So... I just spoke to Harlan Ellison on the phone.
I may have imagined the whole thing, as I'm dosed up on 2 Beechams Flu-Plus caplets, 2 ibuprofens, along with some sort of multi-vitamin pill for horses - it was half the size of my head, God knows what was in it. Yes, the Space Virus suddenly arrived yesterday. Sore throat, streaming nose, and sinuses that feel like I've had two six-inch nails hammered into my face. Please excuse any babbling in this post. I'm spaced out, and delirious with excitement. I just spoke to one of my heroes, someone who is so well known, he almost feels like a fictional character. But he spoke to me. On the phone. I'm still in shock.
Anyway. You may remember I did a big interview for Doctor Who Magazine a while back. They asked me which writer, living or dead, I'd most like to share a pint with. My answer was: "Dead: Douglas Adams, probably my biggest influence. Alive: Harlan Ellison, because he's the daddy. But I'd also love to get Captain RTD and The Moff (there's a band name for you) down the pub, and just listen to them."
Now, since then, I've had the chance to talk at great length with both Captain RTD and The Moff (like the Captain and Tennille, but without the catchy tunes), not together but separately. They're fantastic company, and I could listen to them all day. Never, ever, did I even imagine that I'd get to speak to Harlan Ellison.
Yesterday, I got several emails, letting me know that Harlan was "looking for you." My first reaction was: "Shit! Pack a bag! Go on the run!" What if I'd angered him somehow? But he had posted a bulletin on his official website - he'd seen the interview, and was happy to go for a coffee with me. Holy. Fucking. Shit!
Naturally, I'll be flying over as soon as I possibly can, purely for the chance to have a chat with him. If you know who he is, then you'll know why I'm prepared to do that. If you haven't heard of him, then (a) I despair for future generations, and (b) no amount of my explaining will help. You'll just have to go and read his work.
So I sent my contact details to his webmaster, and received his in return. Today, around 8pm, I realised that if I was going to call him, it should be now, while the time zones are aligned. But I have a full on Space Virus attack, I thought, I don't want to be sniffing and coughing at him. Maybe I should leave it till Monday, when I'm better? Then the phone rang. I panicked. Bizarrely, I found myself saying out loud: "Christ, I hope that's not Harlan Ellison"... I wanted to be on top form, to impress him with my sparkling repartee, to have fascinating insights about his work that would impress him. But it wasn't him. Then the phone rang again, and it *was* him. Somehow, my throat and nose magically cleared up for the duration of the call. Can noses and throats get scared? It's the only explanation I can think of.
We chatted. We laughed. He's a Doctor Who fan. Apparently he's seen my episode, and my Torchwood too. I couldn't believe I was really on the phone with him. He assured me I wasn't imagining it. He was incredibly friendly, witty, and amused at the thought that I might be scared of him. I could have talked to him for hours.
I think I offered to kill one person of his choice, if he wanted - you know, just to break the ice. I think he might take me up on it.
So when I get over there, we're going to go for lunch, and have a proper chat. I can't wait. It'll have to be in a month or so, because I have TV script deadlines and so on. But as soon as I can get away for a few days, I'm going.
And now I'm on the sofa, dazed, chuckling to myself. It feels like I imagined it. But I know it was real. Because Harlan Ellison said so.