Ellison on journalists: "The problem with people who interview me is that they're all about eleven years old, and for them 'nostalgia' is what they had for breakfast! They don't have any sense of history at all. If you mention Alexander Haig [Who? -ed]they don't know who the fuck you're talking about, and God forbid you should mention the Wars of the Roses----they need to know whether it came before or after Grenada!"
Ellison on cyber-hype: "Even the great pimp of the 'infobahn revolution,' Nicholas Negroponte, is always talking about, you know, [Ellison adopts a slurred, drooling lisp] 'why ith everyone tho upthet that kidths are thitting in front of video gamthes? It's jutht like thitting in front of a book!' Well no, you bonehead, it is not exactly like sitting in front of a book! A book is something that requires the imagination and the active intellectual participation of the recipient----as opposed to a game, which is just like a turnip-twaddler, which is my wife's great expression for things that they want to sell you in catalogues on airplanes that you don't really need. You know---like a toilet-seat warmer, that kind of crap."
Ellison on 'sequels': "You have to understand something: I have never written any sequels to anything. I hate sequels. I hate these trilogies of idiot novels in which people chew their cud five times over in five giant volumes, to go on the Great Mythic Search for, I don't know, the Sword, or the Trident, or the Ring, or the Rectal Suppository of Shannarah, you know----I hate those kinds of books. So there are no sequels to anything I've ever written. [Well, except A Boy and His Dog, but not, of course, More Dangerous Visions -ed]"
Ellison on religion and morality: "I am Jewish; I'm also an atheist. I was born a Jew and raised a Jew. That doesn't mean I have to believe all that crap. I don't really have to believe that there is this great, bearded entity sitting up there who will make me go blind if I masturbate. I mean, this is a stupid vision of a God, and everybody who accepts it and believes it, I think is just sadly uneducated, they're on the level of barbarism, of people who lived back in the Negev desert two thousand years before Jesus. In fact, I think Jesus was probably a pretty smart cookie. Jesus basically said, Hey, do good, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That's a pretty good way to live! But most people don't."
Ellison on his early religious training: "I lived in Painesville, Ohio, and we were the only Jewish family in town, and after a few more Jewish families moved in, they decided to bring in a rabbinical student to teach us about Judaism. And this guy is doing Genesis, and I'm listening---I'm a young kid, I'm what, nine, ten, eleven years old, but I was fairly smart, I was not an idiot---and I'm listening to all this about Adam and Eve, and I raised my hand. And he says, Yes, what is it? I said, Let me see if I've got this straight---there's only Adam and Eve, right? Yeah. And they had two sons, Cain and Abel, right? Yeah. And then Cain slew Abel, right? Yeah. And he was driven out of Eden, east into the land of Nod, right, where he got married and had all these children, right? Yeah. And I said, "Where did they all come from? Did they all screw Eve too?"
Ellison on censorship of his work: "There have been cases of censorship of my work all along. I have no problem with that. The more they try to censor me, the better the job is that I'm doing. It was Joseph Pulitzer's admonition that the job of a good journalist was to inflict woe upon the comfortable. That's one of the chores that I undertake."
Setting the world right is another chore that's never done, but Ellison's flight leaves SFO soon, so it's time to wrap it up. As we bag the signing, he dons his trenchcoat and wraparound sunblockers, shaking hands with fans. One of the attendees asks, "Did you bump into Newt Gingrich at the ABA convention?" .
"Funny you should ask. They brought me in for this signing. You ever been in the ABA? It's in the Chicago convention center---which is only slightly smaller than Latvia, I'm telling you, people were waiting for cabs for two hours to get a cab to get out of this joint---and they had all kinds of people signing. And my publisher brought me in to sign this wretched, nasty little chat book that they had, and they only had 700 of the books. They had something like a hundred people queued up for me, and they were all kicking and punching each other...and next to me is that pig-sucking, ambulatory phlegm Newt Gingrich. And he's watching this crowd, saying "Who's that over there?" "Oh, that's Harlan Ellison. Wave to him." I look over at him, and---" Ellison, re-enacting the moment, grins hugely and flips the bird in the manner only Harlan Ellison can. "'You and the snake you slithered in on, Newt!' I didn't actually bump into him...but we made each other's presence known."
Ellison makes his way back to the limo---amid cheers and laughing requests of "Say hi to Newt!"---like a guitarist after the last encore; he's got to get home to prepare for an extended vacation/lecture tour in Australia. Apparently, there are a few people down under who need straightening out as well.