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No doors no windows, p.1
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       No Doors No Windows, p.1

           Harlan Ellison
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No Doors No Windows


  The only trouble is, fear comes in so many different shapes and sizes these days. It comes as rejection by a beautiful woman. It comes in the brutalization of your love by an amoral man. It comes with the threat of impending nuclear holocaust; with the slithering shadows in the city streets; with the ripoff artists who lie in wait behind every television commercial. Fear is the erratic behavior of all the nut cases and whackos walking the streets—they look just like you and me and your lover and your mother—and all they need is a wrong word and there they go to the top of an apartment building with a sniperscope’d rifle. Fear is all around you. You have nothing to fear but fear itself, right? Sure. The only trouble is, the minute you get all the rational fears taken care of, all battened down and secure, here comes something new. Like what? Well, like the special fears generated in these 16 incredible stories. Fear described as it’s never been described before, by the startling imagination of Harlan Ellison, master fantasist, tour-guide through the land of dreadful visions, unerring observer of human folly and supernatural diabolism. Or, quoting the Louisville Courier-Journal & Times, Ellison’s “stories are kaleidoscopic in their range, breathtaking in their beauty, hideous in their deformity, insulting in their arrogance and unarguable in the accuracy of their insight.”


  No Doors, No Windows

  by Harlan Ellison






  “I feel it’s tremendously satisfying to use the cinematic art to achieve something of a mass emotion; if you’ve [written] a picture correctly, in terms of its emotional impact, the Japanese audience should scream at the same time as the Indian audience.”

  Alfred Hitchcock


  Introduction: BLOOD/THOUGHTS




  NEDRA AT f:5.6
















  “Writing, has nothing much to do with pretty manners, and less to do with sportsmanship or restraint…

  “Every fictioneer re-invents the world because the facts, things or people of the received world are unacceptable. Every fiction writer dreams of imposing his invention upon the world and winning the world’s acclaim. (Such dreams are known as delusions of grandeur in pathology but tolerated as expressions of would-be genius in bookstores and libraries.) Every writer begins as a subversive, if in nothing more than the antisocial means by which he earns his keep. Finally, every fantasist who cannibalizes himself knows that misfortune is his friend, that grief feeds and sharpens his fancy, that hatred is as sufficient a spur to creation as love (and a world more common) and that without an instinct for lunacy he will come to nothing.”


  What are we to make of the mind of humanity? What are we to think of the purgatory in which dreams are born, from whence come the derangements that men call magic because they have no other names for smoke or fog or hysteria? What are we to dwell upon when we consider the forms and shadows that become stories? Must we dismiss them as fever dreams, as expressions of creativity, as purgatives? Or may we deal with them even as the naked ape dealt with them: as the only moments of truth a human calls throughout a life of endless lies.

  Who will be the first to acknowledge that it was only a membrane, only a vapor, that separated a Robert Burns and his love from a Leopold Sacher-Masoch and his hate?

  Is it too terrible to consider that a Dickens, who could drip treacle and God bless us one and all, through the mouth of a potboiler character called Tiny Tim, could also create the escaped convict Magwitch; the despoiler of children, Fagin; the murderous Sikes? Is it that great a step to consider that a woman surrounded by love and warmth and care of humanity as was Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley, the greatest romantic poet western civilization has ever produced, could herself produce a work of such naked horror as Frankenstein? Can the mind equate the differences and similarities that allow both an Annabell Lee and a Masque of the Red Death to emerge from the same churning pit of thought-darkness?

  Consider the dreamers: all of the dreamers: the glorious and the corrupt:

  Aesop, Attilla; Benito Mussolini and Benvenuto Cellini; Chekhov and Chang Tao-ling; Democritus, Disraeli; Epicurus, Edison; Fauré and Fitzgerald; Goethe, Garibaldi; Huysmann and Hemingway, ibn-al-Farid and Ives; Jeanne d’Arc and Jesus of Nazareth; and on and on. All the dreamers. Those whose visions took form in blood and those which took form in music. Dreams fashioned of words, and nightmares molded of death and pain. Is it inconceivable to consider that Richard Speck—who slaughtered eight nurses in Chicago in 1966, who was sentenced to 1,200 years in prison—was a devout Church-going Christian, a boy who lived in the land of God, while Jean Genet—avowed thief, murderer, pederast, vagrant who spent the first thirty years of his life as an enemy of society, and in the jails of France where he was sentenced to life imprisonment—has written prose and poetry of such blazing splendor that Sartre has called him “saint”? Does the mind shy away from the truth that a Bosch could create hell-images so burning, so excruciating that no other artist has ever even attempted to copy his staggeringly brilliant style, while at the same time he produced works of such ecumenical purity as “L’Epiphanie”? All the dreamers. All the mad ones and the noble ones, all the seekers after alchemy and immortality, all those who dashed through endless midnights of gore-splattered horror and all those who strolled through sunshine springtimes of humanity. They are one and the same. They are all born of the same desire.

  Speechless, we stand before Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” or one of those hell-images of Hieronymous Bosch, and we find our senses reeling; vanishing into a daydream mist of what must this man have been like, what must he have suffered? A passage from Dylan Thomas, about birds singing in the eaves of a lunatic asylum, draws us up short, steals the breath from our mouths; and the blood and thoughts stand still in our bodies as we are confronted with the absolute incredible achievement of what he has done. The impossibility of it. So imperfect, so faulty, so broken the links in communication between humans, that to pass along one corner of a vision we have had to another creature is an accomplishment that fills us with pride and wonder, touching us and them for a nanoinstant with magic. How staggering it is then, to see, to know what Van Gogh and Bosch and Thomas knew and saw. To live for that nanoinstant what they lived. To look out of their eyes and view the universe from a never before conquered height, from a dizzying, strange place.

  This, then, is the temporary, fleeting, transient, incredibly valuable, priceless gift from the genius dreamer to those of us crawling forward moment after moment in time, with nothing to break our routine save death.

  Mud-condemned, forced to deal as ribbon clerks with the boredoms and inanities of lives that may never touch—save by this voyeuristic means—a fragment of glory…our only hope, our only pleasure, is derived through the eyes of the genius dreamers; the genius madmen; the creators.

>   How amazed…how stopped like a broken clock we are, when we are in the presence of the creator. When we see what his singular talents—wrought out of torment—have proffered; what magnificence, or depravity, or beauty, perhaps in a spare moment, only half-trying; they have brought it forth nonetheless, for the rest of eternity and the world to treasure.

  And how awed we are, when caught in the golden web of that true genius—so that finally, for the first time we know that all the rest of it was kitsch; it is made so terribly, crushingly obvious to us, just how mere, how petty, how mud-condemned we really are, and that the only grandeur we will ever know is that which we know second-hand from our damned geniuses. That the closest we will ever come to our “Heaven” while alive, is through our unfathomable geniuses, however imperfect or bizarre they may be.

  And is this, then, why we treat them so shamefully, harm them, chivvy and harass them, drive them inexorably to their personal madhouses, kill them?

  Who is it, we wonder, who really still the golden voices of the geniuses, who turn their visions to dust?

  Who, the question asks itself unbidden, are the savages and who the princes?

  Fortunately, the night comes quickly, their graves are obscured by darkness, and answers can be avoided till the next time; till the next marvelous singer of strange songs is stilled in the agony of his rhapsodies.

  On all sides the painter wars with the photographer. The dramatist battles the television scenarist. The novelist is locked in combat with the reporter and the creator of the non-novel. On all sides the struggle to build dreams is beset by the forces of materialism, the purveyors of the instant, the dealers in tawdriness. The genius, the creator falls into disrepute. Of what good is he? Does he tell us useable gossip, does he explain our current situation, does he “tell it like it is”? No, he only preserves the past and points the way to the future. He only performs the holiest of chores. Thereby becoming a luxury, a second-class privilege to be considered only after the newscasters and the sex images and the “personalities.” The public entertainments, the safe and sensible entertainments, those that pass through the soul like beets through a baby’s backside…these are the hallowed, the revered.

  And what of the mad dreams, the visions of evil and destruction? What becomes of them? In a world of Tiny Tim, there is little room for a Magwitch, though the former be saccharine and the latter be noble.

  Who will speak out for the mad dreamers?

  Who will insure with sword and shield and grants of monies that these most valuable will not be thrown into the lye pits of mediocrity, the meat grinders of safe reportage? Who will care that they suffer all their nights and days of delusion and desire for ends that will never be noticed? There is no foundation that will enfranchise them, no philanthropist who will risk his hoard in the hands of the mad ones.

  And so they go their ways, walking all the plastic paths filled with noise and neon, their multifaceted bee-eyes seeing much more than the clattering groundlings will ever see, reporting back from within their torments that nixons cannot save nor Wallaces uplift. Reporting back that the midnight of madness is upon us; that wolves who turn into men are stalking our babies; that trees will bleed and birds will speak in strange tongues. Reporting back that the grass will turn blood-red and the mountains soften and flow like butter; that the seas will congeal and harden for iceboats to skim across from the chalk cliffs of Dover to Calais.

  The mad dreamers among us will tell us that if we take a woman (that most familiar of alien creatures that we delude ourselves into thinking we rule and understand to the core) and pull her inside-out we will have a wondrousness that looks like the cloth-of-gold gown in which Queen Ankhesenamun was interred. That if we inject the spinal fluid of the dolphin into the body, of the dog, our pets will speak in the riddles of a Delphic Oracle. That if we smite the very rocks of the Earth with quicksilver staffs, they will split and show us where our ghosts have lived since before the winds traveled from pole to pole.

  The geniuses, the mad dreamers, those who speak of debauchery in the spirit, they are the condemned of our times; they give everything, receive nothing, and expect in their silliness to be spared the gleaming axe of the executioner. How they will whistle as they die!

  Let the shamans of Freud and Jung and Adler dissect the pus-sacs of society’s mind. Let the rancid evil of reality flow and surge and gather strength as it hurries to the sea, forming a river that girdles the globe, a new Styx, beyond which men’ and women will go and from whence never return. Let the rulers and the politicians and the financiers throttle the dreams of creativity. It doesn’t matter.

  The mad ones will persist. In the face of certain destruction they will still speak of the unreal, the forbidden, all the seasons of the witch.

  Consider it.

  Please: consider.

  Enough philosophy. The preceding, in different forms, was an essay I wrote in defense of the nightmare vision. Its title has changed from “Black/Thoughts” to “Dark/Thoughts” (for obvious contemporary reasons), to “Blood/Thoughts,” which I think will remain on the piece forever. I’ve rewritten it and used it as the opening of the introduction to this, my first collection of suspense stories, per se, because it speaks directly to the intent of the works in this book: to scare you, to keep you guessing, and to demonstrate how much fear can be generated in lives that have been bent and twisted so there are no exits.

  It’s a special pleasure to have a book of suspense stories published, at last. Even though a large segment of my weirdo readership knows me as a “sci-fi writer” (and God how I hate that ghastly neologism! If you ever want to see my lips skin back over my teeth like those of a rabid timber wolf, just use that moron phrase in my presence), I was writing a good deal more detective and suspense fiction than fantasy when I began my career. But that was in the middle and late Fifties, when there was a hot truckload of magazines publishing that kind of fiction. Manhunt, The Saint Mystery Magazine, Mantrap, Pursued, Guilty, Suspect, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mike Shayne’s Mystery Magazine, Trapped, Terror, Murder!, Hunted, Crime and Justice, boy the list just went on endlessly with one lousy imitator after another; and of course, in a class by itself, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

  But that was twenty years ago, and with the exception of EQMM (still indisputably the fountainhead of significant mystery fiction throughout the civilized world), most of the magazines I listed above are dead. Crumbling yellow pulp relics in my files, dropping brittle little triangles from page corners.

  After having been tagged a writer of sf for so many years—and having fought the categorization for the past ten or twelve—with the help of Pyramid Books I’m breaking out of the corner at last. And it feels good. Not only because I want to be judged on the merits of what I write, as opposed to being judged as a representative of a genre that means one thing to one reader and quite another thing to someone else, but because it permits the publication of a book like this. (The fight isn’t quite over yet, either. Nine chances out of ten, when you bought this book it was in among the giant cockroach and berserk vacuum cleaner books. It was in the “sf section,” right? And it isn’t even remotely a book of sf stories. Oh, there are four stories out of the sixteen that could be called fantasies, but I guarantee that nowhere in these pages will you find a spaceship, a robot, an android, a mad scientist, a death ray, a bug-eyed monster, an ecology parable, a malevolent computer, an alternate universe, an insect big enough to eat a city, a menace from interstellar space, a lost race of super-scientific villains or even a mention of the planet Mars. But there it was, right between a Philip K. Dick novel on one side, and a Philip José Farmer novel on the other. Now those are pretty heavyweight guys in whose company to languish, waiting for you to come along to buy me, but it’s a ripoff. They write sf, they say they write sf, if you buy one of their books with sf on the cover you’ll be getting sf of a high order, and no one will feel cheated. But think how annoyed all those dudes are gonna be who picked up this boo
k, paid for it, got it home and are now reading what you’re reading. “What,” they’ll be saying, their fingers balling up into fists, “what the hell is this? Not sf? Not my nightly fix of extrapolation? No sci-fi to wile away the hours?” And they’ll read, oh, say, “Pride in the Profession,” which is a story about a little guy who always wanted to be a hangman, and they’ll finish the story and—even if they liked it—they’ll hurl this book against the wall. “I been robbed!” they’ll shriek. And I don’t blame them. If I go to a massage parlor for a massage, and some nice young woman suggests we perform acts of a personal nature one would have to really stretch the word “massage” to include, well, I’d be annoyed also. If I buy a can of pineapple, I don’t want to spill beets out into my plate. I am dead against false advertising. Yet there NO DOORS, NO WINDOWS was, right smack in the middle of the sf shelves. So. In the name of fair business practices, I urge you to buttonhole the management of the newsstand or bookstore where you purchased this nifty tome, and insist on the following: “Mr. Owner [you should say], the books of Harlan Ellison that are being published by the wonderful Pyramid Books cover the full spectrum of Mr. Ellison’s multifarious literary talents and virtually horizonless range of interests. Each one is numbered.” And then you point out to him or her—in which case it would be Ms. Owner—the big series number in the “O” of the name ELLISON on the front cover. “These books are not always speculative fiction [you will continue, I hope, dashedly cleverly avoiding that nasty phrase we agreed you’d never use again]. Some of them are contemporary novels; some are nostalgia fiction of the world as we knew it in the Fifties; some are autobiography; some are television essays; and this one I hold in my hand is a superb collection of crime and suspense fictions.” Then the Owner, not a bad sort, but sadly in need of guidance, will moan, “But I have to categorize everything, otherwise the assholes who never read anything but their specialty won’t be able to find what they want. See, over here, ten thousand gothics. You can tell they’re gothics because there’s a scared lady in a nightgown running away from a dark house on a rainswept mountaintop, and there’s only one light lit in an upper storey of the mansion, see? And here…fourteen hundred nurse novels, all with apple-cheeked angels of mercy staring covertly at interns with naked lust in their clear blue eyes. And here…violence series novels: The Slaughterer, The Crusher, The Kung Fu Brigade, The Pillager, The Hardy Boys.” And he or she will take you on a tour of the westerns, the classics, the sexy historicals—all with titles like THE FALCON AND THE HYACINTH or THE PLUME AND THE SWORD or THE DIKE AND THE FINGER—the fact science books, the metaphysical books—where forty-two versions of the few lines Plato wrote about Atlantis have been rewritten and re-rewritten by shameless hack popularizers in direct steals of Ignatius Donnelly and that poor coocoo, Madame Blavatsky—the self-help books, the cookbooks, the stiffeners with their wonderfully exotic titles like SUCK MY BUTTONS and WHIP GIRL, the war novels, the detective books and, if it’s a fairly large stock, the movie star biography books cheek-by-jowl with all those handy reference works on how to shoot a movie in your spare time, by people like Jerry Lewis and Peter Bogdanovitch, at least one of whom [to borrow a phrase from John Simon] does not exist. And then you can release the poor Owner from this labyrinth of spatial immurement by saying, “But sir, or ma’am, you have merely fallen prey to the outmoded theory of commercial marketing distinctions. Mr. Ellison transcends such pitiful categories. His work is one with the ages; something for everyone; no home should be without a full set of all nineteen of his handsome Pyramid Books with their delicious Dillon covers; his work uplifts, it enthralls, it ennobles, it clears up acne and the heartbreak of psoriasis; babies cry for more! Why not start a Harlan Ellison section, right here in the very forefront of your shop, directly next to the cash register, whose charming tinkle will be heard ever more frequently with Ellison product chockablock beside the Dyna-Mints and TV Guide, where your unenlightened flock can grab a stack of meaty titles as they would a life preserver in a turbulent sea? Mr. Ellison is a category unto himself. Sui generis! Oh do, do, kind sir or madame! Make this a better world in which to live. Put Ellison where he belongs: all by himself.” And having said that, the Owner will, with tears in eyes, clasp your hand and thank you for the pristine lucidity of your thinking.

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