays, teleplays, essays, and criticisms. He was the editor for the anthologies, Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions. Ellison won numerous awards including multiple Hugos, Nebulas, and Edgars. He is the author of I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream.

Source for Image

Pip R. Lagenta from San Mateo, San Mateo, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 27th May 2013