Harlan Ellison has never made a secret of his dislike for computers, but as a practical citizen of the 21st century, he has interacted with his friends and readers via HarlanEllison.com for nearly two decades and established an online, print-on-demand imprint (Edgeworks Abbey) to release sixteen all-new compilations of his work at HarlanEllisonBooks.com. Now it’s time to preserve the Ellison legacy for the digital age with the creation of the Edgeworks Abbey Archive.
What is the Edgeworks Abbey Archive?
A digital library of Harlan’s entire literary oeuvre created from thousands of papers filed in his home office.
Harlan’s preference for working on manual typewriters from the instrument’s heyday through to his latest work has resulted in an astonishing volume of paper, much of it crammed into overstuffed drawers that often require the industry of two people to extract or—even more difficult—reinsert files.
While oft-reprinted stories like “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” and “Jeffty Is Five” exist as formal, preferred-text documents from which all reprints are set, many of Harlan’s more obscure pieces exist only as faded carbon copies on decaying yellow pages.
Some of the never-before-reprinted stories collected in HONORABLE WHOREDOM AT A PENNY A WORD and its sequel only exist on 60-year-old carbon copies of the original typescripts and, due to fading of the carbon impressions and yellowing of the paper, are almost illegible. Though one can usually reference the published version of a faded tale in Harlan’s copy of the original pulp magazine, itself exceedingly brittle, it’s preferable to work from the original, which might contain passages excised by the original editor upon initial, and often only, publication.
The Edgeworks Abbey Archive would serve one primary purpose:
To create definitive, digital versions from the preferred text of all Harlan Ellison’s writings, both fiction and non-fiction.
The byproducts of that primary purpose would be:
1) All-new editions of 35 key Ellison titles.
These Edgeworks Abbey Archive Editions would contain the preferred text of every piece that appeared in any edition of a given title. (No matter which table of contents was in the copy of GENTLEMAN JUNKIE or LOVE AIN’T NOTHING BUT SEX MISSPELLED you grew up reading, all of those stories will be presented in this legacy edition.)
Even better, each book will be augmented with appendices featuring bonus material related to the contents of the book. If, for example, Harlan wrote a special introduction for “The Discarded” that only appeared when the story was reprinted in a 1981 issue of Amazing Stories—which he did—that piece would appear in the appendix of PAINGOD AND OTHER DELUSIONS. The books will also feature ephemera like Ellison-written flap and back-cover copy, and any other applicable oddities found while going through the aforementioned extensive files.
The editor will also do his best to cross reference, via footnotes, instances when one introduction or interstitial aside references an event or story chronicled to greater extent in a non-fiction volume.
These books will eventually be the standard editions available as print-on-demand paperbacks on HarlanEllisonBooks.com, but will also be available to publishers for potential limited-edition releases.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Several of these 35 titles are currently under contract to other publishers, so they will not be offered through HarlanEllisonBooks.com until outstanding contracts lapse.
2) At least five all-new Ellison collections.
In addition to reissuing the back catalog titles, there are several more HarlanEllisonBooks.com titles in various stages of completion.
Originally, I was hired as a freelance editor for the first four HarlanEllisonBooks.com releases, but the original publisher moved on and I arranged to continue the project. Since the 2012 release of ROUGH BEASTS and NONE OF THE ABOVE, the endeavor has been a deficit-financed operation wherein I, as editor and publishing associate, used all my free time (outside of my editorial day job) to collect, edit, layout, design, typeset, publish, and market new Ellison books (12 so far), with all expenses out of pocket. Only after the books are released do I receive payment via a commission (not unlike an agent’s) paid to me by Harlan, who is paid directly by our distributor two months after each individual book sells.
It’s a workable system, but the out-of-pocket expenses and deferred remuneration make it very difficult to sustain except in short, semi-annual bursts, which is why the release schedule is erratic and one or two half-finished books remain after every release of two to four finished titles. (For those with an eye for trivia, THE LAST PERSON TO MARRY A DUCK LIVED 300 YEARS AGO—one of HarlanEllisonBooks.com’s June 2016 releases—was originally planned for release alongside the four volumes issued in October 2014, but I ran out of time and had to publish the books that were done. It should also be noted that those four October 2014 titles were supposed to be released in May 2014 for Harlan’s 80th birthday, but I got pulled away by the day job and couldn’t finish them when I’d planned to.)
With the funding from this Kickstarter, the in-progress books can be completed and released, and there’s a high likelihood that the cataloging of Harlan’s files might reveal material sufficient for further volumes.
NOTE: These five volumes will be made available from HarlanEllisonBooks.com in late 2017.
3) Greater accessibility to Ellison stories and essays.
No longer will anthologists/editors who want to feature one of Harlan’s stories receive either a fax transmission or snail-mailed delivery of photocopied typescripts (sometimes with handwritten corrections and emendations) that must then be manually entered into a computer, creating the opportunity for errors (and many subsequent back-and-forth phone calls, faxes, and mailings to spot all the errors introduced during the arduous page-to-computer-to-page process).
All of Harlan’s work will be available digitally, in its preferred text (along with high-quality digital files for any necessary art, as with “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” or “The Region Between”), at the click of a button. Not only will this streamline the workflow for potential publishers, but it will make the Ellisons’ lives easier by eliminating much back-and-forthing that currently saps their time.
The ready availability of easy-to-reprint works will also ensure the longevity of Harlan’s material in third-party publications.
What do backers get out of this project?
Doubtless you see the benefit to the Ellisons of having all Harlan's work in easy-to-access digital form with ready-to-print books at the touch of a button, but if the 35 reissues will only be released for sale after various pre-existing contracts conclude, and the five new volumes will be made available for purchase via HarlanEllisonBooks.com late next year...what's in it for the backers of this project?
THE UNCOLLECTED ELLISON (final title to be determined) will be a four-volume collection of obscure Ellison material NOT found in ANY other extant Ellison collection (including the five new ones in #2 above). I suspect there will be a theme of some sort for each volume, but I can't say for certain until I've assessed Harlan's files, nor can I reveal tables of contents (though I imagine the revelations of what will be in each book will make excellent Kickstarter updates when the time comes).
What I can tell you is that these four books--the first one at the $60 level, with subsequent volumes added at the $100, $150, and $200 levels--will not be available outside this Kickstarter EXCEPT as a premium for people who subscribe to the entire 40-volume Edgeworks Abbey Archive collection when it's eventually released (after all the contracts lapse) at HarlanEllisonBooks.com. To put it simply: backers will get these books far earlier and for a much smaller monetary investment than folks late to the party.
I’ve edited sixteen all-new Ellison collections for HarlanEllisonBooks.com since 2011, more—as far as I can tell—than any other Ellison editorial collaborators. Since 2012, I’ve also run HarlanEllisonBooks.com, overseeing the layout, typesetting, and proofreading of all publications; the acquisition or creation of cover art; and the marketing, printing, and distribution of the resulting books (with a lot of help from my wife when it came time to pack up the books to ship).
I am as familiar with Harlan’s work, files, personal style (caps and small caps for books, italics for movies and periodicals, [Oxford commas, like the one preceding the bracket] and quotation marks for short stories and songs), and typographical preferences as anyone short of my illustrious predecessors (including--but not limited to--legends like Terry Dowling and Ms. Marty Clark). I have a very good idea of how dangerous the job is, and I’m willing to devote a year of my life to getting it done. Know also that I'm not someone who would embark upon an enterprise of this kind without the track record detailed above; I hope the books I've already edited and produced prove me fit for the job.
Most of all, Harlan Ellison is my favorite writer, and I want to see his work preserved properly while he’s still with us to know that his literary legacy is secure.
As stated above, I want Harlan to participate in and witness the culmination of this project. He’ll be 83 on 27 May 2017, so the sooner the better.
On the matter of Harlan’s participation: As an editor, it’s not my place to make even the slightest correction to Harlan’s work without his consent, but while editing HARLAN 101: ENCOUNTERING ELLISON, two long-standing authorial errors were discovered. No one’s perfect, not even Harlan. Since their original appearances in Ellison collections (in 1980 and 1989, respectively), “Shoppe Keeper” referenced 100 rather than 300 Spartans at the Hot Gates and “Paladin of the Lost Hour” referred to Alberto Moravia’s book as THE ADOLESCENTS, rather than TWO ADOLESCENTS. I brought both errors to Harlan’s attention and they were corrected for posterity, as well as HARLAN 101 and Subterreanean Press’s THE TOP OF THE VOLCANO.
For the trivia buffs, there is now sufficient reference material for me to tackle a project of this scale with confidence. Five years ago, when I edited BRAIN MOVIES, Volume One, I didn’t know that “Demon with a Glass Hand” evolved from an unfinished novel, so I didn’t know to ask for that abandoned work (which is why it ended up in Volume 3, with the explanation that it was Kyben-adjacent, and thus supplementing the Cutter’s World screenplay in that volume). Now, not only do I have detailed third-party references to direct my work, but I have a lot of experience with the files themselves, and the mysteries they contain.
For those with a more romantic bent, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” as well as DANGEROUS VISIONS, not to mention the broadcast of Harlan’s legendary Star Trek segment, “The City on the Edge of Forever,” so why not make 2017 THE YEAR OF ELLISON? (It’s also the 40th anniversary of my favorite Ellison story: “Jeffty Is Five.”)
Let’s start with a bit of math: The Edgeworks Abbey Archive consists of at least 35 revised re-issues, five all-new collections, plus the four limited-edition volumes for supporters of this Kickstarter. That’s 44 books, or $2,272.72 per book, which is not a bad figure. By tackling Harlan’s entire catalog at once, I’ll be able to take a holistic, big-picture approach to the work that will allow for more efficient and economized process than doing two to four books at a time, as I’ve done in the past.
Keep in mind that the $100,000 covers editorial costs for the creation of 44 books (which includes cataloging, scanning, correcting, proofing, and annotation), the manufacture (and initial shipment from the printer), packaging (including the cost of shipping supplies), and postage (to our supporters) for all the rewards. There are also the less-sexy realities of purchasing ISBNs, paying Kickstarter fees, credit card processing fees, federal and state income taxes, not to mention all the unholy amount of printing that will occur during the creation of 44 books.
What if the $100,000 goal is NOT reached in 30 days?
Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing proposition, so no credit cards will be charged unless the $100,000 goal is reached by the end date.
I appreciate that $100,000 is a lot of money, and it will take MANY backers to reach the goal, so even if you can't contribute, please help the cause by spreading the word on Twitter, Facebook, and all the other social-media thingamajigs I haven't named.
More eyes on the project means more potential backers, which means a greater chance of success.
I don't launch this Kickstarter lightly. I know that the backers (not to mention Harlan, Susan, all of Harlan's friends, all of Harlan's fans, probably even Harlan's enemies, and maybe even the ghost of Spiro T. Agnew [with Reader's Digest at the ready, should it fail]) will be watching over my shoulder.
At the end of 2017, I hope to hand Harlan Ellison not just 44 new books (35 reissues, five new volumes, plus the four UNCOLLECTED ELLISONs), but also a hard drive* containing the totality of his life's work, ready to weather the ages.
I still remember how I felt when I read my first Ellison story: "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs." It re-wired my brain, and woke me up though I hadn't realized I'd been asleep. (My second Ellison story--"Along the Scenic Route"--inspired me to write a story that earned me my first paycheck for putting words on paper.)
With your help--directly as a backer, or by helping me spread the word about this project--we can make sure that Harlan's work remains in print to derail the mundane lives of others like me.
Help me hand over that hard drive.
Jason Davis (firstname.lastname@example.org)
* I will keep a backup should Harlan ever grow angry with the hard drive and hurl it at the wall.
** Harlan Ellison and Edgeworks Abbey are registered trademarks of The Kilimanjaro Corporation.
Risks and challenges
Having run HarlanEllisonBooks.com for five years, I'm no stranger to the unexpected challenges that such enterprises entail.
In 2013, I managed an unexpected house move while still delivering two books promised for Harlan Ellison's 79th birthday all while fulfilling editorial duties on a book for another publisher, the most complicated project I've ever tackled, with a very quick and inviolable deadline. Both the Ellison books and the other volume were delivered on time and did very well.
Later that same year, the printer/distributor I'd worked with since the outset dropped the ball and I was forced to find a replacement of equivalent quality and cost a few days before two new books were scheduled for release. Not only did the quality of the bindings improve, but my new distributor allowed me to sell directly through Amazon.com, broadening the market for new Ellison titles.
In 2014, HarlanEllisonBooks.com offered 100 signed books. Prepayments were accepted, the books were manufactured and, on the very day the books arrived for Harlan to sign them, he suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. Within 24 hours, I'd notified the buyers not only of the situation but also of my plan to rectify it should Harlan not be able to sign the books as promised. In the end, the books were signed and delivered within the originally specified window.
I've considered the cost of manufacturing and shipping the rewards (as well as proposed US Postal Service price increases over the next year), conceived the process for efficiently tackling the project within the allotted time and for the funding sought, and I've even taken care to make sure there's a procedure in place should I--for whatever reason--not be able to complete the work myself.
It's still possible that something unforeseen could happen, but I have a proven track record in delivering Ellison books despite a number of calamities.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)