Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Wanderer Returns

I'm just back (a couple of days ago) from the Eaton Conference in Riverside, California, where I presented a paper on a different writer for a change: Harlan Ellison. My paper was titled "Living in a Limited World: Omniscience and Point of View in the Works of Harlan Ellison", and in it I discussed some of the ways Ellison has used point of view to get across the emotional and/or intellectual impact of his stories and screenplays. Among the works I discussed were Ellison's screenplay Phoenix Without Ashes (recently adapted for a comic book series) and his classic short stories "The Deathbird" and "The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore" (soon to be re-published in a new, revised edition of Deathbird Stories from Subterranean Press).

Harlan was originally expecting to be attending some of the conference events, but ill health unfortunately forced him to cancel. He was due to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Eaton Conference/Eaton Collection, so he asked his friend Steve Barber to accept it on his behalf. I was able to spend some time with Steve, and Steve kindly offered to give Harlan a copy of my paper.

A couple of days later, Harlan posted the following on his website:

"[...] Steve Barber and Cris got the Eaton proclamation to me, it is as big as Austria, and we have it propped up in the dining room. Steve also delivered Phil Nichols's paper on me (the original, with all the defamatory parts pencilled out) and I must say that while I am completely oblivious to the two academic papers cited (Royle and Rimmon-Kenan), had Phil answered the phone when I called him at Riverside, I would've had some effulgent praise for his notice of, and appreciation for, the use of cinematic expansion&contraction sans voiceover or dialogue that apparently I was autodidactically smart enough to use at the end of PHOENIX WITHOUT ASHES. In short, Phil, I was much put a-smile by your observations on my efforts. I would've liked to have heard it live, then debated it with you. [...]"

That latter part - about debating it with me - would have probably turned me to jelly. The same goes for the phone call, which I apparently missed.

Here's the Eaton proclamation, in the hands of Barber the Ellison stand-in. It's not literally as big as Austria, it's just that Harlan is what we call a creative writer.

Click on photo to enlarge.
Left to right: Melissa Conway, Rob Latham (conference organisers, University of California Riverside); Steve Barber, Ellison substitute; Ruth Jackson (head librarian, UCR).

No comments: