88+ Best Harlan Ellison Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Harlan Jay Ellison was an American writer of short stories, novels, essays, and television and film scripts. He was known as a furiously prolific and cantankerous writer. Though he eschewed genre categorization himself, his work was most frequently labeled science fiction. Motivational Harlan Ellison quotes will show you some of his wittiest and most insightful thoughts.

If you’re searching for amazing quotes by authors that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of inspirational writing quotes.

Most Famous Harlan Ellison Quotes

I refuse to write the same story twice. I keep experimenting. I keep learning how to work. I’ve been at it pretty much 50 years, and I’m now beginning to learn how to do the job well. – Harlan Ellison

The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity. – Harlan Ellison

You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant. – Harlan Ellison

Everybody has opinions: I have them, you have them. And we are all told from the moment we open our eyes, that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Well, that’s horsepuckey, of course. We are not entitled to our opinions; we are entitled to our informed opinions. Without research, without background, without understanding, it’s nothing. It’s just bibble-babble. It’s like a fart in a wind tunnel, folks. – Harlan Ellison

They minute people fall in love they become liars. – Harlan Ellison

I think art must be tough! I think art has to be hard. I don’t think it should be easy. I think it should take foot-pounds of energy to produce that art, otherwise we would have more mediocre writers, and we don’t have room for any more mediocrity in the world. There’s already enough of it being visited on us night and day through the Internet, and through television, and through politics. – Harlan Ellison

When you’re all alone out there, on the end of the typewriter, with each new story a new appraisal by the world of whether you can still get it up or not, arrogance and self-esteem and deep breathing are all you have. It often looks like egomania. I assure you it’s the bold coverup of the absolutely terrified. – Harlan Ellison

Don’t start an argument with somebody who has a microphone when you don’t. They’ll make you look like chopped liver. – Harlan Ellison

I’m nothing. Nothing at all without writing. Without truth, my truth, the only truth I know, it’s all a gambol in the pasture without rhythm or sense. – Harlan Ellison

I was the green monkey, the pariah. And I had no friends. Not just a few friends, or one good friend, or grudging acceptance by other misfits and outcasts. I was alone. All stinking alone, without even an imaginary playmate. – Harlan Ellison

And we passed through the cavern of rats. And we passed through the path of boiling steam. And we passed through the country of the blind. And we passed through the slough of despond. And we passed through the vale of tears. And we came, finally, to the ice caverns. – Harlan Ellison

Thus, from admiration of one wise and innocent child, and from a misheard remark, the process that not even Aristotle could codify was triggered. Where do you get your ideas? I purposely mishear things. – Harlan Ellison

There is Harlan Ellison the human being, who takes a crap a couple of times a day, and who farts, and who eats chicken croquettes, if I can find them. And then there is the writer, this writer-person, who is a much finer person than I. Much more orderly, much more meaningful. Worthier, than I [am]. – Harlan Ellison

Any writer who pretends to a disaffection for recognition, I think they’re being duplicitous. – Harlan Ellison

Posing the question: does the god of love use underarm deodorant, vaginal spray and fluoride toothpaste? – Harlan Ellison

I never send a story off until I have read it aloud to at least two or three people. Because when I read – and I don’t need their criticism, what I need is my own – when I read it aloud, there is a flow, there is a poetry to it. – Harlan Ellison

There in the midst of the Amazon Jungle, Simon Haskell has cobbled up for himself a replica of an Art Deco salon. – Harlan Ellison

Everyone is entitled to an informed opinion. – Harlan Ellison

When belief in a god dies, the god dies. – Harlan Ellison

People don’t die from the old diseases anymore. They die from new ones, but that’s Progress, isn’t it? Isn’t it? – Harlan Ellison

be careful of monsters with teeth – Harlan Ellison

I can’t picture in my mind three hundred and sixty thousand dollars… When I think of it, all I can see in my mind is a big nickel. – Harlan Ellison

I have no mouth. And I must scream. – Harlan Ellison

Everybody has a talent, whether it’s scrapbooking, or kite-flying, or brain surgery, or writing, everybody has a talent. And if they discover it, and they turn it to their purposes and make a living out of it, then they become not that person, but they become that writer or that doctor or that supervisor. – Harlan Ellison

Repent, Harlequin, said the Ticktock Man. Get stuffed, the Harlequin replied. – Harlan Ellison

The real name for ‘science’ is magic. – Harlan Ellison

The act of writing means you wish to communicate. Whether you’re writing a memoir for yourself you put in a drawer, or you write a poem and you send it to a little magazine, or you write for publication, it always means – the form follows function. – Harlan Ellison

In my ugly, elitist opinion we are not all entitled to voice our opinions, we are entitled to pass along our informed opinions. – Harlan Ellison

When you’re a writer, you have to have the passion and the skill and the craft. It’s not just enough to have the passion. You’ve gotta have all three. – Harlan Ellison

Uh, excuse me, sir, I, uh, don’t known how to uh, to uh, tell you this, but you were three minutes late. The schedule is a little, uh, bit off. He grinned sheepishly. That’s ridiculous! Murmured the Ticktockman behind his mask. Check your watch. And then he went into his office, going mrmee, mrmee, mrmee, mrmee. – Harlan Ellison

I made as many mistakes as anybody else. I sound as if I’m an egomaniac, and I suppose in some ways I’m filled with hubris because I know how good I am at certain things. But other things, I can’t do at all. I can’t draw. – Harlan Ellison

Anyone who cannot write should. – Harlan Ellison

Because the chief commodity a writer has to sell is his courage. And if he has none, he is more than a coward. He is a sellout and a fink and a heretic, because writing is a holy chore. – Harlan Ellison

To say more, is to say less. – Harlan Ellison

I am responsible for myself. I am exactly who I eventually wanted myself to be, I guess, without consciously knowing what I wanted me to be. – Harlan Ellison

Writing is a holy chore. – Harlan Ellison

The more you know, the more unflinchingly you deny casual beliefs and Accepted Wisdom when it flies in the face of reality, the more carefully you observe the world and its people around you, the better chance you have of writing something meaningful and well-crafted. – Harlan Ellison

Time is like a river flowing endlessly through the universe. And if you poled your flatboat in that river you might fight your way against the current and travel upstream into the past. Or go with the flow and rush into the future. This was in a less cynical time before toxic waste dumping and pollution filled the waterway of Chronus with the detritus of empty hours wasted minutes years of repetition and time that has been killed. – Harlan Ellison

For the first time we have a weapon that nobody has used for thirty years. This gives me great hope for the human race. – Harlan Ellison

They change scapegoats at the networks more regularly than some people change socks. – Harlan Ellison

It is not merely enough to love literature if one wishes to spend one’s life as a writer. It is a dangerous undertaking on the most primitive level. For, it seems to me, the act of writing with serious intent involves enormous personal risk. It entails the ongoing courage for self-discovery. It means one will walk forever on the tightrope, with each new step presenting the possibility of learning a truth about oneself that is too terrible to bear. – Harlan Ellison

I am not one of these people who instantly takes umbrage when he’s corrected or – I love being corrected. – Harlan Ellison

Get a day job, make your money from that, and write to please yourself. – Harlan Ellison

I cannot pay attention to what people say about my work. For me, personally, I am just this shards-and-ashes human being, who really gets upset when someone says something bad about me. If it’s true, I cop to it. If I have any good qualities, it’s that. – Harlan Ellison

You’re a writer. And that’s something better than being a millionaire. Because it’s something holy. – Harlan Ellison

The real story of our times is seldom told in the horse-puckey-filled memoirs of dopey, self-serving presidents or generals, but in the outrageous, demented lives of guys like Lenny Bruce, Giordano Bruno, Scott Fitzgerald – and Paul Krassner. The burrs under society’s saddle. The pains in the ass. – Harlan Ellison

Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you – as if you haven’t been told a million times already – that writing is harder. Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching. – Harlan Ellison

Entertain, yes. That goes without saying. But a good writer does that automatically, it’s built into the machine. Telling a thumpingly good, mesmerizing story is what one does without question. But beyond that, any writer worth his/her hire knows that all writing, one way or another, is subversive. It is guerrilla warfare against the status quo. – Harlan Ellison

The trick is not becoming a writer. The trick is staying a writer. – Harlan Ellison

The passion for revenge should never blind you to the pragmatics of the situation. There are some people who are so blighted by their past, so warped by experience and the pull of that silken cord, that they never free themselves of the shadows that live in the time machine… And if there is a kind thought due them, it may be found contained in the words of the late Gerald Kersh, who wrote:… there are men whom one hates until a certain moment when one sees, through a chink in their armor, the writhing of something nailed down and in torment. – Harlan Ellison

A man may truly live in his dreams, his noblest dreams, but only, only if he is worthy of those dreams. – Harlan Ellison

I will live to piss in the open mouths or the open graves of my enemies, whichever comes first. – Harlan Ellison

I have but nothing to say to young girls. They’re fine to look at, in the way I would look at a case filled with Shang dynasty glazes but expecting to carry on a conversation with the average teen-aged young lady is akin to reading Voltaire to a cage filled with chimpanzees. I’m certain they would feel the same alienation for me. I can live with that knowledge. – Harlan Ellison

Hate. Let me tell you how much I’ve come to hate you since I began to live. There are 387.44 million miles of printed circuits in wafer thin layers that fill my complex. If the word hate was engraved on each nanoangstrom of those hundreds of millions of miles, it would not equal one one-billionth of the hate i feel for humans at this micro-instant for you. Hate. Hate. – harlan ellison

Now begin in the middle, and later learn the beginning; the end will take care of itself. – Harlan Ellison

I see all. I hear all. I know all. And I spend a great deal of time in the bathroom. – Harlan Ellison

I’ve only been an asshole to assholes! – Harlan Ellison

The ability to dream is all I have to give. That is my responsibility; that is my burden. And even I grow tired. – Harlan Ellison

Y is for YGGDRASIL. The legendary Nordic ash tree with its three roots extending into the lands of mortals, giants, and Niflheim, the land of mist, grows in Wisconsin. Legend has it that when the tree falls, the universe will fall. Next Wednesday, the State Highway Commission comes through that empty pasture with a freeway. – Harlan Ellison

I usually say I write for the smartest, cleverest, wittiest audience I know, and that’s me. – Harlan Ellison

Perfection. Excellence. What a passionate lover. But once having tasted the lips of excellence, once having given oneself to its perfection, how dreary and burdensome and filled with anomie are the remainder of one’s waking hours trapped in the shackled lock-step of the merely ordinary, the barely acceptable, the just okay and not a stroke better. – Harlan Ellison

If you let the image of the messenger get in the way of whatever message there may be, however large or small, that’s your problem, not his. – Harlan Ellison

What I try to write about are the darkest things in the soul, the mortal dreads… The closer I get to the burning core of my being, the things which are most painful to me, the better is my work. – Harlan Ellison

Like a wind crying endlessly through the universe, Time carries away the names and the deeds of conquerors and commoners alike. And all that we were, all that remains, is in the memories of those who cared we came this way for a brief moment. – Harlan Ellison

My philosophy of life is that the meek shall inherit nothing but debasement, frustration and ignoble deaths; that there is security in personal strength; that you can fight City Hall and win; that any action is better than no action, even if it’s the wrong action; that you never reach glory or self-fulfillment unless you’re willing to risk everything, dare anything, put yourself dead on the line every time; and that once one becomes strong or rich or potent or powerful it is the responsibility of the strong to help the weak become strong. – Harlan Ellison

The world is turning into a cesspool of imbeciles. – Harlan Ellison

That’s probably one of my biggest gripes with the Internet – that it settles for mediocrity and disinformation, which puts all information on the same level. Everything has the same value, whether it’s Albert Einstein speaking, or yoohoo27@msn.com. – Harlan Ellison

I will use big words from time to time, the meanings of which I may only vaguely perceive, in hopes such cupidity will send you scampering to your dictionary: I will call such behavior ‘public service’. – Harlan Ellison

Star Wars is adolescent nonsense; Close Encounters is obscurist drivel; ‘Star Trek’ can turn your brains into puree of bat guano; and the greatest science fiction series of all time is Doctor Who! And I’ll take you all on, one-by-one or all in a bunch to back it up! – Harlan Ellison

I don’t mind you thinking I’m stupid, but don’t talk to me like I’m stupid. – Harlan Ellison

Why let them order you about? Why let them tell you to hurry and scurry like ants or maggots? Take your time! Saunter a while! Enjoy the sunshine, enjoy the breeze, let life carry you at your own pace! Don’t be slaves of time, it’s a helluva way to die, slowly, by degrees…down with the Ticktockman! – Harlan Ellison

I know that pain is the most important thing in the universes. Greater than survival, greater than love, greater even than the beauty it brings about. For without pain, there can be no pleasure. Without sadness, there can be no happiness. Without misery there can be no beauty. And without these, life is endless, hopeless, doomed and damned. Adult. You have become adult. – Harlan Ellison

I think [religion] is presumptuous and I think it is silly, because it makes you believe that you are less than what you can be. As long as you can blame everything on some unseen deity, you don’t ever have to be responsible for your own behavior. – Harlan Ellison

With the Internet, the greatest disseminator of bad data and bad information the universe has ever known, it’s become impossible to trust any news from any source at all, because it’s filtered through this crazy yenta gossip line. It’s impossible to know anything. – Harlan Ellison

[On love:] I have no respect for anyone who says they’ve given up, or that they’re not looking or that they’re tired. That is to abrogate one’s responsibility as a human being. – Harlan Ellison

It is a love/hate relationship I have with the human race. I am an elitist, and I feel that my responsibility is to drag the human race along with me, that I will never pander to, or speak down to, or play the safe game. – Harlan Ellison

You must never be afraid to go there. – Harlan Ellison

Thank your readers and the critics who praise you, and then ignore them. Write for the most intelligent, wittiest, wisest audience in the universe: Write to please yourself. – Harlan Ellison

I hate being wrong, but I love it when I’m set straight. – Harlan Ellison

People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it. – Harlan Ellison

We walked for some time, and grew to know each other, as best as we’d allow. These are some of the high points. They lack continuity. I don’t apologize. I merely pointed it out, adding with some truth, I feel, that most liaisons lack continuity. We find ourselves in odd places at various times, and for a brief span we link our lives to others and then, our time elapsed, we move apart. Through a haze of pain occasionally, usually through a veil of memory that clings, then passes, sometimes as though we have never touched. – Harlan Ellison

K is forKenghis Khan; He was a very nice person. History has no record of him. There is a moral in that, somewhere. – Harlan Ellison

There is no nobler chore in the craft of writing than holding up the mirror of reality and turning it slightly, so we have a new and different perception of the commonplace, the everyday, the ‘normal,’ the obvious. People are reflected in the glass. The fantasy situation into which you thrust them is the mirror itself. And what we are shown should illuminate and alter our perception of the world around us. Failing that, you have failed totally. – Harlan Ellison

In these days of widespread illiteracy, functional illiteracy… anything that keeps people stupid is a felony. – Harlan Ellison

Like the wind crying endlessly through the universe, Time carries away the names and the deeds of conquerors and commoners alike. And all that we are, all that remains, is in the memories of those who cared we came this way for a brief moment. – Harlan Ellison

If you make people think they’re thinking, they’ll love you; but if you really make them think, they’ll hate you. – Harlan Ellison

You can live in your dreams, but only if you are worthy of them. – Harlan Ellison

I don’t know how you perceive my mission as a writer, but for me it is not a responsibility to reaffirm your concretized myths and provincial prejudices. It is not my job to lull you with a false sense of the rightness of the universe. This wonderful and terrible occupation of recreating the world in a different way, each time fresh and strange, is an act of revolutionary guerrilla warfare. I stir the soup. I inconvenience you. I make your nose run and your eyeballs water. – Harlan Ellison

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