So, just now my phone rings and it turns out to be Harlan Ellison. He read to "To the East, a Bright Star," in Asimov's and wanted to welcome me to the community of professional writers. He also told me that I should have used "as" instead of "like" in the sentence, "It worked quickly, like he remebered."
Harlan Ellison changed my life, a couple of times. First, when I was a teenager, leaving behind a very theistic view of the world and making my first intellectual forays into a science-based world, I read every bit of SF I could lay my hands on. Harlan Ellison's work stood out. I loved everything he wrote. I loved all the long essays and introductions in his anthologies, I loved his world view. I wanted to be a writer, and, not so secretly, I wanted to be Harlan Ellison. He was the ultimate in cool to me when I was 17. I really knew nothing about him but the word he had put on paper, but his words charged me up like lightning.
The second time Harlan changed my life, he was writer in residence the year I went to Odyssey. This made my trip to Odyssey something of a religious experience. The way some pilgrims might journey to Italy to see the Pope, I journeyed a thousand miles to spend a week in his presense. At the workshop, Harlan tore me apart. He ripped to shreds every story I submitted at the workshop. He did have a few nice things to say, but I still have the paper where he circled a misspelling in the first line of my story and wrote "You're writing like a goddamn illiterate redneck." He capped it all of my not even reading my final story and dismissing me as too arrogant for him to waste his time on. The final night of Harlan's stay, I cried like I had never cried in my life. I felt like he had completely crushed my dreams of being a writer. He had taken everything I had written and dismissed it as crap. He had made me look incompetent and ignorant.
It was a huge favor, one which I finally got the chance to thank him for. Because in crushing my dream of being Harlan Ellison, he helped me form a new dream of being James Maxey. By tossing in the wastebin ten years of writing, he gave me the freedom to write in a new and better style, and write stories that were less imitatative of what I had read before.
So, having him call me was a shock. Having him call me a colleague is an honor. And having him correct my story after it's published is a thrill. Yowza.