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Slippage: Previously Uncollected, Precariously Poised Stories
Harlan Ellison
Mariner Books, 352 pages

Slippage
Harlan Ellison
For more than 40 years, Harlan Ellison's writing career has won him more awards for his 45 books, 1300+ stories, essays, articles and newspaper columns, two dozen teleplays and a dozen motion pictures than anybody we can name. In 1993, he received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. Harlan has served as Creative Consultant on The Twilight Zone revival. He is Creative Consultant for Babylon 5.

Related Links
Ellison Webderland
The Islets of Langerhans
Ace's Ellison Homepage

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Thomas Myer

There are no surprises in this, Ellison's latest collection of stories. This is good news and bad news. I'll give you the good news first.

The good news is that the stories are Grade-A premium quality, that they are filled with words both unusual and delightful, and that these words are arranged in pleasing sentences. Furthermore, just about all these sentences form aesthetic paragraphs.

The bad news is, Ellison is starting to plagiarize himself. These stories mark no departure for Ellison, who, granted, must be on to something, otherwise he wouldn't be winning all those stinkin' awards. However, his characters, whether telepath, loan shark, soldier, time traveler, or intergalactic being, are all the same fella: a short loudmouth with a Yiddish disposition.

Don't get me wrong. I've enjoyed Ellison's work for many, many years. And I've bought a lot of his books. But Ellison is starting to sound much like AC/DC: the same riffs, the same beats, over and over and over and over again.

If you are a fan, then this might disturb you. If you are not, you might enjoy stories like "Mefisto in Onyx" in which an African-American telepath is asked by the woman he loves, a white District Attorney, to waltz into the mind of a mass murderer to determine if the man is truly innocent, as his lawyers claim. Though the situation is new, the method, the process, the execution is the same. None of this has changed. It's like reading "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" repeatedly, without a break.

There's something else that bothered me about this book -- Ellison's attitude toward young people and Internet users. Keep in mind that I'm 26 and make a living from computer technology and the Web. Those facts alone may be enough to dismiss my thoughts as mere bias. But here goes: in the introduction of Slippage, and in other places as well, Ellison has gone out of his way to deride young people for lacking aesthetic sensibility, smarts, cultural atonement, et cetera. It appears that if we don't know who Ronald Coleman is, then we're somehow illiterate simpletons.

There is, of course, another way of viewing this, and it breaks my heart to say it: Harlan, baby, you have become irrelevant. You can't keep up with the world. With all the amazing stuff that happens every day. Just thinking about Web technology and how it's evolving makes my head spin; and that only accounts for about 1/900th of what the human race is doing technologically. Harlan, you don't even own a computer, for God's sake. Nor do you spend time on the Web, which is pretty funny considering you've called Web denizens both pinheaded and cowardly. That's sorta equivalent to the preacher denouncing pornography when he's never even cracked open a Playboy. Oh, you've said that you're not anti-technology, but saying that once can't drown out the other times you've slammed technophiles.

Ellison has said, in print and on cable, that he's deathly afraid that he'll be forgotten as a writer. Well, I see no better way to slide into the pit of anonymity than to alienate the young and the technologically hip. We are the future. Ignore us, deride us, forget us, and we'll bury you.

Copyright © 1997 by Thomas Myer

Thomas Myer is a technical writer. He happens to have an amazing collection of enemies.


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