MadCon 2010 Report Part 2: I Was Throttled By Harlan Ellison

I was throttled by Harlan Ellison.

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Now there’s an introduction you won’t see in your average English class.
But, yep, I was throttled by Harlan Ellison — but in a good way; he was trying to make a point, see.

During the MadCon 2010 convention, Ellison had made it clear he did not want any pictures or videos of him being posted on the internet. Ellison has a well-documented and not unfounded hate/hate relationship with the internet. So, I will not be posting any pictures of Ellison from MadCon for two reasons. First, I’ll respect his request. Second, my camera stinks, and most of the pictures are blurry.

I’ve been a long-time Ellison fan. I grew up in Ohio, and Ellison is originally from Ohio, too. When I first discovered him, I was a teenager with a hyper-imagination. He became sort of this literary role-model for me in the sense that a kid from a Rust-Belt state could actually do something literary and imaginative.

So now, 28 years after I first read Shatterday, Ellison was coming to my virtual backyard at MadCon 2010. I had never met him before, so my inner fanboy was all aflutter at the chance to get an autograph for that book.

I attended an off-site signing at the Frugal Muse Bookstore, where about 100 or so people turned out. When the signing started, Ellison began a long speech about various topics. He said some things, signed a book or two from somebody, talked again, signed a book or six from someone, and so on.

Ellison commented on several things, such as how poor most writers are and how those of us in line wanted his autograph so we could sell the books online for “lots and lots of money.”

Ellison also spoke about his recent Grammy Award nomination and took out the official medallion (all nominees get one) to hold it up for us to see.

The next person in line, a tall gentleman,  grabbed the medallion to hold it higher. This action — rightfully — infuriated Ellison. who hopped on his chair to go face-to-face with the man for his rudeness. Meanwhile, another fellow whipped out a smart phone to either take a picture or video of Ellison yelling.

Seeing the camera, the author hopped down, snatched the camera from the guy’s hand, threw to the floor, and stomped on it three times. Unfortunately, the smart phone was a non-flip kind, and had a rubberized skin around it—so no real damage was done. Once Ellison regained his composure, he had a thirty minute heart-to-heart with the offending fan while the rest of us stayed in line, waiting.

I was now one person away from getting my book signed, I wasn’t going anywhere.  Inner fanboys are something powerful.

When the conversation was close to being over, I opened my Shatterday to the cover page. Ellison started walking up and down the line, proclaiming we were just there to make money off of his signature.

Seeing my open book, he walked over and wrote: “Harlan.” Before finishing the signature, he started talking again. After a few excruciatingly long moments he came back and added the “Ellison” to the “Harlan.” My inner fanboy got the best of me, and I said, “Mr. Ellison, I guarantee that I’ll not sell this book and keep it to my dying day.”

Ellison grabbed my collar and sh0ok me.

“No! Didn’t you hear what I said! You are supposed to sell this for lots of money. Lots and lots of money, you idiot!”

I mumbled something akin to “Okay,” then Ellison let me go, and I left the line.

So there I was, throttled by one of my literary heroes in front of 100 other fans. But throttled in good way. He was trying to make a point, see, about making money. And let’s not forget I happen to have a semi-focused picture of Ellison yelling at a tall man while in the foreground a hand holds a smart phone.

This is Ellison, a snow leopard about to pounce on a rabbit .

No, I won’t post it online. But I might sell it one day many, many years from now, when I am in need of lots and lots of money. I got his point.

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