Harlan Ellison is 75 years old today.  You may not know his name, but you have probably seen something on television or the movie screen that he had a hand in creating.  Google him and be amazed!

I was introduced to his work at a convenience store in Winnipeg, circa 1978.  I was about 14 years old, and a voracious reader.  I bought this book because I was in the mood for something new to read, and the spine was labelled “science fiction”:


This was the first time I understood the value of a handmade book cover.  Pulp fiction-style artwork aside, the short stories inside were appealing, and I went on to read as many of his books as I could get my hands on.  He also wrote a great deal of nonfiction, including critical essays about TV shows and movies.  His work had quite an influence on me.  I was raised in a dysfunctional environment, and the moral philosophy that was the undercurrent in Ellison’s writing gave me inspiration that was otherwise absent from my life.

Tomorrow is my 45th birthday, and I’ve been thinking about the people who have inspired me and made my life better than my 14-year-old self could have imagined.  Harlan Ellison is one of those people.  There are three others who deserve my thanks, and I’ll talk about them over the next couple of days.  I had thought of honouring them in the order that they came into my life, but Ellison gets to jump the queue because it’s his birthday…he was number two.  Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about the first person who saved my life (literally).