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Stalking The Nightmare by Harlan Ellison

Stalking The Nightmare (original 1982; edition 1984)

by Harlan Ellison

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450837,125 (4.05)3
With a foreword by Stephen King: Provocative and entertaining pieces from the multiple award-winning author. Pure, hundred‑proof distillation of Ellison. A righteous verbal high. Here you will find twenty of his very best stories and essays, including the four‑part 'Scenes from the Real World," an anecdotal history of the doomed TV series, The Starlost, that he created for NBC; "Tales from the Mountains of Madness"; and his hilariously brutal reportage on the three most important things in life, sex, violence, and labor relations. With an absolutely killer foreword by Stephen King.… (more)
Title:Stalking The Nightmare
Authors:Harlan Ellison
Info:Berkley (1984), Paperback
Collections:Your library

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Stalking the Nightmare by Harlan Ellison (1982)



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These 18 essays and stories reveal a gonzo outlook underlying Ellison's writing, as strong in his essays as in his fiction. As with many collections, individual selections vary in subject matter, genre, and quality, but overall they leave a strong impression of Ellison's vast reservoir of talent, and I appreciate that in these works at least he doesn't succumb to the presumed temptation of showing off. Evidently quite capable of taking each of his stories in four or five vastly different directions, nevertheless he is content to follow his selected path, seemingly unconcerned it won't be 'weird enough'.

I found significantly Weird "The Cheese Stands Alone" and "The Hour That Stretches". The non-fiction pieces are as compelling as the fiction. There were no clunkers, persuading me I should pick up any Ellison title I find, preferably clothbound.


The copyright notices indicate 11 selections are here revised from their initial appearance in magazine or prior collection. I truly hope LOA issues at least one Ellison volume. ( )
3 vote elenchus | May 20, 2019 |
The Basics

As is the case with most of Ellison’s work, it’s a short story collection. Interestingly, this one contains a few personal stories of his, some true and some… exaggerated. I’m looking at you “The Hour That Stretches”.

My Thoughts

My personal quest to read everything by Harlan Ellison continues. He’s a wonderful writer who stands the test of time, and this was a very strong series of stories. The thing that will always strike me about him is his very unique ideas. Cliches are hard to find in his work, and if they are present, they’re usually twisted upside-down and backwards.

Let’s talk about the strongest contenders for me. “Blank…” was truly inspired. I won’t give it away, but it has to be one of the most grisly fates for a character in all of speculative fiction. “The Cheese Stands Alone” had me very intrigued throughout, and I loved the way the protagonist dealt with existential horror. “Djinn, No Chaser” and “!!!The!Teddy!Crazy!!Show!!!” were both great for a laugh. And “Visionary” (co-written with Joe L. Hensley) is one of the most beautifully written stories I’ve ever read.

But what really makes this collection shine is the fact that Ellison threw in a few personal notes. “The 3 Most Important Things in Life” should be read by everyone, everywhere. It’s hilarious, then terrifying, then hilarious again. And real. “Somehow, I Don’t Think We’re In Kansas Anymore, Toto” recounts his awful turn with Hollywood in trying to make the show The Starlost. If you’re a fan of Ellison’s, you’ll have heard of this as a complete disaster. I had, but I didn’t know the full lowdown. Well, here it is, and it’s ugly. And so, so funny. It shouldn’t be funny, but in typical form, his rage is so eloquent that it’s hilarious.

This is a great read for anyone who is even halfway interested in this author, especially for those non-fiction elements.

Final Rating

5/5 ( )
1 vote Nickidemus | Sep 18, 2014 |
Essays and short stories by sci fi & speculative fiction & generally angry man Harlan Ellison. Some very good stuff hidden in this one. Frequent very funny, often deeply disturbing, and always thought-provoking. Foreward by Stephen King. ( )
  leavesandpages | Feb 13, 2013 |
With an introduction by Stephen King and an amalgam of short stories and essays, Stalking the Nightmare is an entertaining read. As with any collection of tales from a single writer, some stand out more than others. In this case, the most memorable ones include:

"Grail" - in which a man spends his life searching for true love only to learn that it's an artifact that has been traded around the world.

"The Outpost Undiscovered by Tourists" - A parody of the three wise men in modern times after searching 2000 years for Christ. They now drive a Rolls Royce and sleep on air mattresses while fighting the "forces of chaos". Eventually, they find the savior in The Manger, a hotel by Hyatt, and surrounded by various folks including accountants, pet-store owners, and hairdressers.

"Night of Black Glass" - this one interested me mostly as it was written in 5 hours in a B. Dalton bookstore window after news anchor Tom Brokaw challenged Harlan to write a story based on one line: "August afternoon a person walking along a rocky beach in Maine picks up a pair of broken sunglasses.”

"Djinn, No Chaser" - a young couple walks into a mysterious antique shop that materializes from thin air. They purchase a cheap lamp before the owner kicks them out just as the shop vanishes once more. Later, the couple finds that the lamp contains a sadistic genie who turns their lives into a living hell, sending the husband into an asylum. Later, his wife discovers a way to turn their situation completely around...

"Invasion Footnote" - another farce about a megalomaniacal robot hell-bent on world domination, until his own kind turn on him. Predictable but funny.

"The Hour That Stretches" - Harlan fills in for Jerry Pournelle as a guest on a radio show and decides to allow callers to phone in one-line prompts to which Harlan will conjure up a story premise on the spot. After awhile, it becomes an exhausting exercise for Harlan, until the final caller...

"The Day I Died" - not so much a story, but a series of possible ways in which Harlan will die, with exact descriptions and dates ranging from 1973 to 2010.

In my opinion, the first three essays are actually more interesting than the stories.

"The 3 Most Important Things in Life" offers moments from Harlan's life that deal with sex, violence, and labor relations. The latter of which is an incident that occurred when he was hired to write for Disney...and fired within hours of arrival.

"Saturn, November 11th" details Harlan's visit to JPL as a guest of Jerry Pournelle when the Voyager satellite begins sending pictures back of Saturn and its moons.

"Somehow, I Don't Think We're In Kansas, Toto" is a recount of Harlan's ludicrous experiences with Hollywood when The Starlost TV series went into production based on his story, “Phoenix Without Ashes".

All told, Stalking the Nightmare is an enjoyable read and further evidence of Harlan's vivid imagination and reputation for fearless, and even experimental, storytelling. ( )
1 vote pgiunta | Jan 24, 2013 |
It's been 20 years since I first read this book, a book which changed my life by changing how I read and how I thought about writers and writing. Ellison's introduction probably had as big an influence on me as any other single thing I have ever read; it was high on a pedestal in memory. What's more, it holds up. "Quiet Lies the Locust Tells" is all on its own worth the price of admission. Add to that the eerie prescience of "!!!The!!Teddy!Crazy!!Show!!!", the wisdom and humour of "The 3 Most Important Things in Life," and the philosophical bent (what Robert J. Sawyer calls "phi-fi") of creepy, funny, bitter, hopeful stories like "Djinn, No Chaser" and "The Cheese Stands Alone" and you start to feel spoiled. The mix of stories and essays was my introduction to Ellison twenty years ago, and I am pleased to discover that my first impressions still ring true, even after all the changes to myself and the world. ( )
1 vote Lexicographer | Apr 29, 2008 |
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Harlan Ellisonprimary authorall editionscalculated
King, Stephensecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I don't have much patience with the facts, and any writer is a congenital liar to begin with or he wouldn't take up writing . . . I write to say No to death . . . an artist is a creature driven by demons. He don't usually know why they chose him and he's usually too busy to wonder why . . .
In every possible way, this book is for (Ms.) MARTY CLARK
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