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Author Harlan Ellison, 1934-2018. (SFWA / Christer Akerberg Photo)

Speculative fiction author Harlan Ellison, perhaps best known to the general public as the writer of the well-regarded original Star Trek episode “The City on the Edge of Forever,” has died. He was 84.

According to a tweet from a family friend and confirmed through other sources on Facebook and Twitter, Ellison died overnight in his sleep. He lived in the Los Angeles area with his wife Susan.

While Ellison may have been popularly known for that single Star Trek episode, and perhaps also for the 1975 post-apocalyptic cult film A Boy and His Dog (starring Don Johnson and based on one of Ellison’s short stories), he was an almost elemental force in fantasy and science fiction.

Primarily a short fiction writer most active from the 1960’s through the 1990’s, Ellison won multiple major writing honors. They included numerous Nebula and Hugo Awards, as well as awards from the Writers Guild of America, Horror Writers Association and Mystery Writers of America.

He edited the groundbreaking science-fiction anthologies Dangerous Visions (1967) and Again, Dangerous Visions (1972), and was a creative consultant on the television series Babylon 5. Fans of classic science fiction and fantasy television will likely recall his writing for the original Outer Limits episodes “Soldier” and “Demon with a Glass Hand” (1964).

Ellison himself never liked being labelled as a science fiction writer, in part because his work was far broader than the conventions of the genre. But he was an amazing fantasist. His best fiction was incisive and unconventional, yet utterly compelling and readable.

Ellison’s public persona could be direct and abrasive, especially as a so-called angry young man of literature. It was an image he seemed to at times relish and encourage, especially when challenged by more proper professional writers and know-it-all fans.

When I was a tall, gawky, teenage new writer, I met Harlan. We were both attending a science-fiction convention. I was in a hurry leaving an elevator at the convention hotel, rushed out and stopped dead, having run into … something.

I looked down. It was Harlan, who was somewhat less tall (IMDB puts his height at just under 5′ 3″; I was 6′ 4″). I apologized profusely. But he took it with good humor.

“I can tell you’re going to be a great writer,” he said quickly. “You’ve got ..,” he paused as he looked dramatically up from my feet to head, “Presence.”

We stayed in touch for years. He was a source of sharp encouragement for this budding professional. I’ve never forgotten that. And based on some of the remembrances on social media, others have similar experiences and memories.

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