Harlan Ellison Explores "7 Against Chaos"

Writer Harlan Ellison can't wait any longer to tell the world about "7 Against Chaos." The legendary science fiction writer has been working on the script for the DC Comics original graphic novel for years, and along with his collaborators (artist Paul Chadwick and colorist Ken Steacy), he's hoping the heroic tale of future people fighting against the world's end will be a fitting monument to his work.

"It's my version of 'Seven Samurai' and 'The Magnificent Seven' which is one of my favorite films. The Kurosawa, of course, is a classic, and I've always wanted to do something like this," Ellison told CBR News of the project, set to debut later this year. "Some while ago, I came up with a plot and started to write it. We got DC interested, and Dan DiDio decide to take it on and do it as a single volume. We were lucky enough to get Athos and Porthos to my Aramis, my friend Ken Steacy, who's doing the color, and Paul Chadwick to do the art. We've been working on this for about ten years. This is a very long project that's finally coming to fruition. It really is a dream realized."

On the page, "7 Against Chaos" follows the classic setup of a team brought together to combat a growing threat, but the writer hoped to add wrinkles of sci-fi strangeness to set it apart from its forbearers. "I set it up as an intergalactic mystery where the mysterious, Yul Brenner-like figure -- call him Christopher for want of anything better -- is searching for people and you don't know why. You go through these seven separate episodes where he recruits one each -- just like in the Kurosawa. He finally brings them together for a 'mission impossible' force, if you will, that can only by their talents solve the huge mystery that lies at the core of the story. It takes a full novel to unravel that mystery. There's action and adventure all along the way, and each character emerges with a very strong personality."

And off the page, the book helps explore Ellison's ideas on the end of the world and what he refers to as "my current state of anhedonia. That's the illness I've been suffering from for three years. It's clinical depression. I look around at the state of the world and say, 'Is it really worth doing, or should we turn it over to the cockroaches?' I'm one of those guys. Like you say, 'The glass is half-full or half-empty,' but I say we've been sucking the last drops from the bottom of the glass for 20 years now. I think the internet and television have reduced us to a very stupid species -- a very gullible and easily manipulated species. That upsets me terribly. Fortunately, I'm old enough now at 78 that there's not much I can do about it, so I just kind of go with the flow. When I find something that gives me a little pleasure, I trumpet it to the skies."

With luck, "7 Against Chaos" will be seen as one of those events. "It's a return to Dumas," he explained. "I wanted to write a swashbuckler. It's been a while since I've written a swashbuckler, and this one is my prime epic. I hope that people can look back on this and say, 'In his twilight years, he was able to produce this level of work.' Paul Chadwick has done art that is just superior. You don't see this kind of thing anymore. And Ken Steacy colored it as if he were doing a Modigliani, for God's sake. With the three of us, it really is a tripod-like gestalt epic."

The writer expressed hope that having three name collaborators on one project would draw in more readers than a solo project could achieve. "This is three talents that don't usually get together, and each one of us has a huge following. Each of us have been getting work in-between and doing other things, but always this was in the background. It was like the Colossus of Rhodes; it bestrides all the other stuff and is waiting to be released.

"It's a killer. It's like a roller coaster. It starts and does not slow down. There are no dead points, and since it's going to be all in one book, it'll go on until it comes to a great crash at the end. It's a big adventure. That's what I wanted to do. It took me a long time to think it all out, plot it out and get it into shape. Then Paul took it over and went ahead to transfer it into speeches and lines. Then Kenny came in to work his butt off. It really is like Gauguin painting alone on an island. He's been working on this thing day and night, and it deserves attention."

"7 Against Chaos" is scheduled to hit stores in 2013.

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