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Old 09-25-2010, 09:06 AM   #1
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Give Harlan Ellison a thought this weekend

He is in Wisconson this weekend, attending his final con. Saying goodbye to his fans because he says that he is dying. http://www.isthmus.com/isthmus/artic...?article=30610
I have no idea how bad it is and he won't reveal what, exactly is wrong, but I admire what he has done for writers and creative types like us and I thought it would be a nice gesture to give his legacy a thought this weekend. You know, while he's alive instead of those glowing tributes that are bound to happen after he leaves us. Heck, for all I know, he might stick around another year or two. But it seems that's not the case.

We, as writers, owe him a moment in our thoughts this weekend.
Abrasive though he may be, he was in there fighting for our writing rights for years. Standing up to the powers that be so that we, as writers, could have a chance at having a chunk of what we're due to us. Both money wise as well as legal. And yes, there have been other writers who have (and still, to this day), fought for our rights AS writers.
But I doubt there are none as passionate as Mr. Harlan Ellison.

Does he have friends? Sure does. Neil Gaiman and Dan Simmons to name a few.

And from what I hear...it is not easy to get into that position. Being his friend.

Because he also has a few people out there who do not like him simply because he says what's on his mind. He says things that are right and true.

You may not agree with him on many subjects, but if you are a writer, no matter what you think of him personally, you have the rights that you have today, THANKS to his efforts on your behalf. I think, at the very least, we should all think of those efforts this weekend, if not, the man.
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Old 09-25-2010, 09:33 AM   #2
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He is in Wisconson this weekend, attending his final con. Saying goodbye to his fans because he says that he is dying. http://www.isthmus.com/isthmus/artic...?article=30610
I have no idea how bad it is and he won't reveal what, exactly is wrong, but I admire what he has done for writers and creative types like us and I thought it would be a nice gesture to give his legacy a thought this weekend. You know, while he's alive instead of those glowing tributes that are bound to happen after he leaves us. Heck, for all I know, he might stick around another year or two. But it seems that's not the case.

We, as writers, owe him a moment in our thoughts this weekend.
Abrasive though he may be, he was in there fighting for our writing rights for years. Standing up to the powers that be so that we, as writers, could have a chance at having a chunk of what we're due to us. Both money wise as well as legal. And yes, there have been other writers who have (and still, to this day), fought for our rights AS writers.
But I doubt there are none as passionate as Mr. Harlan Ellison.

Does he have friends? Sure does. Neil Gaiman and Dan Simmons to name a few.

And from what I hear...it is not easy to get into that position. Being his friend.

Because he also has a few people out there who do not like him simply because he says what's on his mind. He says things that are right and true.

You may not agree with him on many subjects, but if you are a writer, no matter what you think of him personally, you have the rights that you have today, THANKS to his efforts on your behalf. I think, at the very least, we should all think of those efforts this weekend, if not, the man.

Ditto for those of us who are readers and fans of science fiction.

Excellent post
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Old 09-25-2010, 09:44 AM   #3
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if you are a writer, no matter what you think of him personally, you have the rights that you have today, THANKS to his efforts on your behalf.
Such as what, for example? What rights would we not have had without Mr. Ellison?
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Old 09-25-2010, 09:52 AM   #4
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Saying goodbye to his fans because he says that he is dying...
I have no idea how bad it is
'sokay, I hear that it is just a minor case of death. Should be over it soon.
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Old 09-25-2010, 10:09 AM   #5
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Such as what, for example? What rights would we not have had without Mr. Ellison?
I don't know about rights, but I would guess that a lot of early adopters bought devices to read ebooks on after he advertised the existence of pirate ebooks in the late 90s.
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Old 09-25-2010, 10:50 AM   #6
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I know he's had his troubles with people screwing up his ideas as well. He came up with "The Starlost" which didn't live up to its potential for a variety of reasons. He got so disgusted with it that he put his Cordwainer Bird (I might have misspelled it) name on the work.
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Old 09-25-2010, 06:20 PM   #7
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Harry T Okay, well, I may have used too broad of an example on the word..."rights"

Different writers who are working in different arenas have different rights

For example, if you are a screenwriter, he, and others like him who risk their careers fighting for us, have made sure that writers KEEP most of their health care while being a screenwriter. Also, he (and others like him who dare to protest and negotiate at the table FOR us) has always been there fighting for screenwriters so that AFTER an episode has aired they keep getting a chunk of residuals from maybe 5 or 8 re-runs OF that episode (or more if they are lucky enough to stay with a show and be a staff writer) because if a show enters syndication and becomes successful...once the contracted residual payments run out--- the money all goes to the studios for the length of the success of that show and we are talking world wide sundication (such as MASH, FRIENDS, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND etc etc etc)

If left up to the studios... writers would just get the ONE payment for writing an episode and then thats it.

It's very tough being a screenwriter because you have to scramble every season to find work and even if you DO find work you have to also assume that once the hit series you are on will end after 4 or 5 years and then you STILL have to have an income because yuo want to continue writing and being creative etc etc and while you wait for the next show to come along you still want to be sure your health care is paid for etc etc etc

Ellison was in there standing up for those rights for all writers

ALSO--- Cable television as well as network TV are all actively considering the internet as another source of revenue...once the television show airs in it's traditional timeslot every season.
Now, the writers are worried about this because....instead of a show JUST airing reruns normally on that channel in the summer....the same show can NOW be seen nearly instantly on the internet (see, HULU and NETFLIX)

The problem with this new technology is that the writers are having trouble getting paid for reruns of their written works BECAUSE.....THAT ELECTRONIC FORMAT (Hulu & netflix etc) IS NOT IN THE CONTRACTS
Ergo....none of the writers who wrote episodes for those shows are due any residuals when their written workd air on all these cool new internet formats

THIS is what Ellison (and others) are constantly fighting for. As with all contracts, once you lose a 'right' it's very tough to get it back in future negotiations

So, sorry if i went with screenwriters as an example....but lets take US for example as well....publishers are scared of this new e-book world

There are already several writers considering writing their next few books FOR the e-book format--- which would cut out the publisher from the traditional loop.

The writer would make all the money and not just a percentage (after giving a portion to an agent and the publisher)

See this blog for examples http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/

That's just a few examples that I can think of
And it's thanks to people like Ellison doing what they have done all these years FOR our benefit.

For that, we owe them a debt we can never fully repay
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Old 09-25-2010, 07:51 PM   #8
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Thanks for providing us with the link about Harlan Ellison. The story about Ellison seeing John Steinbeck in person was very touching.

Harlan gave kudos to a writer that I haven't read yet.

"My wife has instructions that the instant I die, she has to burn all the unfinished stories. And there may be a hundred unfinished stories in this house, maybe more than that. There's three quarters of a novel. No, these things are not to be finished by other writers, no matter how good they are. It could be Paul Di Filippo, who is just about the best writer in America, as far as I'm concerned. Or God forbid, James Patterson or Judith Krantz should get a hold of The Man Who Looked for Sweetness, which is sitting up on my desk, and try to finish it, anticipating what Ellison was thinking -- no! Goddammit."

Back in the 60's, Frank Sinatra mentioned Tony Bennett's name in an interview for Life magazine.

"For my money, Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business. He excites me when I watch him. He moves me. He's the singer who gets across what the composer has in mind, and probably a little more."

One wonders if history will repeat itself with Paul Di Filippo.
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Old 09-25-2010, 09:25 PM   #9
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I'm very sorry to hear this news. Harlan is one of those friends I never see but think of often. When I wrote to him as a fan ages ago, praising his Star Trek episode, "The City on the Edge of Forever," I was surprised that he not only wrote back but sent a copy of his original teleplay. He since has either hired me or been instrumental in getting me work, and I've eaten his homemade chili and survived.

It isn't so much that we can point to specific rights we enjoy as writers that we would not have without Harlan's advocacy, but he has consistently voiced (in the strongest possible terms) writers' concerns and argued for Hollywood to give them the respect and money they deserve. He has always railed against rip-off publishers and insidious clauses in publishing contracts, educating writers and wising them up to the ways and whys and hows of those who would exploit them and their work.

Harlan is an extremist, undoubtedly. But he is a kind and generous and cordial extremist to those who treat him (and other writers) with honesty and forthrightness. He does not suffer fools or bullshitters. At all.

Love him or hate him, IMO the world is a better and more interesting place with Harlan in it.
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Old 09-26-2010, 02:00 AM   #10
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Didn't Ellison write a television script of what became The Terminator? If so, did he ever write a novel or short story based upon it?
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Old 09-26-2010, 02:12 AM   #11
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Didn't Ellison write a television script of what became The Terminator? If so, did he ever write a novel or short story based upon it?
Yeah, details are down there in the midst of his bio on Wikipedia, amongst other places.

There was actually a recent "graphic novel"/comic of the story Demon With the Glass Hand, but I wouldn't honestly recommend one spend money on it. The Terminator is one of the cases where the movie is completely superior to the source material.

http://www.amazon.com/Demon-glass-Sc...dp/0930289099/
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Old 09-26-2010, 12:45 PM   #12
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Harlan is an extremist, undoubtedly. But he is a kind and generous and cordial extremist to those who treat him (and other writers) with honesty and forthrightness. He does not suffer fools or bullshitters. At all.

Love him or hate him, IMO the world is a better and more interesting place with Harlan in it.
Harlan is a polarizing personality. People either love him or hate him, with no middle ground.

He's an extraordinary writer, who electrified SF with an assortment of visceral short stories that read like they were written in blood dripping from the writer's wounds. He became known to a wider audience through his work as a script writer for TV.

He's certainly been a tireless advocate for writer's rights, which have been under increasing pressure. TV trying to avoid residual payments to writers has been paralleled by attempts in publishing on media tie-ins to transition to forms of "work for hire" contracts where only a set fee is paid and royalties are not.

Not all of his efforts are well directed. He was suing AOL for years over pirated copies of his stories appearing on their service, in apparent ignorance of the realities of the Internet and no understanding of what AOL could realistically do to prevent it.

In recent years, I think most of his income has been various settlements from rights-related actions rather than from new writing.

In person, he can be brash, obnoxious, and offensive, and a number of folks who respect the writer can't stand the person.

I've run into him on occasions over the years, but don't claim to know him well. I think the opinion of those who do know him might be summed up by an old friend, who said "I've known Harlan for years, and we get along. But people who are just meeting him for the first time don't understand why people like me who've known him for years think he's mellowed".

I take his latest announcement with a grain of salt. He's announced his retirement from con appearances before, but has returned to the fray. Maybe he will this time, too. Or maybe not - he is 76, and will be leaving us sooner rather than later.

I hope the fans who see him at what may be his last con appearance enjoy the experience - when he's on, he can be a real showman. And I certainly wish him many more years of life, and the opportunity and desire to actually finish the stories he mentioned.

We'll see.
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Old 09-26-2010, 01:49 PM   #13
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If left up to the studios... writers would just get the ONE payment for writing an episode and then thats it.
This small portion of your post seems to be the gist of your thoughts, that writers should be paid over and over and over and over and ...... over for one piece of work. Who knew?

I was a cabinet/furniture maker/finish carpenter before I retired. I should go back and demand a payment for every time someone sits in a chair I made or uses a drawer in a cabinet I made and installed, huh? I could be retired in luxury instead of merely in a pedestrian, respectable fashion.

Someone hires you to do a job, you do it, you get paid for it, you move on to the next job.
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Old 09-26-2010, 02:12 PM   #14
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This small portion of your post seems to be the gist of your thoughts, that writers should be paid over and over and over and over and ...... over for one piece of work. Who knew?

I was a cabinet/furniture maker/finish carpenter before I retired. I should go back and demand a payment for every time someone sits in a chair I made or uses a drawer in a cabinet I made and installed, huh? I could be retired in luxury instead of merely in a pedestrian, respectable fashion.

Someone hires you to do a job, you do it, you get paid for it, you move on to the next job.
It's a bad analogy though. You don't sell a single chair to many people, the economics are completely different.
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Old 09-26-2010, 02:17 PM   #15
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This small portion of your post seems to be the gist of your thoughts, that writers should be paid over and over and over and over and ...... over for one piece of work. Who knew?

I was a cabinet/furniture maker/finish carpenter before I retired. I should go back and demand a payment for every time someone sits in a chair I made or uses a drawer in a cabinet I made and installed, huh? I could be retired in luxury instead of merely in a pedestrian, respectable fashion.

Someone hires you to do a job, you do it, you get paid for it, you move on to the next job.
It depends upon the job that you're doing, and what payment has normally been.

In broadcast TV, a show will almost certainly be shown more than once, and will generate revenue in the form of advertising from each showing. Subsequent showings and the revenue thus generated are called residuals. The actors appearing in the show expect to get additional revenue beyond the original salary for appearing, and writers who wrote the show expect likewise.

You can argue that they should not get additional payments, but historically, they have, and the content producers have been trying to reduce or eliminate them, to reduce costs and add to their bottom line. Needless to say, the affected groups are fighting back hard to prevent this, as it's an attempt to take away something they had previously gotten. (And acting and script writing are not secure sources of income. For many folks in the trade, residuals are an important component of their income. Take away residuals, and they drop from "middle class" to "poverty stricken".)

Thinks about when you were still an active cabinet maker. How would you have felt about attempts to reduce what you got paid for doing a particular job you had done before for a higher rate?
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Harlan Coben alternatives? mores Reading Recommendations 2 07-24-2008 03:11 AM


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