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The Carriage Driver 4 - Harlan Ellison


“I was hoping that Isaac, Alfred and Robert would be here to meet me,” the man looked at Nuelle, as he spoke to Griffin who was there to meet him.

“There is some misconception about the transition. Many have contemplated and many have written their thoughts regarding the next plane. There is simplicity, a grand design, if you will, to the process.” Griffin reached into his pocket and produced an apple. He cut the apple into four pieces and fed two to Nuelle. He offered a quarter to the man standing by the carriage.

He reached out his arm and took the offered apple. He tossed it into his mouth and chewed furiously. Thoughts of the symbolism of the apple were swirling through his head. “What is your name?” He looked at the carriage driver, “What is her name?” He nodded his head toward Nuelle.

“I am Griffin, Captain Griffin Chaffey, and my friend here is Nuelle. We are here to escort you to wherever you want to go.”

“I am a writer. My job was a revolutionary, a guerilla warrior, fighting the battle of the blank page. It was not my job to make you feel better. Shaking you by the lapels was more my tactic. With my Olympia typewriter, I inconvenience you. I stir things up. That made me a hothead in some circles. In this world, you have to fight. Fight for what you believe. Fight for those that can’t fight for themselves. It is the responsibility of the strong to make those that are weaker to become strong.”

Nuelle twitched her head.

He continued, “I created the world, over and over. Some called me a Science Fiction writer, but I felt I excelled at many genres. Speculative fiction is the category that is the best fit. There were so many labels: troublemaker, malcontent are a couple. In an interview, I referred to myself as a combination of Zorro and Jiminy Cricket. Try living with that.” He rubbed his chin. “I listened to so much ‘bibble-babble’ one would hope that people were always bettering themselves. But that does not seem to be the case. Reading exercises the imagination; reading makes the mind work, to fill in the blanks. To some extent, movies do the same. Now, television is for lazy people. People are led step by step, no imagination is necessary. Along with books, short stories, and essays, I wrote for television. I built a large library with the money I made writing for television.” He paused, “Did you say your name was Griffin? In my story, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream one of my characters is named Griffin. He had made it to the heaven of his dreams. His forever place. He has led a life that he always felt was not quite enough. And yet, here he was with the wind and the water and the goodness. He stood near the brilliance and light.” He paused and smiled, “One fellow, a Mr. Neil Gaiman once said, ‘The words—there is an attention to the words. There is an attention to the sound of the words. You’re reading them in your head, and they sing.’ So, you see, you and I are in the same business. We build a heaven of our own design. You Griffin, have the luxury of parking a client at a castle if just yet, they cannot make up their own mind. Me, I have to lift them and carry them where I think they might like to go. They have to like where I carry them. And in this business, they have to want to return. To see what else you have on your mind. What something new, or special or macabre or gray you can bring to them. You offer a garden of delight, if that is their wish. I offer, or should say offered a bordered corridor of imaginative, colorful, intrusive, abrasive, irritating words and was often amazed at the readers that gathered and cheered.”

“Nuelle and I are here to take you wherever you want to go. You used your imagination to entertain many during your career. You have explored the unknown, spent time as a tramp, walked down pathways free from footprints. You reached the end of one journey and stand here, stalling, I might add, before starting the next. Your name is in the book. That is, your accomplishment.”

“That reminds me. I was married five times. Punched a professor, mailed a dead gopher to my publisher, sued AOL and the makers of The Terminator for taking my story plot without payment. Just how is my name in the book? Just who is your publisher? Just who is your editor?”

Griffin pushed his cap back on his head and laughed. “I don’t question the names in the book. Everyone that climbs into the carriage belongs there.”

“Did I mention that I am my own genre. I probably did. I am proud of it. One writes for posterity, one writes to be remembered. A story sits on my shoulder like Quasimoto’s hump. It stays there until I get it written; I write the story, to get it off my back.” Harlan looked at Griffin, standing there, with all the time in the world. Nuelle’s coat sparkled with care. The carriage was shined to craftsmen like splendor. “I bet you have some stories to tell.”

Griffin smiled. The rhythm of the man's speech was pleasant, similar to Nuelle’s footfalls along a cobblestone path. “Nuelle and I have some stories. Have you decided?”


“Yes, once you climb into the carriage we can deliver you…”

“I know, I know, sorry to interrupt. You can deliver me to wherever I want to go.” Harlan smiled at his own wit. Pleased with himself.


Nuelle took a step forward.

“Whoa,” Harlan called.

“Don’t worry, we won’t leave without you. Unless you wish us to go.”

“As a short story writer, I have learned that the story lets the reader build what happened just before the story begins and what will happen once the story ends. It is a craft and well trained craftsmen or craftswomen, to be politically correct, if they can find a way to capture the reader’s imagination, soon they will have a following.”

Harlan stopped talking and stepped up into the back of the carriage.

It took a moment for Griffin to react. He walked to Nuelle’s ear and said, “I thought this might go just like the last fare.” He climbed up and gave Nuelle her rein. She waited.

Over his shoulder he asked, “Have you made up your mind?”

“Yes, please bring me to the The Lost Aztec Temple of Mars.” With a wry smile on his face, he leaned back and waited.

Nuelle took a step.

Griffin scratched his chin, “That's in Sherman Oaks, isn’t it?”


Robert Jablon | AP as published in the Washington Post

During a career that spanned more than half a century, Ellison wrote some 50 books and more than 1,400 articles, essays, TV scripts and screenplays. Although best-known for his science fiction, which garnered nearly a dozen Nebula and Hugo awards, Ellison's work covered virtually every type of writing from mysteries to comic books to newspaper columns.

There are reports that Harlan Ellison wrote or edited 100 books and 1,700 short stories. I don’t think that I should dismiss the possibility of 300 short stories.

Star Trek: City On The Edge Of Forever #1 - Review


mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on July 28, 2018:

Hello Shy - I went through a SiFi phase. Mostly I read everything that Robert A. Heinlein wrote. Now, after all this time I see that I should have spread the reading around to include Harlan Ellison. No going back.

I certainly think a carriage ride is in story, at some point. Why would there not be one waiting, when the time is right?

You all have tricked me. I am on to you. All the stories are your favorite stories, it just took me six years to catch on.

As always, thanks for the blessings.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on July 28, 2018:

Mike, you make people fall in love with your passengers, only the one that are in the book get to ride in your carriage. I hope I get to ride in your carriage one day.

I will have to put Harlan Ellison on to do list and read some of his works, when things settle down a bit.

You must know this is my favorite story.

Blessings my friend

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on July 16, 2018:

Hello Shauna – Thanks for the visit and the nice comment. This is the second episode with a famous author that no one in our crowd knows much about. It makes you wonder just how famous you have to be as an author to get well known. Ellison did have a crowd of fans. You have left such a generous comment.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on July 16, 2018:

Hi Peg – It is funny to me that Harlan Ellison is claimed to be this great 20th century writer, yet none of us really knows much about his work. Perhaps he is not from our generation. In school, we heard of Hemingway, Steinbeck and Fitzgerald. Or perhaps this crown is not a SiFi crowd. When looking into this piece several articles mentioned "City on the Edge of Forever," – likely we would all recognize this Star Trek episode if we saw it again. It amazes me how many books he wrote. Oh, maybe you found a cousin!! Sorry I am late, I have been working on a fence.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on July 16, 2018:

Mike, I love learning about people with whom I'm not familiar via The Carriage Driver 4. Ellison seems to have been quite a character.

I think the success of this series is due to the way you get into the heads and hearts of the folks you feature. You write from within their souls. And beautifully so!

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on July 14, 2018:

What an interesting character this Harlan Ellison seems to have been. You've captured the ire and brash nature of his personality in the conversation with Captain Chaffey. Ellison's work sounds like it would be fascinating.The only item that I'm remotely familiar with is the Star Trek episode, "City on the Edge of Forever," which remains one of my favorites. William Shatner, in an interview with Joan Collins, said it was one of his top favorites of the series. Apparently, the writers on the show took a lot of license with the writer's original script.

I need to do some research to see if Ellison is related to family members of the same name.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on July 11, 2018:

Genna - Perhaps even, wishing you a week filled with promise.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on July 11, 2018:

Hello Genna – My guess is that Southern California life does not hold a candle to life at the Cape. You have lighthouses, the harbor, Cardigan sweaters and lobsters straight from the sea.

It seems most of us missed Phillip Roth and Harlan Ellison, I sure don’t know how to explain that other than all the choices we have presented to us.

Thanks for the well wishes. Wishing you a weel filled with promise.

Genna East on July 10, 2018:

Hi Mike...

Lol. Thank you for "California Girl" and not "Valley Girl," since Sherman Oaks is in the San Fernando Valley. I haven't been there or in LA for more years than I care to count. (Can't say I miss it, tho.) I envy those incredibly prolific writers with such a huge following. And you are right in that it seems we may have missed out on some great writers. Where have I been? Have a pleasant week, everyone.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on July 10, 2018:

Hello John - I don't know how these 'great' writers get by us. I have read forever, and am not familiar with Ellison's work. Like I said in an earlier comment, it must be like the difference of fine wine and a bottle of Boone's Farm. (Not sure Boone's Farm wine is still made, my experience with it stems from the 70's.)

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on July 10, 2018:

Hello Verlie - The 300 comment stems from one report that said Ellison wrote 1400 short stories and another report that said 1700. I know if it were me, I would not want credit for 300 stories to go by the wayside. I am not sure I have written 300 stories. Maybe half of that. Have a great Tuesday.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on July 09, 2018:

Mike, once again you introduced me to a writer I wasn't familiar with, other than having heard the name. I have always been quite a sci-fi fan and also a fan of Heinlein...in particular' Glory Road,' and Robert Silverberg and Ursula Le Guin. I enjoyed this read. Well done on your research.

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on July 09, 2018:

Hi Mike, I had to come back to read the excellent comments, Patty!Wow! And thanks to Genna (thank you Genna) I was directed to the last lines, and there it is! Is 300 on your bucket list? I'm sure you've surpassed that by now?

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on July 09, 2018:

Hello Genna - Leave it to the former 'California Girl' to get my joke. Thanks. I did not read his work. I found Robert A. Heinlein the first couple of weeks into basic training, USA army and that filled by sifi requirements for the next number of years. My favorite book is still a Robert Heinlein first read during basic training. Imagine.

Ellison wrote and wrote and wrote and accomplished what many would like and that is to make a living doing something they are good at.

Genna East on July 09, 2018:

Hi Mike...

I'm embarrassed to say that I've never read his work. I had heard of him, that he was insanely prolific ala Stephen King, and that there was some kind of falling out over his story-script writing for Star Trek or the Twilight Zone. I heard parts of his interview with the late, great Robin Williams. But I so enjoyed this story, Mike. That last line is doggone precious. Kudos. :-)

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on July 09, 2018:

Hello Patty - Everything you say is true. I saw all of this as I was reading about Harlan Ellison's work and his personality. He was angry, and he turned that anger into creative energy in his writing. He was quite the character. I watched a few interviews of him along his career, and read several obituaries. He had a following, and as a writer, it does not get much better than that.

Good to see you.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on July 09, 2018:

I think this carriage ride is a pretty good one for Harlan Ellison!

I was pleased to hear Mr. Ellison speak several times in person, and in his interview by Robin Williams in which he exposed the origins of Scientology. Mr. Ellison was present in a meeting with famous writer/publisher Lester Del Rey and L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard was asking for help because his sci-fi books were not selling well. Del Rey told him to start a religion to go with them and Hubbard did, after which Scientology spread like cancer. In Columbus, Ohio we had a two story building a full block square downtown dedicated to the religion's personal analyses and counseling. Two people in Ohio died from the process and the company closed here.

In other news, I always admired Mr. Ellison for calling out those who wanted him to write for free, those who butchered his work (like Gene Roddenberry), those who used his work without permission or payment, and the college students in India that wrote American students' papers for $1.00 or less per thousand words. He even trademarked his own name to prevent people from using it.

He was certainly the most honest and provocative writer of his time, exposing the American drug problem that Spiro Agnew tried to cover up via 1960-70s TV censors; and the Reagan administration's use of drug money to fund the Contras, etc.

Ellison wrote two scathing collections of reports on mind-sapping television programs of the 1960s - 70s, called "The Glass Teat" and "The Other Glass Teat" - he was not impressed with mind-numbing nonsense on TV. His futuristic work always made me shudder as well as think of what humanity could become, positive and negative.

As a child, he was the only Jew in his school and neighborhood, as well as the shortest child for his age. He was regularly beaten and bullied, to which his mom said he must have provoked it. He used his anger in adulthood to expose the truth about many hot topics and to write what others could not imagine.

Despite his over use of profanity and inappropriate behavior, he is and always will be a hero to me. Somewhere in the afterlife, he is telling someone the truth - and they don't like it. Bystanders are, however, smiling.


mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on July 09, 2018:

Hello Southern BlueBell - Samantha Claar, Thanks for the beautiful comment.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on July 09, 2018:

Hello Audrey - While looking into this life, the words, 'greatest writer of the 20th century' came up a couple of times. Likely that is 'marketer' talk, but still. Makes me wonder how these great writers can hide in plain sight.

Southern BlueBell on July 09, 2018:

Glimpses of the Gulah,greastest art of basket weaving. They smile as they create something that will outstand our life time.T he artist captured only a small portion of who they are.Only darkness where the smile of white should linger ! Small flowers the young boys make brightens my day in a vase. The artist depicted an insight others may overlook. I would love to see all the display showing in Hilton Head South Carolina.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on July 08, 2018:

Going to look into some of Harlan Elisson's work and I thank you for this terrific story. I love Griffin!

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on July 08, 2018:

Hi Bill - Yes, I am sure that Harlan Elisson will travel better in the afterlife knowing he made it into The Carriage Driver 4 series. That's a good one.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 08, 2018:

A prolific writer of many talents, he deserves immortality in the Carriage Driver series.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on July 08, 2018:

Hello mar - I find it difficult to write about someone that I am not familiar with. In the earlier carriage driver series, I dealt with emotions and imagination. As with Philip Roth, I have not read Elisson. It occurs to me, that perhaps the great writers were out of my reach, much like expensive wine. I went all over Southern California and the West searching for books and don’t even remember passing over Harlan Ellison books.

He adapted to the marketplace. He self published many of his own titles. He created graphic novels and comics. He wrote episodes for many different TV shows. And apparently he was a loud mouth troublemaker. I do like that he believed the writer should get paid for his/her work.

Thanks for the visit. hugs

SC will reach 103 degrees today.

If I believe the stats - 260 people have read this article since yesterday.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on July 08, 2018:

Good morning, Mike,

I admit to not being familiar with Harlan Ellison's work either. Like an excellent book review, this installment makes me want to rectify this.

The video is enlightening - I enjoyed seeing his influence on Star Trek, stories that 'were' a staple in my childhood.

Griffin is unflappable, despite his potential passengers...I love his style.

Wishing you a peaceful Sunday. Hugs, mar

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on July 07, 2018:

Hello Verlie - Harlan Elisson made his living in the world of writing for sixty years. He was able to entertain his readers decade after decade. That is a remarkable feat. I am not familiar with his work, but it seems he held the same stature as Asimov and Ray Bradbury and Robert A. Heinlein. My reading lead me to Bradbury and Heinlein but not Asimov or Elisson. He had a tough reputation, and maybe that is just what it takes. They say, Hollywood is a tough town. If you found anything smart in this piece, it was likely Elisson being paraphrased. Thanks for the visit.

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on July 07, 2018:

Mike, what a great story. I was just reading Harlon Ellison passed away. I always loved one of his short stories 'A Boy and His Dog" for some reason it was a favorite. I enjoyed your conversation about writing, the words of wisdom, and insight...Delightfully, lightly drawn...

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