Harlan Ellison is widely considered one of the best science fiction authors of all time. According to his obituary in The New York Times, Ellison was “ranked with eminent science fiction writers like Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov.” However, Ellison was not fond of being called a science-fiction writer. He once said:
“Call me a science fiction writer. I’ll come to your house and I’ll nail your pet’s head to a coffee table. I’ll hit you so hard your ancestors will die.”
Despite his disdain for everything science fiction, Ellison ended up writing one of the best episodes of “Star Trek: The Original Series” ever to air. He penned the original teleplay for “City on the Edge of Forever,” though the episode that aired was far different from what he originally wrote.
In fact, it was so different that Ellison didn’t want his name in the credits of the final episode. He wanted to be credited with a pen name he used whenever he felt his work had been irrevocably changed. Later, Ellison published the original teleplay so that fans could see what he’d intended for the episode and compare it to the episode that actually aired.
The changes made to his work sparked a decades-long feud with “Star Trek’s” creator, Gene Roddenberry, and led Ellison to bash the franchise every time he was given the opportunity. However, this wasn’t very out of character for Ellison. In fact, he was infamous for his abrasive personality and his wild temper.
Takei Got to Experience His Temper Firsthand
Takei said that he was really “intrigued” by Ellison after working on “City on the Edge of Forever.” So, when he found out Ellison was on the set, he sought him out so he could introduce himself.
However, he wasn’t prepared for what he found. Takei said:
At that point, he was having a rant about somebody. I don’t know. He is a fierce person. A person who lets go of his emotions with a torrent of fierce words. And I decided, I’m not going to have a conversation with this guy!
Takei continued, saying that someone took Ellison aside and calmed him down. Then he came back and introduced himself to Takei.
There Was Another Side to Ellison
When Takei finally did speak with Ellison, he got to see a completely different side of the iconic writer.
“He was the most charming guy,” Takei said. “It is amazing that he can go from black to white and white to green. His emotions change with the snap of a finger!”
Takei went on to say, “He was a delightful guy and a man with a lot of ideas. A very imaginative guy.”
Takei conceded that Ellison was “very volatile” and though he “came to love him very much,” he also knew that there were times when he was to be avoided at all costs.
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