The Mote in Ellison’s Eye (חדש)|
Sheldon (Sheli) Teitelbaum יום שישי, 25/06/2004, שעה 2:21
“Wryly, teeth grinding with the desire to insert a railroad spike at least an inch deep into the left eyeball of such critic-manqu'e as the woefully bitter, jealous and untalented Gregory Feeley or Sheldon Teitelbaum, who regularly kvetch that I am no-price because I don't write novels...''
Intro, I Robot -- a Screenplay
Aharon, I was not previously aware of the above, having determined never to line Harlan's pockets with my hard-earned shekels. To the extent that Ellison can now engender any sentiment in me save pity, it saddens me that a so-called giant of Ellison's otherwise diminutive stature would sully his own book -- and Reb Yitzhak's memory, Z''L – with such puerile invective. But that is Ellison for you -- as cowering, anal, mean-spirited, and otherwise contemptible a toadeater as has ever infested a stagnant pond. For 15 years, perhaps longer, the ''shrying'' Svengali of Sherman Oaks swings headless chickens about his pointed head while cursing my name in French fanzines and in prologues
to failed screenplays.
Understand the pathology here. Ellison states that I ''regularly kvetch'' about his failure to write novels. In fact -- and this can be demonstrated by a LexisNexis search -- I alluded to Ellison’s lack of distinction as a novelist all of once, and just in passing. I have just run a search, and turned up all of two mentions of Ellison in any regard at all in the the hundreds of articles I have published since leaving Israel in ’85 in the Los Angeles and New York Times, Wired, Time-Digital, The Jerusalem Report and The Jerusalem Post, in the Los Angeles Reader and L.A. Daily News, in the Montreal Gazette and Toronto Star, in Entertainment Weekly, Premiere and Cinefantastique, in Present Tense, Hadassah and Moment, in the L.A. Jewish Journal, in Foundation and Sci Fi Universe, in SF Eye and Midnight Graffiti, in Army and Breakthrough Magazine, in the USC Trojan Family and Networker, and in more venues than I should list here.
Here are the references that drive Ellison, helpless and wryly, to gnash his teeth night after sleepless night, year after rage-filled year since 1990 at least. Not that I know precisely how one can “wryly” -- with or without the comma after the word -- gnash one’s teeth. I would suggest that Ellison deliberately misuses the word to protect himself from potential charges of violent incitement. Conceivably, he well knows, one of the thousands of lost souls who hang on to every trickle of blather that dribbles down his gibbering chin will not internalize that his dreams of torturing me are “wry,” and will dutifully show up on my doorstep, railroad spike in paw. Had the book been published in Israel, Ellison would be rotting in a cell alongside Yigal Amir, literally gnashing his teeth...and a few other choice appendages.
Meileh. As promised:
Copyright 1993 The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times
October 8, 1993, Friday, Home Edition
SECTION: View; Part E; Page 10; Column 1; View Desk
LENGTH: 789 words
HEADLINE: CRAMMED WITH ENOUGH INFORMATION TO FILL THE UNIVERSE; LITERATURE: COMING IN AT 1.3 MILLION WORDS LONG, THE NEW EDITION OF ''ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SCIENCE FICTION'' SEARCHES FOR ORDER IN AN UNWIELDY FIELD.
BYLINE: by THE WOEFULLY JEALOUS, BITTER AND UNTALENTED SHELDON TEITELBAUM, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
“…Questions of editorial judgment remain. The entry on Harlan
Ellison, for instance, is embarrassingly fawning, given his failure
to contribute a single novel to a field largely shaped by novels…”
Copyright 1990 The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times
April 19, 1990, Thursday, Home Edition
NAME: MORDECAI RICHLER
SECTION: View; Part E; Page 1; Column 3; View Desk
LENGTH: 2339 words
HEADLINE: MORDECAI RICHLER WAS HERE;
AUTHOR: THE CANADIAN'S NEW NOVEL, 'SOLOMON GURSKY,' HAS WON CRITICAL
ACCLAIM AND RACKED UP IMPRESSIVE SALES AT HOME.
BYLINE: by THE WOEFULLY JEALOUS, BITTER AND UNTALENTED SHELDON
TEITELBAUM, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
“…On his permafrost-ridden home turf, the prickly Richler is a caustic social critic who makes Southern California's curmudgeon, Harlan Ellison, seem like Mr. Rogers. If Richler inspires equal degrees of loathing in some circles, suggests Canadian chronicler John Robert Colombo, perhaps the country's ranking anthologist, it may be because he is too worldly, too openly Jewish, too urban and too outspoken to suit some super-patriots in Canada…”
This is it. These minor asides plunged this creature in a homicidal tizzy.
Such is the impotence, physical and psychological, that fuels 15 years of
payback. In the above-mentioned French fanzine, for instance, Monsieur Le “Gamad” (“Critic manqué” indeed – il parle Francais comme je parle Chinois, inal dinak, zeb!) howled that I envied him his career and talents. As if any of his readers on any continent have ever heard of me.
I am hardly a household name, either in the SF world or in the world of letters. I daresay I was never even a household name even in Israel, English-language journalism and criticism not being a growth industry like rejected screenplays. I have certainly (and having known me for 25 years you can surely attest to this) -- never aspired to write any kind of fiction. I have also never tried to operate on a spleen, build a gazebo, or design radioactive waste canisters either. According to Mr. Ellison, though, I envy and begrudge those who do these things as well as Ellison’s own meager talents.
This is the response of a certified paranoid who cannot countenance any critique of his work or any accounting of his doings without succumbing to blood rage. These are the wet dreams of a pernicious porcupine with quills akimbo. What an ultra-maroon!
What he does not and cannot fathom is that I do not object to his work so much as I do to his comportment. He is a no-price Napoleon, a bully, a mountebank, a thief in the night. He struts and gibbers with impunity because his victims are either terrified of him or, more likely, cannot be bothered with his “mishegos.” If I begrudge him anything, it, it is his abysmal lack of ''menschlichtkeit.'' That and his perennial posturing as a tough-guy, even as he hides behind a bad heart that, per his endless bleating, should have killed him years ago.
Most of all, I begrudge him his sanctimonious self-designation as a champion of First Amendment rights. Ellison will invariably fight for the right of all right-thinking folks to express themselves as they please. Unless, that is, they please to direct their pens in his direction. In which case, the call comes forth from the musty cloisters of Ellison Wonderland to go to the mattresses. Errant editors and web managers are rousted from their sleep and threatened with unspeakable torments. Writers are pilloried, favors called in, chips cashed, contracts made and cancelled, acceptance slips recalled, checks voided, lawyers whipped into demented frenzies, and fanzines mustered for the grand jihad. Almost inevitably (though not always, recalling musings on Ellison’s strong-arm tactics by Christopher Priest, John Shirley, Charles Platt and others), the offending reference quickly disappears from the public domain.
Such is the abject terror of Harlan' s bilious existence, moreover, that he feels compelled, meanwhile, to depict himself as the victim of a literary stalking, nay, a conspiracy, led by yours truly , and undertaken by accomplices I have never heard of (including this Feeley fellow).
Why? Perhaps he lives in trepidation I may find myself inclined to mention him yet again in passing in a publication people actually read. That I may, this time, expose him as a poseur. Or maybe because, having failed to take me to task in a publication read by as many people as the Times or even the least of my venues, he can only do so in a book. A book whose sole purpose, mind you, is not to showcase his failed screenplay so much as it is to launch the latest episode of the endless serial looping in his loopy mind. The one you aptly dub ''Ellison Against the Known Universe.''
In retrospect, though, my comment about Ellison's failure to write novels was ill considered. Short-story-writing is an honorary and difficult craft, and I was remiss insulting those short storywriters whose elegant doorway Ellison has darkened. Had I composed the piece more recently, I might have opined, instead, that Ellison has consistently evinced an idiot savant’s ability to regurgitate random syllables from a thesaurus and use the resulting outpouring as a cudgel. That and a shameless genius for marketing such effluvia as wit to the ''terminal acne cases'' that comprise the mainstay of his readers.
And as for any disparagement of Mordecai, Mordecai was a “gever,” an honest, moral and truly courageous short story writer, novelist and essayist. Richler had a heart. And he could write things that will outlast any notoriety he personally inspired. “Le'havdil.”
But this wasn't the start of our contretemps by any means either.
Nor was the subsequent business of the so-called ''Enemies of Ellison.'' That lamentably christened organization, you may recall, was founded by people who had suffered Ellison’s efforts to shut them down. Lamentably because these poor souls were not Enemies of Ellison in the sense they hoped, as Ellison's cronies insisted, to destroy him. Rather, they perceived themselves as victims of Ellison's endless and insatiable gall and ire.
Am I or have I ever been a card-carrying member? “Be’chayeicha.”
Six or seven years ago, veteran SF critic Charles Platt created the group by publishing that deadliest of weapons in Harlan's universe -- a fanzine. When I heard about this from a third party, I asked the L.A. Times Magazine if I might be permitted to cover this otherwise amusing ''affaire de lettre.'' The Times gave me a green light. However, I told my editor that Ellison had taken virulent exception to earlier articles. I was concerned that when I called upon him for an interview, he would become abusive, perhaps even violent. I certainly did not want to expose my small children, who might answer the phone on my behalf, to his tirades.
I did not recuse myself from the story, as ''Babylon 5'' creator Joe Straczynski later insisted I should (and who kept me off the set of his show when I didn't). Any animus between Ellison and me at that time was still largely one-sided, flowing mostly from his direction. Indeed, I eventually concluded that if every individual Ellison purported to detest were forced to desist from writing about him, there'd be no one left to write about him ever. Not that this would be a tragedy. But it is probably why Ellison invariably inflates his venom sacks in the presence of media.
Not a bad scam if you can keep from choking on your own bile.
For my part, approving or disapproving of Ellison remained (and remains) immaterial. There is no such animal as journalistic objectivity. Never has been. Humans are incapable of objectivity, if by objectivity we mean complete neutrality. And no journalist is ever truly neutral. The craft does not require neutrality. It demands professionalism and fairness.
Can I be fair and accurate? In 1991 I wrote fairly and accurately about Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, an avowed anti-Semite, even after he threw me out of his office and threatening me with disappearing after I pursued him on his prejudices. And I wrote fairly and accurately about Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic after he sent me on a wild goose chase to Serbian Army forensic field clinics, where I was forced to examine cadavers for evidence a mohel had worked them over first. This because Slobo insisted the “Ustache” had once again slaughtered Jews wholesale. Sure I can be fair and accurate. As long as I can wash my hands first.
The journalist is entirely free to despise the object of his attentions. He is also free to change his mind about his principals should the facts suggest they are more creditable or deserving than he or she had first thought. The writer is not, however, free to harass, to invent incident, to give vent to unsupported or insupportable malice, or to deny the person he is writing about a fair hearing and accurate representation. I very much wanted Ellison's response to this group and its contentions. I wrote to him promising a fair and polite hearing if he wished to confer with me... and a thorough drubbing if he became abusive or violent.
Characteristically, Mr. Ellison concluded from my interview request that I had connived with Charles Platt to initiate the group and give it publicity. This was not true, although I like Platt and sympathized with those I learned Ellison had abused. I was particularly miffed when I learned that Ellison, the self-styled street-fighting man of Sci Fi, had punched Charles in the snoot at a convention for allegedly criticizing Bob Shaw in a
Charles, you must understand, is a frail, wan British type, not a brawling Pars fan except, maybe, in his columns. Ellison punched Platt because he knew Platt would not and could not ever punch back. And he punched him not because Platt had impugned a pal whose memory had been besmirched, but because Platt had once, Ellison reportedly suspected, put the moves on his wife while residing as a guest at his home.
But it wasn't enough to take a poke at Charles or, periodically, to defame him before standing-room mobs at science fiction conventions nationwide. Later, according to Platt, Ellison called him with some news he thought might prove alarming. Ellison’s friends in the Mob had purportedly taken umbrage at Platt's writings. And plaintively, Ellison didn't think he could restrain them. Yessiree Bob, in Ellison's fever dreams, the Bada Bing Gang had revved up on SF fanzines and was saddling up for a night ride intent on whacking Charles Platt. Ellison gnashes his teeth as their hoof trots fade into the hills, consoling himself with dreams of penetrating his enemies with iron rods. Fortunately for Harlan, I am not a psychiatrist, another of my many failed professions.
Back to the Times ''Enemies'' story, Upon receipt of my interview request, Ellison instructed his lawyer to write a letter to the Times editor-in-chief, Shelby Coffey III, complaining of harassment. End of story. My story. Come to think of it, end of my association with the Los Angeles Times as well. Not that I have cause to complain, mind you. I should have called the little putz, asked for an interview, and in the event of an outburst, bitch-slapped some manners into him. Live and learn.
But no, this wasn't the start of this danse macabre either. In 1990, I had been commissioned by the Times Magazine to do a lengthy investigative piece about Craig Strete. Strete was an SF writer and teacher at San Jose State University who had been accused by former collaborator Ron Montana of plagiarizing an entire novel, published under Strete's name alone as ''Death in the Spirit House.'' I had never met Strete before. But I could not imagine anyone trying to pull off anything as described, briefly, in Locus. And after interviewing the principals, I was left to conclude that matters were, as you might imagine, a great deal more complicated than depicted by Strete's supporters or detractors.
There was no shortage of blame to go around for what I concluded was a cascading series of mishaps reminiscent of those that sink submarines, including, I think, our own Dakar. One thing goes wrong, then another and a third and fourth. And before the first foul up can be addressed, the vessel, or in this case Strete's career and reputation, reaches crush depth and implodes. There was no villain in all this except, I was astounded to discover, Ellison. Our deranged scold in the Wonderland Attic had insinuated himself in Montana's good graces, worked him into a froth, and put his own lawyer at Montana's disposal, ostensibly in a bid to sink Strete's ship once and for all.
The story floating about was that Montana had labored over a novel, and then awoke one day to discover it had been printed under a stranger's name, notably Craig Strete. No mention, of course, that Strete and Montana had collaborated on the novel. Or that, upon parting ways, the two had agreed to take their respective contributions and develop them on their own for respective publications. No mention either that the publisher -- this the publishing editor conveyed directly to me -- had received the wrong manuscript from Strete, and then failed to substitute it with the correct one when Strete informed him of the switch.
And certainly no mention that Ellison had declared to any who would listen that Strete was a fraud, that his claims to have been a script doctor on major Hollywood features was baseless, that even his assertion of Native American descent was bogus. Or that Ellison had reasons apart from generosity or mentorship in egging Montana on in his tireless pursuit of Strete. Strete, you see, had incurred Ellison's wrath some time before by withdrawing of one of his stories from Ellison's still unpublished ''Last Dangerous Visions'' anthology. Ultimately, and quite appropriately as best I could determine, the initial version of ''Death in the Spirit House'' appeared anew under Montana's name alone. Strete, meanwhile, disappeared beneath the waves with nary a trace.
I myself incurred Ellison's wrath even before I could discern the web of he had so expertly and stealthily spun. When I became aware of his manipulations (he targeted me for special treatment. Convinced I had taken on this story just to get him. I tried to reach Ellison for comment. Close to deadline, Ellison called me -- at 3 a.m. Gnashing as always, he said, ''This is Harlan Ellison. I am going to talk and you are going to shut the fuck up and take down exactly what I say, and if you say one word, I am going to....''
I hung up on him, “vilde hayeh.” My editor, Bret Israel, told me he took a call the next day from a raving Ellison who, after maligning me at length, threatened the Times with legal action if they ran the story with any mention of him. A few weeks later, the Times informed me it would not run the piece.
Why? Because I had demonstrated that what had been depicted as a
breathtaking act of plagiarism proved instead to be a much more
mundane publishing snafu. Did I believe Israel? Yes, certainly. The
Times were always straight with me. Did Ellison's rant play a part
in killing the story? You tell me.
The story ran, shortly after, in the semi-prozine ''SF Eye.'' Ellison greeted its publication with the aplomb of an inquisition victim having his thumbnails snatched out. His proxies flooded the magazine with letters of outrage for several issues, until the editor grew sick of the entire business. There was some mention of it in the Comics Journal, whose editor, Ellison would later opine (nu?), had it in for him.
Eager for revenge, our Van Helsing commissioned one of the parasite fish feeding off his sour old man farts to produce a hit job about me in another fanzine. You can find it on Ellison's site, or Google the title, ''Bugfuck.'' The piece contains the damning revelation that I once knocked off a bottle of expensive Scotch Platt's companion had been saving for a special occasion. Duly ashamed at my perfidy, and for other transgressions, I apologized to her and to Charles.
But no, that wasn't the beginning either. At the risk of bringing to mind a low-rent version of Ridley Scott's ''Duelist,'' there was the time within a month of my arrival here in '85 I reckon -- I quoted Walter Koenig about his oft-voiced disdain for William Shatner. I culled this from an appearance on Ellison's late-night radio show, ''Hour 25.'' The quote appeared in Cinefantastique. Van Ellison responded with a demented, six-page diatribe, some of it personal vitriol, some of twisted testament from people unhappy with my reportage in CFQ or my demeanor (''arrogant,'' wouldn’t you know…like all the other Israelis!?), most of it warning me against writing about him or his friends again, lest I find myself unable to eat lunch in this town again. I don’t know whether he meant I'd get the
Julia Phillips treatment or whether he'd have his minions knock my teeth out. I can tell you that Julia took me for lunch one day to Le Dome, where we sampled the duck salad and discussed the prospective “Interview With a Vampire.”
On reflection, though, maybe Ellison's midnight snuff-film musings go back to my sojourn in Israel. You may recall, back in the good old days of Fantazia 2000, when Ellison weaseled out of his commitment to fly in as guest of honor at Jerucon. This was back in June or July '82, when Lebanon, Peltours and my own organizational ineptitude put the kibosh on our efforts. Alas, Ellison never bothered to inform us that he had pulled out. Eventually, though, he did bluster in the LA Weekly about Israel's inherent thuggishness, not just in Lebanon, but in general. I wouldn't argue with him about Lebanon. But I am left with the sense that, per his modus operandi, he had trashed the entire Jewish homeland as a measure of his displeasure either for being held accountable for bailing, or as I
suspect, because Peltours had not sent him a first-class ticket to
I may have sent him a note composed at the UN School overlooking
Beirut International objecting to his denunciation of the Zionist
Entity, especially in lieu of his biographical posturing as a Jewish folk hero single-handedly beating off the pogroms he faced as a child in the American Midwest. But I also accepted responsibility for this imbroglio, having pushed for Ellison's designation as GOH in place of the far more deserving, decent and talented Harry Harrison. For this idiocy, as for many other related transgressions, I will doubtless pay dearly, and willingly in the next life.
As for this life, can there be any doubt that once he reads this,
Ellison will gnash anew while lathering up his pointed spike? Does one require a science fiction imagination to know for certain that in coming weeks and months he will denounce me repeatedly from the podium of science fiction conventions and in the pages of whatever rag will be thrilled to run anything he tenders, including the tissues soiled with his nightly discharges? Or that his minions will applaud his ruminations thunderously, not because they have ever or should have ever heard of me, but because they love it when cavorts like a demented monkey on a stick? Do you imagine that he will not direct his lawyer to pull out all the stops in removing this letter from the Web, or wherever else it may appear, goading him until he suffers an embolism? That he will not commission a private dick or three to delve into my private life so that he can do to me what he did to Strete and has done to others? Or that he will contemplate following his buddy Robert Blake's example, and look into the exigencies of hiring someone else to do his dirty work?
No matter that I make harbor no pretensions either as a writer of fiction or as an SF critic, manqué or otherwise. No matter that I make no pretenses as to my own purity of spirit and action, past and present. No matter that I have not taken pot shots at the old boy in any subsequent writing, or responded, until now, to his mewling. As we witnessed last week so tragically in Israel – and I hope you read this as everything else in this missive with appropriate wryness -- there is simply no calling off an Amstaff once its territory has been defiled. You can beat it bloody and it will keep on coming. That is, until a bullet to the head, preferably two, puts it out of its misery.
For my part, I'm in the book. In fact, I’m in two books – Ellison’s and the phone book. If Ellison wants to come a calling, ''ahalan wa'sahalan.'' I suffer thrice weekly from cluster headaches. These attacks center in my left eye with the fury of 40,000 volts pulsing through the inner tissues every 40 seconds. Folks so afflicted don't gnash their teeth -- they poke their gums with dental picks as a distraction. A spike in the eye would be a welcome diversion. But only if wielded by Ellison. We will give him a cup of “botz,” and if he respond with “daimen ahwhei,” we will invite him to drink from the sea. To keep him from gumming himself to death in the process, meanwhile, there's a horsewhip in the umbrella stand and a P226 in the vestibule.
Ya 'heah, Harlan? We'll leave the light on for ya.
Agoura Hills, California