I've been reading some Harlan Ellison short stories lately out of Angry Candy and what do I stumble upon but an interview with Ellison (part 2 here) at the AVClub. Ellison is without a doubt one of the great American writers and is a very entertaining person to boot. Here he responds to a question about science-fiction fans.
Well, I suppose I agree with that, but with this proviso—it's not just science-fiction fans, it's the whole human race. As an outsider, I look on the human race as highly flawed. My feeling is that any species that can paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling and write Moby Dick and put someone on the moon does not have to settle for McDonald's toadburgers, novels by Judith Krantz, and American Idol. I get very annoyed at the potential that is in everybody, and how little people will settle for, and how easily they are turned away from their true purposes that can enrich them, by the most transitory silliness! Whether it's Paris Hilton or KFC food! [Sighs, pauses.] It's a frustration, and it's one of my most serious flaws.
Here is a hilarious segment from an interview he did on the same site about ten years ago.
The problem is that the intellectuals, the people who really do have some sort of education, the atavists and elitists like me who do read, don't understand that they are surrounded by people who are bone-stick-stone stupid. Every time we have some lunatic run amok and shoot someone, when we have kids in schoolyards blowing each other's asses off, everybody says, "What was the reason? What was the motivation?" There is no fucking motivation! The world is turning into a cesspool of imbeciles! The genetic pool has been so hideously polluted, and we have condoned all of it—every bit of stupidity from bad movies and cheap novels and shit fast food to rap music to pretending that the gun lobby is not an evil and insidious operation that serves the gunmakers... All of this crap is part of our inability to deal with the size of our own brains. We've got technological wonders around us and we've used them to abrogate all responsibility for everything in our lives. You call someone on the phone; you don't get anybody. There's voice mail: That way, no one ever has to return a phone call. If they don't like you, or if they're so filled with arrogance and hubris that they think they don't need to respond, they just don't return your calls. That sort of thing produces a level of frustration that in turn produces people who run around with guns and shoot the shit out of everybody because they're just fucking pissed off. They watch TV and see Leonardo DiCaprio being interviewed about fiscal responsibility and the International Monetary Fund, and no qualitative distinction is made by a Leno or a Letterman or a Larry King between an uninformed "celebrity" and some smart but tv-boring [Ellison insisted that "tv" be in lowercase. —ed.] authority. So we wind up with piss-ants like Limbaugh and Pat Buchanan and Falwell, who are so bloody damned meanspirited and Ugly Elitist that the noise-to-signal radio is overwhelming.
Yes, he is always this opinionated and ranty, but there is no denying his talent. I highly recommend The Essential Ellison as a starting point if you are unfamiliar with his work.