Many beloved writers from science fiction's golden age have moved on to that great time machine in the sky -- including Ray Bradbury last year and the brilliant Richard Matheson just last month -- but one of this city's most contrarian voices remains as feisty and unpredictable as ever. Of course, Harlan Ellison has always been far more than just a writer of speculative fiction. After escaping Cleveland in the mid-1950s, the prolific Angeleno penned stacks of television screenplays, crime fiction, fantasy, horror and distinctively barbed film criticism and culture-savaging essays. He also toiled as everything from a nitroglycerin truck driver in the Appalachians to a hired gun "for a wealthy neurotic." Whereas most science-fiction scribes are as terminally nerdy as their geeky fans, Ellison is an unabashed Casanova who once appeared on a (banned) episode of The Dating Game
; marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala.; toured with The Rolling Stones before they were famous; and memorably faced down a thuggish lounge singer's bodyguards in Gay Talese's classic New Journalism piece, "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold." Ellison even went undercover and joined a Brooklyn gang, an experience that fueled his admittedly smutty and luridly pulpy juvenile-delinquent short-story collections Pulling a Train
and Getting in the Wind
, which have been newly edited by former Cramps drummer Miriam Linna and reissued on Norton Records' groovy spinoff imprint, Kicks Books. In typically provocative style, Ellison isn't just signing books this afternoon -- he's getting his locks shorn like Samson at a public "haircut party" at Sweeney Todd's Barber Shop before marching down the block for a reading at La Luz, where he'll be introduced by fellow wiseacre Patton Oswalt. Sweeney Todd's Barber Shop, 4639 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; and La Luz de Jesus, 4633 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Sat., July 13, 2-5 p.m.; free. (323) 666-7667, laluzdejesus.com.
Sat., July 13, 2-5 p.m., 2013