These are sad sad times, and it seems as if every day they get a little sadder.
I was shocked and horrified to hear of the sudden death of Susan Ellison out in Sherman Oaks. She died in the house she had shared with Harlan for so many years, sometimes known as Ellison Wonderland or the Lost Aztec Temple of Mars. At this writing, no one seems quite certain of the cause of death.
No one saw this coming, not even her closest friends… and certainly not me. Susan was only 60. Which I suppose is old in the eyes of some of those reading this, but still seems young to me. I would have guessed that she was even younger, but perhaps that is only because she was so much younger than Harlan. The last time I saw her was back when I flew out to LA for the premiere of the TOLKIEN movie, at which she was one of my invited guests. But I was on stage for that one and she was in the audience, and after the panel was done they hustled me right out of there, so we only had time for a brief hello and a hug. I wish it had been longer. The last time I saw Susan for any significant length of time was at Harlan’s memorial at the Writers Guild Theatre. That was a heartbreaking occasion… made less heartbreaking by Susan’s own courage and strength, and her insistence that we make the evening a celebration of Harlan’s life and work, not a dirge for his passing.
No one who was there that day — and there were a lot of us, for Harlan was greatly loved — could ever have dreamt that Susan herself would follow Harlan so soon.
There will be obituaries and tributes all over the internet, I am sure, so I am not going to try to write a summary of Susan’s life here. Others knew her much much better than I did and are better equipped for that task. All I can say, from my own perspective, is that she was a sweet, gentle woman, unfailingly kind to everyone… and especially to Harlan. As fierce and combative as HE seemed at times, he needed kindness too. All of us do. And Susan seemed to make him happy. She was his fifth wife, and their marriage lasted longer than all of his first four marriages put together. She was feisty and funny, too. I remember a few times, when dining at their place, that Harlan would be going on about something, getting angrier and more worked up, and Susan would put in a quiet word, and suddenly Harlan would be laughing.
She was a profoundly decent person, and our field, our country, and our world are all the poorer for her passing.
Current Mood: sad