Tuesday, August 9, 2011

This Side Of The Line

Timeshadows, whose blog The Grand Tapestry has never really interested me, yesterday posted a rant from Harlan Ellison about being paid as a writer.  It's from back in 2007, so it's not new ... in it Ellison gets worked up over being asked to work free for Warner Brothers.  I think the telling moment is where the woman representing Warner in this place suggests that it would be "good publicity" for Ellison to give his time, as though Harlan fucking Ellison needs publicity at his point in his career.  Ellison doesn't say exactly why in the rant, he assumes the listener knows very well that Ellison does not need the work.  He has as much money as he needs, and if he wants more, he only needs to call any university in the country and agree to talk for 45 minutes.  For that they will pay him $20,000.  At least.

The YouTube video, named by someone who obviously is deficient in the way of intelligence, is entitled "Media Whore."  For the record, a media whore is someone who will do anything in order to get recognized by the media.  In other words, if Ellison was a media whore, he would have done the gig for free because he did want the publicity.  The fact that he spits on the publicity demonstrates that what he definitely is not is a media whore.

Ellison makes the same argument here that I made on my own post just 12 days ago.  I don't work for the gentle reader, I'm not here for the gentle reader's benefit, and if the gentle reader would like me to change that policy, the gentle reader can pay me.  Ellison is merely viewing the general bullshit circus of appearing on anything for a major studio as a waste of time, taking him away from things he'd rather be doing.  I realize that most of you reading this aren't personally aware of what it's like to work on a television set.  It is hell.  It is contracts, and sitting around waiting, and listening to self-important people tell you what to say and think.  There's no respect and there's an ever-present veiled threat in whatever you're being told.  It is being treated as an infant and being threatened by a lawsuit at the same time.  If I had Ellison's kind of clout, I wouldn't fucking do it if they did pay me.

Sure, Ellison in the video seems mad as a hatter.  If you weren't very familiar with the influence of Ellison in the science fiction universe since the 1960s, you'd have to wonder what the shit this guy is on.  If you were very young and very stupid, you might think this fellow had a head much, much to large for the planet he's on.  But you would have to be very young and very stupid.

But nothing tops the truly stupid comment left by Zzarchov, which I want to be sure I copy here so he can't delete it t

here. Here it is in its entirety:

"I always laugh when I hear professionals rant about amateurs. Yes they devalue you work, yes they set a bad precedent.. But in the end if other people are willing to do it for free (or even pay to do it), you can't expect to be paid for it and should count yourself either very lucky, very skilled or both if you can. The term media whore is appropriate. That is a profession that is also undervalued by all those giving away for free what they expect to be paid for ;)"

I would have responded on Timeshadow's blog, but she doesn't like me all that much and I really don't want to get insulting in someone else's universe. I'll respect her that much. But Zzarchov, who comments regularly on this blog and really just pisses me off sometimes with his inability to get my fucking point, shows here that I am not the only one who's point just doesn't get past the goal posts.

Apparently, if I consider my writing to be work for which I deserve to be compensated, I am the equivalent of a whore, for no other reason than that there exist in the world writers who will work for free.  I don't know which writers in the world are writing at the level of Harlan Ellison for free, but that doesn't matter, apparently.  Professionals who consider themselves worth being paid are, according to Zzarchov, laughable.  Furthermore, I have no right to expect pay, because "other people are willing to do it for free."

It is remarkable that Zzarchov is making this comment in reference to someone who IS very skilled, though Zzarchov seems completely unaware of that.  That's why Ellison DOES expect to be paid for it.  Because he is very skilled.

Zzarchov's is the sort of reasoning that has been applied to this post over and over again, missing the point over and over no matter how many times its stated or how clearly it is written.  It is the reason this blog's comments are now moderated.  I found Zzarchov's comments about Ellison personally insulting, because if this is something Zzarchov believes, it applies to me and it applies to every blogger out here.  The fact that I write this particular post for free does not create a moral obligation to work for other people if I don't wish to do so.  The fact that other people choose to write for free does not morally obligate me, either.  And I am not a whore for insisting that my time and my work is compensated.

Why am I writing this on a D&D blog?  Well, for one thing, it is in answer to another D&D blog.  For another, this is where Zzarchov tends to comment and I'd like to make it clear that his contributions here are pretty much finished.  There comes a moment in a person's relationship with other people where a revealing fact about someone's character makes it impossible for that relationship to continue.  For some of the people who read, or used to read this blog, it is my acidic delivery and my condescension that crosses the line.  For me, it is another person's willful ignorance in the face of facts or evidence.  In this case, Zzarchov insults personally a writer I respect, presenting facts and evidence which fit with my own experiences with regards to people who want delivery for nothing.  If he will do it with Ellison, he will do it with me.  I see no reason to wait for that to happen.  He's crossed my line and I'm kicking him back over it.


ChicagoWiz said...

Zzarchov's thinking is the same sort of thinking that "AD&D Grognard" displays here. Yes, some people blog. Yes, some do it to expressly share and don't give a rat's ass if they get paid. Others blog, but also at a certain point expect/deserve to get paid. And there's nothing wrong with that. Belittling that makes about as much sense as belittling a craftsman for wanting to get paid for his her work. OR to consider having the right to do with their content as they wish. Just because one blogs doesn't mean that the blog and author have become communal property.

Carl said...

Harlan Ellison spoke to one of my high school English classes (Science Fiction and World Philosophy). I'm pretty sure he did it for free, or maybe some token fee, like $1.

Ellison is a great, great man. He's in the league with Salinger and Sinclair and Harper Lee.

The point of Ellison's rant is vital. He doesn't write crap, and he gets paid for what he writes because of that. But most of his point is that if a studio wants him to work, they are going to pay and pay. He's had nothing but grief from studios for his entire career. Studios are not just known for screwing over writers, they feel that it is their god-given right to screw over writers. Ellison has taken it as his personal mission to empower writers to demand payment for what they produce, and to squeeze every last drop of money out of a studio that wants him to work for them.

His rant is important. His point is important. We're entering an entirely new age of technology and as a result, creative people need to re-invent how they get paid for what they do. The important take away here is that they must get paid.

I think Ellison would be the first to tell you he'll work for anyone as long as he gets paid. He'd admit to being a whore. I think he'd agree to write an episode of 2 and a Half Men if the studio paid him. Again, what's important is that he produces creative material for those who pay for it. Every creative professional should get paid.

The question now is, given that the Internet and personal computers have given pretty much anyone the power of a printing press that can produce an infinite number of copies of any creative material and distribute them to nearly everyone in the world simultaneously and instantaneously, how does one get paid for one's creativity?

Jack said...

Well said, the both of you. People blog, write, collect stamps, and run marathons for fun. I write novels for relaxation. Harlan Ellison happens to write novels for a living because he's good enough. Nobody's going to pay for my work because it isn't that good, and the fact that I scribble in a notebook does NOT devalue his work, or make it harder for him to get paid. My neighbor donning a cape and playing Othello at the Coronado Playhouse does not interfere with Sean Penn's livelihood. I'm sure you've learned by now that most people don't stand out in a crowd, and the way most of them cope with that is to run down others; f*** 'em!
As for banning a dissenting voice from your blog, I don't think I would, but that's easy to say when I haven't had one screaming in my face. Like we're all saying here, your blog, your business.
Nice post, well spoken, and good points made.

Timeshadows said...


If I've given you the impression I don't like you or your work, I'd like to take this opportunity to apologise.

Best to you and your writing/gaming,

JDJarvis said...

As a professional artist I know how Mr. Ellison feels. An awful lot of people want you to work for free and choke on their tongues, or treat you like you've insulted them when you tell them what your rates are. The creative talent has to eat too folks.

Sure it's upsetting when a blog gets deleted but I worry more about what it means to and for the blogger them-self.