Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

How Interesting: A Tiny Man, by Harlan Ellison

The other day, I read Harlan Ellison's short story, 'How Interesting: A Tiny Man,' and then, a couple of days later, it won a Nebula.

Now, I don't really care about the award, and only know it won because others were talking about it, but I was surprised by the win. The story, if you haven't read it, is a short piece about a man who creates a tiny man, and who is later driven out by people who have nothing to do with him, suffering from the 'fury of the uninvolved'. It is, honestly, not a badly written piece, a piece that is more allegory than it is anything else. It is a tiny quirk of presenting two alternative endings, which I liked in theory more than execution, but that's how it rocks sometimes. But it was the allegory of the piece that struck me mostly, and which I found, strangely, to not be commented upon hugely as I read reviews of it. A lot of people said it was small, simple, boring, others really liked it. But it didn't seem to me that people really got stuck into the meat of it, and that was, as the uninvolved drive the narrator out of his lab, out of his home, and on the run like a criminal until he is caught, what Ellison was writing about.

To me, there were two readings. One was that, on the very surface, 'How Interesting: A Tiny Man' was about the media, and perhaps the social media, in its ability to give everyone a voice, and how this impacts on artists, scientists, and the like. It's a quite functional story at that. But what I found more interesting, perhaps, was to view the story of Ellison's comment on his own recent treatment in the science fiction scene, especially dealing with those online. From the elderly narrator who says, 'though there are those who call me a geezer and ask if I use two Dixie Cups and waxed string to call my friends, if my affection for Ginastera and Stavinsky gets in the way of my appreciation of Black Sabbath and Kanye West, I am a man of today,' and who though a scientist who creates a tiny man for no reason he can remember, much as an author of science fiction might create a tiny man, I was left with the impression that the narrator was more Ellison than he was not, and presented a view that the author held of himself, and that those who hound him, attack him, rightly or wrongly whatever the case may be, have been characterised as the uniformed mob in the media that have driven him away.

Now, whether Elllison has been driven away or not is up for others to decide, as I'm not particularly fussed, but I am curious if anyone else had this impression as they were reading the story, or is it just myself, and I'm the one left to chuckle at the fact that it won a Nebula when, to my mind, it's partly an attack on those in the scene?

I'm not particularly fussed either way. It was a decent story, more interesting in how I took it than not, I thought, but what about others out there--did anyone else have this sense?

  • Leviathan’s Blood Film

    Originally published at Ben Peek. You can comment here or there. The paperback release of Leviathan’s Blood is very soon and to…

  • A Bit of Bolano, Schafer, and Cooke.

    Originally published at Ben Peek. You can comment here or there. Here are a few more reviews of books I’ve read recently: 2666,…

  • Interview, A Few Books Read

    Originally published at Ben Peek. You can comment here or there. Just a small update today. If you’re interested, you can get a whole…

  • Post a new comment


    Comments allowed for friends only

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded