I chat by phone with Sheldon Teitelbaum Monday, June 21, 2004.
Sheli: "I began to work (with Tom Waldman, Steve Weinstein) at the
Jewish Journal [of Los Angeles] in late 1985, after returning from a decade
in Israel. Gene Lichtenstein was the editor.
Tom (his mother was not Jewish, I think, his father was) came out of the
USC School of Journalism with an MA, not the general route into Jewish
journalism. Steve was more of a short-story writer who came to the newspaper
with interests in filmmaking, as I recall. Joe Domanick (Catholic) joined
us soon after. He later became a well known police reporter and author
of a respected book on the LAPD. Nobody came out of the Jewish journalism
world. Certainly Gene didn't. He'd been an editor at Esquire. He was a
New York Jewish intellectual. He'd never belong to a synagogue or have
any pronounced interest in Israel, so far as I knew. He was of that generation
that prized people like Phillip Roth, Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer, and
Mordecai Richler. [Gene knew all of those writers but Mailer.] He was
new to town. He had no sense of the community, not that any of us did.
"I volunteered to make my niche covering anything that had to do
with Israel. Within my first month, I wrote an article about Dennis Prager,
who was the head of a major program at Brandeis Bardin. I remember Gene
coming back to me that he had run into Barbie Weinberg (one of the machers
at the Federation who helped, I think, start the paper). She'd read my
piece and insisted that it was not possible that whoever made whatever
quote was made. I explained to Gene that I had learned early in my career
never to go anywhere without a tape recorder. I immediately come home
after an interview and transcribe it. I never use a notepad. I find that
it helps with accuracy. Also, when you interview someone, you're not always
listening. Your mind is racing. You're dealing with noise. You're thinking
of your next question. I found it is helpful to listen a second time.
"I told Gene that I had the tape. I have the transcript. As a journalist,
I'd learned that was all you needed. His response was that it was not
the truth or accuracy that he was interested in, it was the impression
ostensibly made of somebody who is hostile. I said I was not hostile.
You can hear it on the tape. I was just having a nice chat. He would not
check it. His line from then on, 'I'm more interested in the impression
you make in the community than in your craft and your veracity.'"
"He didn't want you to rock the boat."
"Depends who's boat. He wouldn't mind rocking boats he didn't have
a foot in. With impunity, he could've run pieces against Marvin Hier and
the Wiesenthal Center. He could've written critically of Chabad. Nobody
[at the Federation] would've said a word. But there were things that were
the bailiwicks of the machers. The paper's independence was nonsense.
It was never independent. The Federation put up the money and agreed to
buy a set number of issues.
"There was a time that I couldn't bear to read the paper because
I thought it was a crock of s---. It's not the case under the stewardship
of Rob Eshman [present editor].
"I had a visceral response to Gene's refusal to back us. I had just
come out of the Israeli army, where your commander says follow me. He
doesn't send you ahead of him. He sets the tone and pulls you forward.
He's responsible for you if you cut your finger. And nobody's left behind.
That was the credo I internalized during my five years in the army and
afterwards in the reserves. It shocked me to see an editor, in the first
month, not only fold in front of the community, but offer up his own people
as sacrificial lambs. I was gone within eight months. I got an offer from
USC that paid better.
"Tom and I did a piece in 1991 for the LA Times Sunday Magazine
on Rabbi Marvin Hier. One of the people that Tom interviewed was Stanley
Hirsh, who at the time was the president of the Federation. There was
a story about Yitzhak Shamir coming to town. Stanley said, and I salute
his political impulses, 'I don't want to meet that f---ing dwarf.' Tom
quoted it in the piece.
"The LAT's fact checker called Hirsh and he denied it. Even though
we had it on tape, The Times didn't want to hear the tape. They didn't
want the aggravation.
"Stanley later boasted, 'Of course I said it. What do you think?
I'm going to admit it to The Times?' This is the kind of thing that went
on all the time and it drove me crazy.
"The second thing that drove me crazy about Gene was that he had
no feeling for Israel. He admitted it. He even said to me, 'Our readers
have little interest in reading about Israel.' He'd never even been to
Israel before he took the job, as far as I recall. After a few freebie
trips, he became the Sunday morning pundit. He didn't have a clue what
he was talking about.
"I used to write for Present Tense magazine, which was funded by
the American Jewish Committee. It made Moment look like the rag that it
"People were very closed-mouth in our sense of the Jewish community.
Maybe because we showed up as outsiders. Today you just have to go to
a Shabbat dinner and walk out with 15 different stories.
"Jewish journalists [for Jewish publications] have low status in
the Jewish world. Much like Jewish teachers. They are not taken seriously,
even when they sting. If you publish something in the Jewish Journal,
no matter how odious, it is still considered washing your dirty linen
in public and not going up to The New York Times, even though all the
big papers read the Jewish papers for possible stories. The religious
community hated it from day one because it wasn't religious. Gene didn't
have any feeling for Orthodox or Conservative Judaism. The only one who
used to write about it was Yehuda Lev who was to the left of Tommy Lapid
[an opponent of Orthodox sway in politics].
"If you have enough confidence as an editor to hire people, you
should back them. If you can't back them, you should fire them. Gene did
neither, but he was livid when I ran screaming into the night. I left
after he told me hwas promoting me.
"The Orthodox were never favorably disposed towards the Federation.
So the thinking [at the Jewish Journal under Gene Lichtenstein] may have
been, why cover them if their people do not donate on Super Sunday? The
Federation's main interest in funding this paper and anything else it
does was to get people to donate funds to cover its overhead, and to do
good works. In which order of priority I can't say."
"Rob Eshman has bent over backwards to reach out to the Orthodox."
"Rob Eshman has bent over backwards in any way he could think of
to reach out to people estranged from the paper. He turned an editor's
paper into a writer's paper. He cares about the quality of the writing
he runs. That's rare in the Jewish journalism world. I don't think he
has any axes to grind. I don't think he has a mean-spirited bone in his
body. I think he delights in the pluralism of this community. I don't
think he's the least interested in shutting people out of the paper.
"I was asked to do a profile of Michael Lerner for Moment magazine.
I talked to many people. I wrote a long piece balanced between his detractors,
who were vituperative, and his defenders, who were passionate. I got a
phone call from Hershel Shanks at Moment. He really liked the piece. Then
I got a call a week later from Hershel. He didn't like the piece. He felt
I had been too kind to Michael Lerner. He sent back a version of the piece
in which every single statement that might have mitigated a negative profile
had been removed. It was a hatchet job. I said to him, if you're going
to do that, you're going to have to take my name off. He said fine. The
next thing I knew, he sent a check. He put his name on the piece and ran
a hatchet job. Michael Lerner was furious with me. He felt I should've
know that was what was going to happen ultimately. It was my worst nightmare.
I couldn't believe that anyone would do such a thing. On the other hand,
I cashed the check. Shame on me!"
"Jewish journalism does not attract our best and brightest."
"Do you think there is a writer for any of these papers who wouldn't
rather be writing for The LA Times or a major magazine? Present company
included. The best and the brightest may use it as a stepping stone. For
my purposes, it worked nicely. I wrote hundreds of articles for The LA
Times, The NY Times, Premiere, Entertainment Weekly, The Jerusalem Post,
The Montreal Gazette, Toronto Star, Review of Books, The LA Reader, Hadassa,
many of them about Jewish topics."
Sheldon Teitelbaum is a Los Angeles-based senior writer for the Jerusalem
Report and was a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times, Wired,
Time-Digital, the New York Times, the LA Daily News, the Jewish Journal
and the Montreal Gazette winner of Canada’s First Northern Lights Award
for Travel Writing, he is now on the market for an editorial position
that provides a minimum of two week’s annual holiday, if only for the
sake of continued “shalom bayit” (household harmony).
The Mote In Ellison's Eye
responds to my inquiry on his relationship with Harlan Ellison, the science
Apropos Ellison, this letter to Aharon Hauptman, former editor of the
Israeli SF magazine Fantazia 2000, now with Tel Aviv University, in response
to Ellison's mention of me in his just published I Robot adaptation, and
Aharon's query as to what was going on c/o the Israeli SF Association
web site. If you run it, say it is reprinted
from the Israeli site.
''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
Harlan Ellison Intro,
I Robot -- a Screenplay
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 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 the stagnant
pond he lords over. Apparently this ''shrying'' Svengali of Sherman
Oaks continues to swing 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 mentioned this all of once in the two decades
and some we have been at odds. I have just run a search, and turned
up all of two mentions of Ellison in the hundreds of articles I have
published since leaving Israel in 1985 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 Magazine, and more venues than I can list here.
Here are the references that have rendered Ellison helplessly (and
wryly) gnashing his teeth for night after sleepless night, year after
rage-filled year since 1993. (Not that I know precisely how one can
“wryly” gnash one’s teeth, except to point out that Ellison misuses
the adverb to protect him from potential charges of violent incitement.
Conceivably, 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 with railroad spike in paw. Had the book been published
in Israel, Ellison would be rotting in a cell in Abu Kabir now, literally
gnashing his teeth.)
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. The entire continent of South
America is reduced to a single entry…
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. This is what put this creature in a homicidal tizzy. This
is what has generated 10 or 15 years of payback fantasies fueled by
impotence, physical and psychological. In the above-mentioned French
fanzine, for instance, Monsieur Le Gamad (Critic manqué” indeed
– il parle Francais comme je parle Chinois, inal dinak!) attested 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 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 aspired to operate
on a spleen, build a gazebo, or design radioactive waste canisters either.
According to Mr. Ellison, though, I envy and begrudgethose who do these
things as well as his own.
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. What a maroon!
What this “gawad” does not and cannot fathom is that I do not object
to his work so much as I do to his comportment as the Napoleonic scold
of Coy Drive. He is a bully, he is a mountebank, he operates like a
thief in the night, and he does so with impunity because his victims
are either terrified of him or cannot be bothered to deal with him at
all. If I begrudge him anything, it is his abysmal lack of ''menschlichtkeit,''
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
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 authors, journalists and artists to express themselves
as the please, unless, that is, they please to direct their pens in
his direction. In which case, the call goes out from Ellison Wonderland
to go to the mattresses. Errant editors are rousted from their sleep
and threatened with unspeakable torments, writers pilloried, lawyers
whipped into demented frenzies, and fanzines mustered in the cause.
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 disappears from the public domain.
Such is the abject terror of Harlan' s bilious existence that he feels
compelled, periodically, to depict himself as the victim of a literary
stalking, nay, a conspiracy, led if you will, by me, and undertaken
by people I have never heard of (including this Feeley fellow).
Why? Maybe because he remains haunted by the possibility I may one
day feel inclined to mention him yet again in passing in periodicals
people actually read as a paranoid, puffed-up, mendacious, cowardly,
mealy mouthed, needle-dicked poseur. Or maybe because having failed
to take me to task in a publication read by as many people as the Times,
he can only do so in a book whose sole purpose is not to showcase his
failed screenplay so much as it is to use that screenplay as a prop
in 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 Roget’s 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.
But this wasn't the start of our contretemps by any means. Nor was
the subsequent business of the so-called ''Enemies of Ellison.'' That
lamentably christened organization was comprised of people who had in
fact suffered attempts to shut them down in word, print or livelihood.
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 were victims of Ellison's endless and insatiable 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
sad, compacted little 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 and I had had
a few minor run-ins over earlier articles. I explained that 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 children,
who might answer the phone on my behalf if he called, 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 largely one-sided, flowing mostly from his direction. Indeed, I
eventually concluded that if every individual Ellison purported to detest
had to desist from writing about him, there'd be no one left to write
about him or call him to account. 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 poisoning
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.
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 they had first thought.
He 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. And 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-proclaimed street-fighting man, had
punched Charles in the snoot at a convention for allegedly criticizing
one of his cronies in a literary journal. 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.
Hell hath no fury like a cuckold, except, perhaps, one who is plainly
cuckoo to begin with. Longtime Ellison confidante and horror editor
Jesse Horsting suggested to me during an interview about witches that
Harlan's blood rages derived from long-standing sexual impotence. But
it wasn't enough to take a swing at Charles or, periodically, to defame
him before standing-room audiences at science fiction conventions nationwide.
Later, according to Platt, Ellison called him, attesting that some of
his friends in the Mob had taken umbrage at Platt's writings, and that
Ellison didn't think he could restrain them. In Ellison's fever dreams,
revved up on mimeographed fanzines, the Bada Bing Gang would soon saddle
up for a night ride intent on whacking Charles Platt. And so he gnashes
his teeth while dreaming of penetrating his enemies with iron rods.
Fortunately for Harlan, I am not a psychiatrist, another of my many
But no, that 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.
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 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 individual publication. No mention either that the publisher
-- this in a conversation with 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, who 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
claim to partial Native American descent was bogus, 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 the moment I became involved in untangling
the web of lies I didn't even know, at first, he had spun. When I became
aware of his manipulations, I tried to reach Ellison for comment. Close
to deadline, Ellison called me -- at 3 a.m. Still gnashing his teeth,
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....'' So I hung up on him. 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
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 this business in the Comics Journal,
whose editor, Ellison would later opine, had it in for him. Eager for
revenge, our dwarfish Van Helsing commissioned one of the parasite fish
feeding the sour old man farts emanating from his rear to produce a
hatchet job about me in another fanzines. You can find it on Ellison's
site, or Google the title, ''Bugfuck.'' I believe it still appears as
a highlighted feature on Ellison's website. 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, 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. What I can't recall is 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 while I rarely dined
with the ''machers'' of Hollywood, Julia took me for lunch one day to
Le Dome, where we tried the duck salad.
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 trashed the entire Jewish homeland
as a measure of his displeasure either for being held accountable for
bailing, as I suspect, because Peltours had not sent him a first-class
ticket to Tel Aviv.
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 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 remain amused by his various efforts to defame me,
or that I make no pretenses as to my own purity of spirit and action,
past and present. 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. If Ellison wants to come a
calling, ''ahalan wa'sahalan.'' I suffer thrice weekly from cluster
headaches that center in my left eye, which experiences something akin
to 40,000 volts pulsing through it every 40 seconds during six-hour
attacks. 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. To alleviate his
own toothless gnashing, there's a horsewhip in the umbrella stand and
a P226 in the vestibule. Ya 'heah, Harlan? We'll leave the light on
Agoura Hills, California