Sunday, September 20, 2009

"Flop Sweat" by Harlan Ellison

I'm not sure what to say about this story. It's enjoyable, and deeply disturbing, but not incredibly deep. It takes a serious dig at modern media which I'm starting to recognize as pretty standard for Ellison's work. But beyond that, there's not a whole lot to work with.

This might have to do with how this story was written, however, which turns out to be a more interesting story that the story itself. As Ellison notes in his introduction to this story in his Shatterday collection, this story was written as part of a challenge for an appearance he was making on a Los Angeles radio show in 1977. The host wanted Ellison to read one of his stories on the air. However, the story in question would have been too long, and would have interfered with commercial breaks. So Ellison suggest instead that she will contact him with a topic the morning of the show, and he would have to write a complete story around the idea by the time that the show goes on aid at 8:00pm that night.

Of course, she doesn't call him until 1:00pm that day, which only gives him about six and a half hours to write the story. On top of that, all she gives him to work with is "Write a story about a female talk show host." Ugh.
Needless to say, however, Ellison manages to work something out in short order, and barely gets to the show on time. In addition, since he works in a theme connected to the Hillside strangler, who was terrorizing L.A. at the time, he creeps the hell out of the audience, and the whole thing is a success.

I kind of hate Ellison for being talented enough to pull this off. Nevertheless, the story is worth reading, and pretty damn good for an afternoon's work.

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