To the Edinburgh Filmhouse with my old partner-in-crime-n-rhyme, Senor Peregrine Urban, for to see the Harlan Ellison biogesque movie, Dreams With Sharp Teeth. I first discovered Ellison’s work back in 1985 (about the same time as I read Gibson’s Neuromancer, it so happens) – or rather I should say that I rediscovered Ellison, because I`d been a stone, true-believer SF reader since the age of 9 so I had already read some of his short stories as I`d chomped my way through this or that anthology. But I had to be in my mid-20s and grappling with my own first, faltering attempts at writing before I was ready to rediscover Harlan Ellison, via his non-fiction as much as the fiction. The Glass Teat, his collection of columns wrote on TV and associated matters was a revelation comparable to the shifting of tectonic plates. That someone could write about these things, and write about them in this way! – it was as if a slow-burning blue touchpaper had been lit, and soon after I learned that The Man Hisself was coming to Glasgow as Guest of Honour at the 1984 Albacon…only then he had to cancel, with his old buddy Norman Spinrad standing in for him (and he too was a fabulous, inspiring guest). But Ellison had promised he would come, and the following year, 1985, he was there, stamping his presence on Glasgow’s Central Hotel as only HE can. It was the following year, 1986, that the blue touchpaper finally reached the powder and my brain went off…on a frantic short story writing spree which lasted for a year and a half, 2 years, during which I went from Fanboy Micky Nomates to an annoying, carping upstart producing an acerbic broadsheet, to actually selling my first short story to a professional market, the Other Edens 2 anthology.
So all this was at the back of my mind when I went on my personal hadj to Edinburgh. The film has been reviewed elsewhere to varying degrees of perception and generosity (the Locus review seemed a little sniffy to me), but I have to say that it was a thoroughly enjoyable, fascinating look at the man’s career; the main narrative, illuminating his childhood and moving through the 50s and 60s to the present, seemed a bit perfunctory but this was only a 96 minute film so it was never going to cover that chain of events in real detail. But I can say this about it – I came out of the movie feeling energised. At one point, Ron Moore said that working in TV is a crippling process of negotiation and choosing your battles, saying that you`ll fight to win that battle but you`ll let this one go, whereas Harlan fights all the battles because he believes that they`re all worth fighting. That went to the core of it for me; all the battles are worth fighting, because the enemies of us all do not deserve to win any of them.
So yeah, great movie. Cannot wait for the DVD – there should be killer extras on it!