He was not exactly a gentle creature and I only agreed with maybe half of what he ever said, but his dedication to high standards and the greater good was inspiring (as was his devotion to intellectual property rights). His opinions, even when misguided, had the full force of a monstrous intellect behind them and could not be ignored. And the passion that informed his writing will never be surpassed. One of my favorite essays of his was "Reaping The Whirlwind," the original 1974 preface to Approaching Oblivion, and the last several paragraphs are even more powerful now than they were then:
As for me and you in this literary liaison, well, I've paid my dues. Now I'm merely going to sit here on the side and laugh my ass off at how you sink into the quagmire like the triceratops. I'm going to laugh and jeer and wiggle my ears at your death throes. And how will I do that? By writing my stories. That's how I get my fix. You can OD on religion or dope or war or McDonald's toadburgers, for all I care. I'm over here, watching you, and giggling, and saying, "This is what tomorrow looks like, dummy."
And if you hear me sobbing once in a while, it's only because you've killed me, too, you f*ckers.
I'm stuck on this spinning place with you, and I don't want to go, and you've killed me, and I resent it, and the best I can do is tell my little tomorrow stories and keep laughing as the whirlwind whips the dirt in the playground at Lathrop grade school into an ominous dust-devil.
RIP, Harlan Ellison, and thanks for everything.
I wonder if this means that The Last Dangerous Visions is truly dead, or if someone will now gather it up and publish it in his memory.