The Seattle Weekly looks at the long running Harlan Ellison/Gary Groth fued in an article we couldn’t have titled any better ourselves: News: From Hell’s Heart, I Litigate at Thee!. The article looks at the strengths and weakness of both sides, and reveals what we all new: it’s an adolescent pissing contest on both sides that makes everyone lose.

By choosing to fight Ellison’s lawsuit, rather than settle or alter the content of a not-yet-published book that’s at the center of the case, Groth is embracing a huge risk, he acknowledges. Fantagraphics already lost the first legal round last month, when a federal court declined to toss out the complaint. Now Groth is seemingly committed to a courtroom marathon that could stretch on for years. Isn’t he taking a chance that might destroy his own company? “An adverse judgment could, sure,” he says. “But any publisher with any courage takes that chance every day. Whether it’s The New York Times or The Nation…any journalistic enterprises that seek to exercise their rights do take that chance, and I think they’re obligated to take that chance.”

All of which sounds perfectly noble and admirable—until you look further into the story, and realize that this suit is but phase three of a 27-year grudge match that seems to be at least as much petty and personal as it is principled.


  1. The problem with the reasoning here is that it assumes there were only two alternatives: Either Fantagraphics agrees to suppress the sections of their book Harlan Ellison wanted them to suppress or Harlan Ellison sues. There was a third alternative: Harlan Ellison could have accepted Fantagraphics’ offer to give his side of the story in the book, and given the foolish things the Fantagraphics side did during the trial could have defused any damage the critical comments made to his reputation. In a book of over a hundred pages, Fantagraphics wanted to include a few short passages critical of Harlan Ellison. What’s so adolescent and unreasonable about that?

    M. Lusk reveals a typical point of view of Harlan Ellison and his supporters: He’s been hurt by Gary Groth’s words so he wants to see Gary Groth suffer material damage. Speaks for itself, I think.

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