The Beast That Shouted Love At the Heart of the World
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by Harlan Ellison
Description: "It crouches near the center of creation. There is no night where it waits. Only the riddle of which terrible dream will set it loose. It beheaded mercy to take possession of that place. It feasts on darkness from the minds of men. No one has ever seen its eyeless face. When it sleeps we know a few moments of peace. But when it breathes again we go down in fire and mate with jackals. It knows our fear. It has our number. It waited for our coming and it will abide long after we have become congealed smoke. It has never heard music, and shows its fangs when we panic. It is the beast of our savage past, hungering today, and waiting patiently for the mortal meal of all our golden tomorrows. It lies waiting."--Harlan Ellison
eBook Publisher: E-Reads/E-Reads, 1969
eBookwise Release Date: April 2009
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [457 KB]
Reading time: 277-388 min.
FORWORD NEIL GAIMAN
I've been reading Harlan Ellison since I was a boy. I have known him as long, although by no means as well, as his wife, Susan--we met in Glasgow in 1985 at the same convention at which he first met and wooed his better half.
I interviewed him then for Space Voyager, a magazine for which I had written the previous two years, and which had, until that point, appeared perfectly healthy. The issue of the magazine that was to contain my interview with Harlan went to press ... and the publisher pulled the plug on it, with the magazine half-printed, and fired the editor. I took the interview to an editor at another magazine. He paid me for it ... and was fired the following day.
I decided at that point that it was unhealthy to write about Harlan, and retired the interview to a filing cabinet, in which it will sit until the end of the world. I cannot be responsible for the firing of any more editors, the closing of any more magazines.
There is no one in the world in any way like Harlan. This has been observed before, by wiser and abler people than I. This is true; and it is quite beside the point.
It has, from time to time, occurred to me that Harlan Ellison is engaged on a Gutzon Borglum-sized work of performance art--something huge and enduring. It's called Harlan Ellison: a corpus of anecdotes and tales and adversaries and performances and friends and articles and opinions and rumours and explosions and treasures and echoes and downright lies. People talk about Harlan Ellison, and they write about Harlan, and some of them would burn him at the stake if they could do it without getting into too much trouble; and some of them would probably worship at his feet if it weren't for the fact he'd say something that would make them go away feeling very small and very stupid. People tell stories in Harlan's wake, and some of them are true and some of them aren't, and some of them are to his credit and some of them aren't.
And that is also quite beside the point.
When I was ten I had a lisp, and was sent to an elocution teacher named Miss Webster who, for the next six years, taught me a great deal about drama and public speaking and, incidentally, got rid of the lisp somewhere in year one. She must have had a first name, but I've forgotten it now. She was magnificent--a stumpy, white-haired old theatrical lesbian (or so her pupils assumed) who smoked black cigarillos and was surrounded at all times by a legion of amiable but rather stupid Scottie dogs. She had huge bosoms, which she would rest on the table while she watched me recite the tongue-twisters and dramatic pieces I had been assigned. Miss Webster died about fifteen years ago, or so I was told by another ex-pupil of hers I met at a party some years back.
She is one of the very small number of people who have told me things for my own good that I've paid attention to. (There is, needless to say, a very large number of people--including, now I come to think of it, Harlan--who've told me perfectly sensible things for my own good that I've, for one reason or another, ignored completely.)
Anyway: I got to be fourteen years old and, one day, after a particularly imaginative interpretation of a Caliban speech, Miss Webster leaned back in her chair, lit a cigarillo with a flourish, and said, "Neil, dear. I think there's something you ought to know. Listen: to be eccentric, you must first know your circle."