Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day, Uncle Harlan!

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are rather awkward — that is, for the kind of people who feel awkward when I say the only things these days do for me is remind me of how grateful I am that I don’t have those pathetically weak and stupid people in my life anymore. [Pause to savor the shocked silence. And to those righteous twits who say, “We just don’’t SAY things like that!” well, I do. Just not often, and for obvious reasons.] 

So it’s a delightful surprise on this Father’s Day that I come across a recent interview with one of my spiritual fathers, one of the two “uncles” who helped shape my worldview, my attitude, who provided an encouraging voice when I was disgusted with being the only person who thought and felt the way I did and wished I was stupid and happy like everyone else. Uncle Ray Bradbury is gone, but I still got my Uncle Harlan. Rock on, you ornery old bastard. 

Yeah, yeah, I know. He’s always bragging about stuff he says is gonna happen and doesn’t, he flaked out on The Last Dangerous Visions. He’s mean to people sometimes. Yeah, so? 

He was there for me in my hours of darkness. Harlan Ellison poured my first Strange Wine, told me Deathbird Stories, and taught me to roar like a proper Beast Who Shouted “Love!” at the Heart of the World. Harlan mentions 1988’s Angry Candy in the interview linked above but his Last Known Good was Stalking the Nightmare in 1982. Like my Uncle Ray, he’s kept chugging along long after his Special Formula mojo was exhausted.

But the goods Uncle Harlan once delivered are still there. Their truths are still true, their delivery mechanism whirs as efficiently as ever 30, 40, even 50 years down the line. Maybe not as much in print as I’d like to see, but I’ve got my copies. I think it’s time to pay them a revisit. Happy Father’s Day, Uncle Harlan, for teaching me how to throw the ball, for how to rebuild the engine in a muscle car. It was another kind of ball and another kind of engine in another kind of car, but it was more than anyone else ever did for me, and for that I am forever grateful.

“And the LORD said, ‘Get off my lawn!’”
“Really? It says that?”