One cold spring day in 2005, I was alone in the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum, setting up the exhibits for the museum’s twelfth anniversary season. The fax machine (the museum’s only phone) rang. Mind you, nobody calls me when I’m off in the Finger Lakes region doing museum setup unless it’s an office emergency.
“This is Harlan Ellison,” the caller said. And he was off.
I’d met Ellison at the Fourth World Skeptics Conference in Burbank, California, in 2002. He gave a spellbinding talk looking back at the 9/11 attacks, which became one of Free Inquiry’s two Fall 2002 cover stories. (Then-editor-in-chief Paul Kurtz paid Ellison for the piece—the amount was generous for us, chicken-feed for Ellison—because he was famous for crusading for writers to get paid for their work.)