Where's the Rift?

WHERE'S THE RIFT?

DEAR BRIAN MILLER: As someone who reads both comics and sci-fi (well, fantasy, more accurately), I am a little concerned by how you start your article ["From Hell's Heart, I Litigate at Thee!" March 28]. There is no great rift between comics fans (even indie comix, like the kind that Fantagraphics publishes) and speculative fiction fans. Just because Gary Groth can't stop baiting Harlan Ellison, and Ellison can't ignore him, does not mean that everyone in either medium automatically hates the other one. Indeed, every friend that I can think of that likes one medium likes the other one as well. I would advise not making grand generalizations based on a single, sad case.David Lev

Tacoma

SLOPPY PREMISE, THEN GOT WORSE

DEAR EDITORS: You're kidding, right? [Yes.—Eds.] I know of few comics fans who aren't fans of at least some form of science fiction as well. Brian Miller started with a sloppy premise, and ended with a bad conclusion. Ellison's suit poses no problems for what Mr. Miller so blithely dismisses as "First Amendment stuff," because libel has never been covered by the First Amendment—or any other amendment, for that matter. The way Mr. Miller minimizes Groth's contributions toward the animus between himself and Ellison (a search on "Enemies of Ellison" makes for interesting reading, just to name one example that Mr. Miller failed to mention in his article) and the way he emphasizes anything about Ellison that he can put a negative spin on indicate that Mr. Miller was more interested in attacking Ellison than actual reporting.Grady Smithey

Dallas, TX

MILLER A SWIFT-BOATER

Having been a contributor to The Comics Journal for over 20 years and a onetime employee of Fantagraphics Books to boot, it might be that I fail to appreciate half of Brian Miller's exquisite objectivity, but I think he glosses over a key difference between the parties in the Harlan Ellison/Fantagraphics conflict: Fantagraphics has never tried to keep Harlan Ellison from expressing his side of the story, which he has done in the most obscene and vitriolic language imaginable. Ellison was offered the opportunity to rebut Gary Groth's statements in the Comics as Art book. Ellison is attempting to suppress Gary Groth's side of the story, and materially punish him for trying to tell it. Miller doesn't seem to understand why Fantagraphics shouldn't simply acquiesce to Ellison's intimidation tactics to avoid trouble. (You see, some people have these things called testicles....) This is the sort of objectivity that makes the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth possible.

Whether Miller thinks it was appropriate for Fantagraphics to publish a book critical of Harlan Ellison, they had every right to do so, and whether he thinks the subject was still relevant at the time the book was published, it was nominated for a Hugo Award for best nonfiction publication by the World Science Fiction Convention that year, and nearly won. And Fantagraphics publishing The Comics Journal while it publishes a line of books is not as if HarperCollins owned The New York Times Book Review. It's as if The New York Review of Books also published a line of books. Which they do. From 1917 to 1985, so did The Atlantic Monthly.

Finally, if Fantagraphics had swallowed the values of the modern corporate media conglomerates as thoroughly as Miller has, they would be worried about the youth demographic, with their Xboxes and their Wiis and their TiVos, but they're not. They went into business for themselves so they could be free of that bullshit. So let me ask you this: When was the last time you read a 10-year-old book? And when was the last time you played a 10-year-old video game? Ephemeral is as ephemeral does.Robert Fiore

Los Angeles, CA

WRONG TYPEWRITER, BRI

DEAR EDITORS: I'm a regular, if infrequent, poster to the Ellison fan site Miller mentions, and quotes from, in his story. I am currently doing a little work for Ellison, in fact: proofreading and indexing the reissue of his collections of TV criticism. In my judgment, Miller's piece is fair to both sides, perhaps even a little weighted against local favorite Fantagraphics. I write only to correct a few small factual inaccuracies.

Ellison still composes his stories and essays on an Olympia manual typewriter, using two fingers—not an electric. His writing for TV goes back not to the '50s but to the early '60s. Most of the "15 different posted biographies" on the Ellison Web site, contrary to the possible implication in Miller's report that they might be the expressions of an outsized ego, are in fact facetious: outrageously exaggerated and hilariously inaccurate tales composed by Ellison for the book flaps of his publications in the 1980s and 1990s, when he got tired of seeing and writing the same old puff copy. And, perhaps most pertinent to the story, it could be argued that Ellison—far from being the "dilettante" the Fantagraphics crew so unfairly labeled him—is perhaps more closely aligned with comics than with science fiction. He has indeed written original stories for Daredevil, The Avengers, and Batman in Detective Comics, not just had his short stories adapted by other writers.

Otherwise, thanks for a fair and entertaining account.David Loftus

Portland, OR

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