Tag: harlan ellison
Harlan Ellison, one of science fiction’s most prolific writers and also contributed some of the best television episodes of Star Trek and The Outer Limits and was a consultant for Babylon 5 (and made a cameo appearance), passed away at home in his sleep unexpectedly today. It was announced by his wife via a friend, and confirmed by his agent. He was 84.
Ellison wrote uncountable stories, both classic and even horrible ones, the latter of which he would use his pseudonym of “Cordwainer Bird”, reserved for anything he felt wasn’t good enough. He worked on a number of TV programs, including creating the scripts for the Outer Limits episode “Demon With A Glass Hand”, and the Star Trek episode “City on the Edge of Forever”. He also developed a pilot script for a show that became The Starlost, which became an infamous example of creator-vs-producer interference among other problems that resulted in a subpar show (which was credited to Cordwainer Bird).
He was also a divisive figure, never afraid to give out an insult, and wasn’t afraid to sue over stories and rights. He famously sued over The Terminator, claiming it was derived from two of his Outer Limits episodes, the aforementioned “Demon…” and “Soldier”, and in an out of court settlement the producers were required to include his name in the credits. Early in the history of then Sci-Fi Channel, he has a regular segment on the show Sci-Fi Buzz, which he often wouldn’t say the name of (or the channel) because he detested the name “sci-fi”. He could be simultaneously entertaining and infuriating, which made him fascinating.
Could Harlan Ellison finally be warming up to the idea of a big screen movie of one of his stories? It appears so, but it wasn’t easy, even for J. Michael Straczynski, who successfully optioned the story for a film based on Ellison’s Hugo and Nebula Award-winning story Repent, Harlequin! Said The Ticktock Man.
Even though they’ve worked together before (Ellison was an advisor on Babylon 5), Ellison wasn’t just going to let JMS have it – in fact, he required JMS to write the entire screenplay first, and then based on that, granted the option. JMS can now shop the screenplay for producers and directors, and plans to hit up Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro first.
Ellison and Hollywood have generally not gotten along. Known for being very litigious over anything that even resembled one of his stories, he most recently had filed suit but later dropped against the movie In Time for similarities to Repent Harlequin!. He settled out of court against the makers of The Terminator for similarities to his Outer Limits episodes “Soldier” and “Demon With A Glass Hand”. He fought with Gene Roddenberry over rewrites to his Star Trek script “City on the Edge of Forever”, and had his name taken off the series The Starlost which he create after the producers kept changing things, opting for his pseudonym “Cordwainer Bird”, which he attaches to anything he does that he feels is not quality, even his own stories. So it will be interesting to finally see a big production made from one of his top stories.
I have confirmed with both Ellison’s and Niccol’s lawyers that the action has been dropped, and both sides have agreed to the following joint statement:
“After seeing the film In Time, Harlan Ellison decided to voluntarily dismiss the Action. No payment or screen credit was promised or given to Harlan Ellison. The parties wish each other well, and have no further comment on the matter.”
So there you have it. The lawsuit was originally sparked by what Ellison saw as similarities between the movie and his own story, “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said The Ticktockman”, namely the dystopian future in which people lived for a fixed amount of time, and that they could lose time if they violate anything. In the movie, time is literally money – everyone starts off with a fixed amount, and they earn more and pay for things with it. The movie struggled in theaters, however, grossing about $35 million domestically, and reaching only 38% on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer.
Two months ago it was announced that Harlan Ellison was filing a lawsuit against New Regency and director Andrew Niccol about the movie In time, which Ellison claims was too similar to his well known story, “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said The Ticktockman”, and would damage his ability to sell his own movie rights. He was seeking to stop the release, destroy all copies, and damages, but the film was released in time (pun!) anyways.
But I’m just learning today that Ellison had settled with the defendants last week, settling at least for screen credit (no mention on a monetary settlement) in future prints of the movie. This settlement echoes a similar lawsuit Ellison won against the producers of The Terminator, also receiving on-screen credit.
Updated 11/9: Maybe it hasn’t…I’m hearing through the twittervine that the original story may be false, and none of the other major orgs seem to have picked up on it. More news when known.
Update #2: Per Andrew Niccol’s lawyer, there has not been any settlement.
Harlan Ellison isn’t too pleased with the plot of the upcoming film In Time. In fact, he’s filed a lawsuit against New Regency and director Andrew Niccol, and is attempting to get an injunction against the release and dispose of the film. In Time is scheduled for an October 28th release.
Now fans and detractors are aware of Ellison’s propensity for legal action – and he’s generally been successful, even for seemingly marginal cases, such as The Terminator (he won at least an acknowledgement in the credits.) So, is this another superficial similarity, or is there more?
Harlan Ellison, in a phone interview The Daily Page, says he is dying. His health has been recently failing and there was some question as to whether he’d participate in person at MadCon 2010 (which kicks off tomorrow), where he is the Guest of Honor. “The truth of what’s going on here is that I’m dying,” he said. “An old dog senses when it’s his time — dogs have that capacity; nobody doubts that. Nobody. But everybody doubts when you say, ‘I’m dying.’ They think you’re being a Victorian actress. They think you’re doing Bernhardt.” He WILL be at MadCon, however (and it is planned to be his last con), and will answer all questions – except perhaps whether he really threw a fan down an elevator shaft…
Harlan Ellison, who wrote the script for the original Star Trek episode “City On The Edge Of Forever”, has filed suit against Paramount for use of the work without paying him for revenues, mostly on derivative works based on the situations and plot of “City”, and even a Hallmark ornament of the Guardian Of Forever. Also named in the suit is the Writers Guild of America, for failing to act on Ellison’s behalf. And in true Ellison character he says, “I’m no hypocrite. It ain’t about the ‘principle,’ friend, its about the MONEY! Pay Me! Am I doing this for other writers, for Mom (still dead), and apple pie? Hell no! I’m doing it for the 35-year-long disrespect and the money!”