Harlan Ellison, that irascible love-him or hate-him genius of speculative fiction, lawsuits and storytelling, turns 80 today. While covering the South by Southwest Festival in 2008, I got a chance to talk with him in person (there's a video I'll turn up one of these days), and before that, on the phone. Here's just the opening salvo of our extended phone chat, which had us talking testicles, knock-knock jokes and grammar strictures in just the first few seconds.

Me: So are you rooting for the Giants or the Patriots this season?

Harlan Ellison: I really don’t care. I don’t give a fuck about either one of them. The Pats have an unblemished record and that’s kind of interesting to watch but if they win you say, “Well, okay they had an unblemished record and not it’s unblemished-er.” And the Giants, I like (quarterback) Phillip Rivers. I think he’s got, as we men who touch our soft side say, he has balls. 

Me: So long as you don’t touch his soft side.

Ellison: Now you see, I finally figured that out.  When you talk about a woman who has balls, you obviously can’t, it’s a dichotomy.  So you have to say she’s got great eggs. 

Me: Saying she’s got ovaries doesn’t have the same oomph to it.

Ellison: I got a great one; you ready?  Knock-knock.

Me: Who’s there?

Ellison: Objective Case.

Me: Objective Case who?

Ellison: No, no. That would be Objective Case whom?

Me: I felt that one coming.

Ellison: See, you are too smart for your own good. What are you doing working for the (publication)?

Me: No one will pay me more.

Ellison: And having to deal with the schmendricks you deal with everyday.

Me: Well, because every so often I have the opportunity to call someone like Harlan Ellison.

Ellison: Oh you silver-tongued devil you. What can I do for you?

Of course, there's lots more; I'll find a way to put that in at some other point. Happy birthday to the original silver-tongued devil, in all senses of the phrase.