Harlan Ellison was kind enough to invite me into his home in LA, on short notice I might add, to talk about R. A. Lafferty. At one point during the hour-and-a-half conversation he brought out a stack of paper and told me they were all interview requests that he would not be taking. As much as I'd like to believe it was my exceedingly charming email that swayed him, it was clearly his love and respect for Lafferty and the chance to praise him on the record.
Harlan has quite a reputation for contentiousness, which you can get a sense of in the fascinating, Dreams with Sharp Teeth, documentary--so I entered the infamous Ellison Wonderland with a bit of trepidation and some concern at having to follow Robin Williams in the part of interviewer. Happily for everyone involved, I pledge to stay politely off-camera, and Harlan was beyond gracious.
We talked about the first story of Lafferty's he read, Narrow Valley, and how RAL burst onto the scene like a "cosmic explosion". He told stories about RAL at the many conventions where they met over the years--how Harlan chased him around and would sit for hours drinking with him at a bar, even though Harlan didn't drink. We talked about writing, structure, the New Wave, religion, editors and publishers--but I think my big take-away was how much Harlan really cared about him; his hands coming to one of their only moments of complete motionlessness as they held his bent head, mumbling, "god I loved him".
So, here's a short promotional video (above) from the Harlan interview. I'll try to put out things like this as I talk to different people along the way. Of course there will be more of Harlan in the finished documentary, and if people want I might put out more of the interview online. One note: I'm still playing with titles (seen at the end of the video) so if anyone has any ideas I'd be happy to hear them.