How Bova, Sturgeon, Meyer and Ellison Influenced Me

Ted SturgeonI have been blessed through the years, attending conventions as a teen and getting a chance to chat with many of the greats of the day. Perhaps the first author I got to really chat with was Isaac Asimov, a perennial figure at the first few Star Trek conventions.  (It might have been, instead, David Gerrold with memory blurry as to what order I met these two.) We chatted about this and that, as you do at a convention and certainly nothing about writing.

The first time I spoke with an author about writing was Ben Bova, who came to SUNY-Binghamton in Fall 1976 to speak and since he was there as a guest of my professor, I got invited along to dinner before his talk. Bova was kind and encouraging about my interest in writing. This led to a potential job interview with Bova at Omni when I was graduating a few years later but a transit strike kept me out of Manhattan and the meeting never happened.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Theodore Sturgeon for Pipe Dream, SUNY-Binghamton’s campus newspaper, at the San Diego Comic-Con in 1978. We spent a good two hours at a bar and he was incredibly forthcoming about the craft and I was mesmerized.

Since then, I have had a series of encounters with literary and/or creative figures as I went from fan and student to professional. As a result, I was blessed to get to know many writers, producers, directors. But, this month we’re talking about our most unforgettable/inspirational meeting with one of these titans. Here, I stall because several compete with one another.

Two, though, involve houses. In 1983, I was in California and Starlog arranged for me to interview Nicholas Meyer, less about Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but more about The Day After, his harrowing television miniseries that showed America what might happen should, the unthinkable become reality. He invited me to conduct the interview in his home and I got a sense of what success as a writer brings you. We talked about writing versus directing and his prose versus his filmed work, opening my eyes in many ways to the possibilities.

A few years later I was fortunate to cap a trip to San Diego with an invitation to visit the Wonderland that is Harlan Ellison’s home. While Meyer’s place was sparsely but tastefully furnished, Harlan’s house was and is a treasure trove. There are books everywhere, shelves three and four deep with books and comics and magazines. Draped over a railing were stories he was in various stages of editing for the final and still-forthcoming volume of Dangerous Visions, all ringing the desk and manual typewriter where he made words do magical things.

This was a writer’s home and it was something to envy and want for myself. Harlan and I have talked comics and life but never about writing, which is a shame. He turned 80 recently and I have no idea if we’ll ever have that chance, but his hard work and dedication to his craft have never left my thoughts.

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