Gandalf’s Den in the Atrium Building hosted an autograph party for Harlan Ellison today, ahead of his Thursday evening speaking engagement at the EMU Ballroom, an event sponsored by the Eugene chapter of the campaign to elect John Anderson for President. I joined the campaign as a volunteer because I’m a sixteen year old sci-fi freak and I wanted to meet the dark prince of American letters. I was surprised to see that Ellison was several inches shorter than me and my hope to befriend him died the minute I realized he’d probabaly dismiss me as just a kid teenager with a pedestrian taste in literature.

Ellison had a carry-on luggage bag on rollers filled with numbered editions of his new book, “Shatterday,” which was a collection of sixteen short stories due to be published at the end of the month. The book features his Hugo and Nebula award-winning story, “Jeffty Is Five,” which I’d read in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Mike Stamm, who worked at Gandalf’s Den, was tasked with the job of interviewing Ellison for the Oregon Daily Emerald, but the curmudgeon who said that Star Wars was a halfwit Wild West adventure in outer space couldn’t be corralled long enough for a one-on-one sit-down, so Mike had to cobble together an article from Ellison’s bookstore appearance.

I wish I could say that I was enamored by Ellison’s brilliance and wit, but to me he came off as a conceited jerk and a grumpy nitpicker, dumping on science fiction readers for using the term “sci-fi” and saying the genre was mostly junk. The more he spoke, the more I was left with the same feeling I had when I met R. Crumb and he criticized me for reading Spider-Man comics. Suddenly, a group of women marched into the shop like an angry mob of Transylvanian villagers chanting, “Fee Fi Fo Fum, we want the blood of an Ellison!” It was the Radar Angels.

~ Eugene, Oregon – October 17, 1980