Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday's "Forgotten" Books: PARTNERS IN WONDER by Harlan Ellison in Collaboration

The Contento Index:

Partners in Wonder Harlan Ellison (Walker, 1971, hc)
· Sons of Janus · in
· I See a Man Sitting on a Chair, and the Chair Is Biting His Leg · Harlan Ellison & Robert Sheckley · nv F&SF Jan ’68
· Brillo · Harlan Ellison & Ben Bova · nv Analog Aug ’70
· A Toy for Juliette · Robert Bloch · ss Dangerous Visions, ed. Harlan Ellison, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967
· The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World · nv Dangerous Visions, ed. Harlan Ellison, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967
· Scherzo for Schizoids: Notes on a Collaboration · ms Knight Nov ’65
· Up Christopher to Madness · Harlan Ellison & Avram Davidson · ss Knight Nov ’65
· Runesmith · Harlan Ellison & Theodore Sturgeon · ss F&SF May ’70
· Rodney Parish for Hire · Harlan Ellison & Joe L. Hensley · ss Swank May ’62
· The Kong Papers · Harlan Ellison & William Rotsler · ct The Kong Papers, William Rotsler & Harlan Ellison, 1969
· The Human Operators · Harlan Ellison & A. E. van Vogt · ss F&SF Jan ’71
· Survivor No. 1 [“The Man with the Green Nose”] · Harlan Ellison & Henry Slesar · ss Knave Sep ’59
· The Power of the Nail · Harlan Ellison & Samuel R. Delany · ss Amazing Nov ’68
· Wonderbird · Harlan Ellison & Algis Budrys · ss Infinity Science Fiction Sep ’57
· The Song the Zombie Sang · Harlan Ellison & Robert Silverberg · ss Cosmopolitan Dec ’70
· Street Scene [“Dunderbird”] · Harlan Ellison & Keith Laumer · ss Galaxy Jan ’69; this story has two different endings. The version with the Ellison ending was in Galaxy, the version with the Laumer ending was in Adam Mar ’69 as “Street Scene”.
· Come to Me Not in Winter’s White · Harlan Ellison & Roger Zelazny · ss F&SF Oct ’69

There are certain books which will change your life, though usually only very slightly. This was one of those for me, an a young reader, which more than any other early reading experience brought home the sense of a writer's life and the community of writers. It's available as an e-book, which is the source of the link to the introduction, but I read the Pyramid edition with the Leo and Diane Dillon cover design pictured here, part of the series they did of Ellison paperbacks for the publisher (some reissued by Jove after the purchase). This is almost certainly the only version of an Ellison book to be blurbed with the employment of Jimmie Walker's mid-'70s catchphrase.

The stories here, in what was the first collection of collaborations between one writer and several others that Ellison was aware of (I think there was at least one previous example, but it eludes me at the moment), are a mixed lot (and include a series of cartoons with William Rotsler which struck me as Just OK even when I was ten, not Rotsler's best work in the form, certainly--though I'm still fond of Fay Wray in the clutches of the big ape as he scales the Empire State, and someone shouting up from below, "Trip him, Fay!"). Even the best of them are almost invariably not quite up to the best of either collaborator, but they do have a special flavor...even when, as with the the two stories by Robert Bloch and Harlan Ellison individually, the collaboration is more along the lines of nudging inspiration...resulting in a decent Bloch story, since his was merely commissioned for Dangerous Visions, and a rather better sequel to that story by Ellison, who was mildly obsessed with what he was asking Bloch to do (both stories being sequels to Bloch's early story "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper," one of those stories which follow their creators around for their entire careers, and one of the most widely plagiarized stories written in the last century). The antic comedies, such as the Laumer and Davidson collaborations, are often more successful than the attempts at more serious work, but the darker humor of the Sheckley and Silverberg stories are certainly effective. And, of course, while I'd read a few Davidson stories before this book (in anthologies attributed to Hitchcock), this was the first opportunity I had to read Davidson's delightful nonfiction, in this case an acocunt of an incident that Ellison also recounts, and the comparison of the two versions is telling and extremely entertaining.

And the Bova story, "Brillo," was even ripped off for at least two tv series, though only actionably for one.

Still a valuable read, and the ancillary material might be Ellison at his best at this, at which he is one of the best.

For more "Forgotten" Books, please see Patti Abbott's blog, though updates will be delayed while she Shakespeares.

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