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8 in 80 by Ellison by Harlan Ellison
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8 in 80 by Ellison

by Harlan Ellison

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The premise for this collection is quite different than anything you will have ever seen in a collection of Harlan's stories. These were picked by his wife, Susan. True, none of the stories are new – each story can be found in other places (at least I know I've read them before, I just can't tell you where.) But, because of the way they were chosen, the entirety creates a different (oh, I hate the term) vibe.

The title refers to the selection of eight stories – one from each of the eight decades of Harlan's life. Imagine the task yourself; having to wade through the reams of stories Harlan has produced to find the one in each decade that resonates for you personally. And that last point is the most important, because these are not necessarily his best stories (although they are some really good ones); they are the ones Susan felt represented Harlan in the decade, and her impressions of Harlan.

And because of that, rather than a fair-to-middling collection of stories, we have the opportunity to gain a better appreciation of Susan's perceptions of Harlan and their 30-year relationship. It is impossible to separate the editor from the selections.

The thing I found surprising was just how (not sure this is the right word) melancholy the resulting collection is. Aside from the initial story (a serial with drawings from the 15-year-old Harlan), they seem to touch on Harlan's sadder side. He can often write darkly, he can often write bitterly, but the selections bring forward a certain sadness that is not always readily apparent. And that Susan went with this flow says as much about her and her perception of Harlan as it does his writing.

And then there is Susan's introduction. Much like the story selections, it is introspective and revelatory about both of these individuals and the couple they have become

One other different/interesting/intriguing aspect of this collection worth noting. It has been published as part of the series of Harlan's various writings that is being put out by Edgework Abbey. And these books are being published using the original file copies. That means you are seeing copies of the actual initial draft of the story with only a very few change. (It seems to be true that Harlan's initial drafts need little editing.)

Technically, there is nothing new here (aside from Susan's excellent introduction). However, there is so much different going on (the selection method, the original file copies, the overall theme) that they seem fresh. Small thing: For the first time, ever, I think I really understand "Incognita, Inc." Maybe I just needed a new context. ( )
1 vote figre | Mar 4, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0989525740, Paperback)

In honor of Harlan Ellison’s eightieth birthday, Susan Ellison—his wife of thirty years, the Electric Baby—has scoured raw eight (8) decades of his written output (from his 1949 serialized stories in The Cleveland News to as-yet unpublished tales fresh from his Olympia Manual typewriter) to present one artifact from each calendar decade. Where possible, the eight stories herein have been reproduced from Ellison’s original typescripts, as preserved in his meticulous archives. In some cases, they may differ from the preferred texts established over years of revisions and reprints. From the 1940s: "The Sword of Parmagon," a five-part serial inspired by the works of Sir Walter Scott. Originally published in the Cleveland News when the author was fifteen years old, this story has been re-set with the original illustrations for this printing. From the 1950s: "Nedra at f:5.6," Ellison's homage to Fritz Leiber, reprinted from the revised typescript. From the 1960s: "The Resurgence of Miss Ankle-Strap Wedgie," a novella of Hollywood written as a showpiece for Ellison's first hardback collection. Reprinted from the original typescript with the author's handwritten corrections. From the 1970s: "The Diagnosis of Dr. D'arqueAngel," a fantasy written from a concept generated before an audience of California high school students by the author, Ray Bradbury, and Frank Herbert. Reprinted from the original typescript. From the 1980s: "She's a Young Thing and Cannot Leave Her Mother," the story Ellison was writing while attending the Scottish convention where he met the future Susan Ellison (and Neil Gaiman). Reprinted from the original typescript. From the 1990s: "Scartaris, June 28th," the story that--according to Susan Ellison--crystallized a new auctorial voice for her husband, the one that would go on to appear in THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES with "The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore" (available in HARLAN 101: ENCOUNTERING ELLISON). Reprinted from the original typescript. From the 2000s: "Incognita, Inc.," the story that explores the source of all those maps to buried treasure and magical lands. Reprinted from the original typescript, it makes its first appearance in an Ellison collection here. From the 2010s: "Weariness," inspired by a random piece of art, was first published in an anthology dedicated to the late Ray Bradbury. Reprinted from the original typescript, it makes its first appearance in an Ellison collection here.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:16 -0400)

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