Bonus Friday Videos with Harlan Ellison and Laura Kinsale

Quick update for you:

Harlan Ellison ranted in fiery fashion with a full verbal body slam about payment for writers as part of the upcoming feature documentary on Harlan Ellison, “DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH.  Check it out: *note: CUSSING! And yelling! Be warned!*

And! Thanks to a savvy reader, I have a link to Chekov’s Mistress Laura Kinsale’s response to Ellison’s rant:

Personally, I will not write novels anymore if they have to be supported by advertising. It just breaks the bond between me and the reader. There is a bond, with a print book, with something that is bought and paid for. There’s more than exchange of filthy lucre. There’s an exchange of effort, even if it’s just the effort of lugging a book home from the library. Come to think of it, maybe this is why readers become so irrationally infuriated when a book doesn’t live up to their expectations. It’s an insult to more than their pocketbooks. It’s an insult to =them=, to their self-worth. I the author have asked for their time and their mind, and I failed them.

Conversely, if the reader takes what I wrote for free, they take my time and my mind for free. They get the fun, or fulfillment, or just something to wonder about, and I get zip. This is a deeper violation than just a monetary one. I think it’s the real source of Ellison’s outrage.

And here’s your quote of the week from Ellison: “It’s the amateurs who make it tough for the professionals. If people acted professional….”



Friday Videos

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  1. 1

    I met Harlan Ellison at a Con here in Arizona where they were giving away the Nebulas and they roasted or toasted Ellison, whatever the term might be. Harlan is a riot, and the “f” word is his favorite word.

    My claim to Harlan Ellison fame is during the booksigning, he looked at my name card in front of me, and said something to the effect of:

    “Cheyenne McCray? If I had a name like Cheyenne McCray I’d have made ****ing millions.”

    LOL. Anna Windsor was sitting next to me and laughed her ass off.

    Since my experience with Harlan, the ‘f’ word has been one of my favorites, too. It comes very easily now. Too easily…

  2. 2
    miaserene says:

    What an awesome rant. He makes an excellent point, though I do feel sorry for the woman who had to endure that phone call.

  3. 3

    He is so absolutely right!

    I’ve decided small film companies must make a habit of this. I’ll never forget, years back, getting a call from one making a TV series from Chicken Soup for the Soul stories and they wanted you use one of mine. Smashing I thought, until they told me they were going to pay me with my name in the credits. Period.

    I haggled with them like a fishwife

    was also told ‘no one else is asking for money.” – To this day I do NOT believe that-  and finally after several back and forth phone calls squeezed what I though was a fair sum out of them.

    Amazing really


  4. 4
    Melissa Blue says:

    Yup, I agree with the rant.

    But dear baby jesus, that is hilarious.

    Spam word: respect

    Yup, agree with that too.

  5. 5

    I was warned about the cussing. I don’t think I was warned not to have Pepsi in my mouth.

    Should have been obvious, though. Dumb me.

    LOVE IT.

  6. 6
    RStewie says:

    Loved it and agree absolutely.

    “No one else is getting paid for it” my ass.  If they weren’t getting paid, it wouldn’t be getting done!

  7. 7
    Rinda says:

    Oh, that was deliciously fun! I wrote a piece on the wonderful uses of the “f” word not so long ago.  Brought up a conversation I had with you guys in Dallas last year, too. ;)

  8. 8
    thebooklass says:

    I went to a con a couple of months ago and found out the author of The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle, didn’t get any money from the movie. So sad.  Also, horror authors have such potty mouths.

  9. 9

    He’s absolutely right. No one works for free in Hollywood, but idiots and the desperate.

  10. 10
    R. says:

    Beautiful!!  It reminds me why I’ve always enjoyed his stories – they have teeth!

    Artists have the same problems – when I was still working as a freelance illustrator I lost count of all the self-righteous demands for pro bono work [and they weren’t for charities, either] that were backed up by claims of “But think of the publicity!”  That song and dance got old in a big hurry.

    The Graphic Artists Guild has this maxim:
    Usage implies Value, and Value demands Compensation to the Artist.

    trade64 – Hah!  Ya hear that, ya pathetic leeches?!  Trade, not ‘freebie’!

  11. 11
    Karen Scott says:

    That was funny as f*ck.

  12. 12
    Esri Rose says:

    Wow. The man’s an education.

  13. 13
    Meriam says:

    Yikes. Scary, funny man.

    Any word on Kinsale’s next book? (asked the self-interested reader).

  14. 14
    NkB says:

    Okay, I have a feeling I’m going to be slammed for this, but….

    Does he own the rights to the interview?  If he does, then yes, he should get paid for it, straight up.  But usually the interview-ee (?) signs away their compensation rights when they agree to do the interview.  He should definitely be compensated fairly for his work, but unless he wrote the questions and shot the interview himself (which would be sort of strange), the interviewer and company who paid to have interview shot are typically the ones who own the rights to the interview.  The interviewed is either paid for the interview at that time or agrees to do it for free. 

    Furthermore, “it’s the amateurs who make it difficult for the professionals”?  Okaaayyy.  Companies who don’t pay their writers fairly will burn in hell, I agree with that, but it’s not the so-called “amateurs” fault that they get paid peanuts or nothing.  People write (or at least most people write) because they love to do it, not
    because they want to make money.  News flash:  most writers (especially those who don’t write for fancy TV shows) don’t make money.  Some of the greatest writers in history could be classified as “amateurs” who agreed to work for practically nothing.

  15. 15
    Radish says:

    This isn’t a ‘slam’.  Rather, try seeing it as ‘enlightenment’:

    Furthermore, “it’s the amateurs who make it difficult for the professionals”?

    Yep.  Been there, done that, and designed the flippin’ souvenir t-shirt for it.

    but it’s not the so-called “amateurs” fault that they get paid peanuts or nothing.

    Yes, it is indeed a factor.  It’s a big, freakin’ factor.

    Imagine this:
    You’re a Professional [in that this is how you pay your bills and support your family], and you’re negotiating the fee and pub rights with a Publisher for an article, an illustration, or a short story—then Amateur jumps up, interrupts, and screws the deal for you by volunteering to do it for free because Amateur is desperately looking to build a track record.  Said Publisher grabs at the freebie offer – yeah, Amateur is offering vastly inferior work, but it’s FREE!  And that’s nice for the Publisher’s profit margin. 

    [Quality?  Who cares about quality when it’s FREE?]

    Imagine all that, and your rent is due.  Or your car’s in the shop.  Or both.  This has happened to me, more than once. 

    How’s that for a ‘news flash’?

  16. 16
    mw says:


    A. Harlan Ellison doesn’t sign away the rights to anything, EVER. Just take that as a given.

    B. No film company (publisher, etc.) in their right mind would call and ask for the right to publish from someone who didn’t own at least a part of those rights.

    And as for writing for the love of it, you can’t make a living as a full-time writer for 50-mumble years like Ellison has (without ever being a “bestselling author”, mind) if you aren’t a hardass about getting paid. J.K. Rowling and the accountant next door who’s written a couple of short stories for their college lit magazine can afford to not get paid. (But I wouldn’t bet on Rowling.)

  17. 17
    Raela says:

    Babylon 5 was a much better show because Harlan was involved. I’ve always respected his talent and willing to pay to read his novels/short stories/film reviews, etc. The video would be more valuable if they’d just pay the man for that interview.

    I loved his rant.  So true! Go, Harlan!

    f more writers will take his side of this argument and stand up for their pocketbooks, all aspiring writers will be much better off and more likely to get paid for their skills. Now the gal from Warner can’t con some other writer by whining, “Well, Harlan is doing it for nothing. . .”

  18. 18
    Rebecca says:

    Just an observation:

    If someone signs away their rights to a creative product, or their image and the uses of that image, they are not called and asked for permission to use said creative product or likeness or image.

    You can be very sure that, because Ellison received a phone call asking for permission, that he negotiated for continuing ownership of the use of his image, likeness, words, products, and etc. across all media.

    I’m guessing that they edited out the Ellison fragments on the tape and printed the DVD without Ellison’s part of the interview.

  19. 19
    Anna Windsor says:

    Poor Cheyenne. I do admit, I dragged her to the Nebula awards one year, because I had a YA piece nominated for something (under a different name than this one, since it was for kids, and it didn’t win, but the nomination and getting the photo in LOCUS was way cool).

    Chey’s never been a geek-level fantasy fan like me, and I subjected her to all of this. Including several face to face encounters with Harlan Ellison. She was a sport, though I do think when talk turned to quarks, light speed, black holes, and Star Trek minutae, she probably wanted to kill me in some fashion that wouldn’t allow for time-space-continuum resurrection(s).

    Only a true friend would put themselves through what she survived in the name of supporting me during my moment of angst about that nomination.

    If I’m remembering correctly, when Haran Ellison envied her name (and said a bunch of other Ellison-esque things, too, giving everyone a full education in creative uses of the f-word), he was sitting either in her lap or on her signing table. Not that any of us had anybody signing with Mr. Ellison in the house, 20 feet away. Picture about 40 authors at tables, gazing on, as hundreds of people queued up for his autograph.

    I do think he’s an education—very brilliant, very seasoned. It’s often hard to hear what he says, but the few times I’ve ever heard him speak about the business of writing—he does seem to tell the absolute, ugly truth. Much like he does in his stories.

    Definitely can be jarring.

    And also very mind-clearing, if that makes any sense.

  20. 20

    Well, you’d figure the author of “Neither Your Jenny Nor Mine” does not pull punches.

  21. 21
    Kes says:

    First: word. What he said.

    Second: When did Ellison get so old? I remember when he was the enfant terrible of the New Wave…


    …I guess that means I’m old, too.
    Well, fuck.

  22. 22
    Janine says:

    Ron Moore, head writer and executive producer of the new Battlestar Galactica, has a wonderful, wonderful story about Harlan Ellison on his blog. 

    You can find it here.

  23. 23
    Janine says:

    Forgot to say: scroll down to where it says “Thank you, Harlan Ellison.”

  24. 24
    Nora Roberts says:

    ~People write (or at least most people write) because they love to do it, not
    because they want to make money~

    I can’t agree. Professional writers write for both (if they’re lucky).

    If I write, I get paid. I don’t love writing any less because I get paid. It allows me to love it more.

    Those who write for the love of it—fine—that’s a hobby or a vocation. I’d have to assume writing doesn’t pay the bills or put food on the table. For me, it’s a career. I get paid to work.

    I also have no problem with advertising. That’s the business. I like to think someone may see the ad, be influenced by it and pick up my book. I like to think they’ll enjoy it.

  25. 25
    Yvonne says:

    Gah! Between that video, the story from Ron Moore’s blog and the two books of his I have read. Harlan Ellison is now My Hero.

  26. 26

    I have a long history of doing unprofitable things for ‘love’.  My first career was in theater, sewing costumes for anyone who would hire me. Although ended up in a decent job with a good company, complete with benefits, I had some real crap jobs first.

    I had a job that paid $100 a week, where I left my husband for a month and a half, to live in an unheated dormitory in the woods. The producers turned the furnace off to save money, even though it was still snowing.  Did I mention the animals, running through the living room?  They got in through the holes in the walls.

    I had a job where I made $125 a month, where I worked in the basement, next to an industrial sized air conditioner. When I could stand it.  It was deafening.

    And a job where they locked the fire exits, to keep us from stealing or sneaking off.

    And any time I got into a situation like that, I was told that this was how ‘professionals did things’ and that I should be glad of the job.

    My favorite story was from a friend, who was trying to get the design job for a community theater.  When he asked for decent pay, the artistic director was appalled.  She said:

    “Me and Kate Hepburn do theater for LOVE.”

    Bullshit.  Kate Hepburn did not sleep in a box under a bridge, and do street theater for loose change.

    It is in the nature of the business types to screw over the creative.  They cannot do what we do.  They don’t even understand how we do it.  But they know that we don’t need an MBA, or a PhD, and we don’t have the skills to manage employees.  Sometimes, we can’t even manage ourselves.  We are creative, but kind of hopeless as business people.  So, while the art and literature we make are real nice, they can’t be worth all that much, if we are willing to give it away.

    And since it is in the nature of the people in front offices, everywhere, to count beans and make deals, they will try to get the best price for the product they are packaging. 

    If you are willing to work for LOVE, they will hire you.  Because they don’t have to give you any money to get you to work.

    They also don’t have to give you any LOVE.  They understand about people wanting to advance, and make money.  They respect that.  They do not respect suckers, willing to work for free.  And they will treat you accordingly.  They will use you up, burn you out, and then fire you and get someone else.  Because there are an infinite number of people waiting to take your place.

    I don’t see amateurs as a threat to professionals.  Because, although I love to write, no one is going to get big chunks of my life for free.  I don’t care if other people are willing to work for lunch money.  It does not influence the price I am willing to accept for my work. 

    I love writing.  But I also love the way I didn’t have to quit doing it and get a real job to pay for Christmas, last year.  I might be willing to do some things on the cheap, and some things for free and fun.  But I do not work for ‘love’ alone. 

    I would rather throw a finished project in the river than place it in an abusive environment, for the glory of a publication credit.  Because I love writing, I work hard on the quality of it, and I respect the monetary value of the finished work.

  27. 27
    KG says:

    The problem is, some ‘artists’ feel that getting paid for their work means that they are somehow ruining their art. I know a very talented man who can learn any artistic skill from glass blowing to metalwork, but he refuses to take any jobs that might be considered commissioned work because it would somehow ruin his integrity.

    Lord. People need to be paid for their knowledge whether it be as a lawyer, writer, artist, or engineer. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to be paid fairly for your creative work. There is also nothing wrong with an artist taking commissioned work in order to make a buttload of money. It doesn’t do a thing to ruining your ‘integrity’ as an artist.

    Guess some artists/writers just want to live in a box in the woods.

    Personally, I have no problems admitting that:

    1) I love to do creative writing
    2) I do creative writing to make money

    I have met my fair share of authors who claim they only write because they like it and have no interest in their sales or the money they make. I just really don’t believe that. I think there is some sort of idea that if you claim you are doing it for the money, that somehow lessens what you have created.


  28. 28
    Laura Kinsale says:

    I also have no problem with advertising. That’s the business. I like to think someone may see the ad, be influenced by it and pick up my book. I like to think they’ll enjoy it.

    Nora, just to clarify, my comment re: advertising was part of a larger discussion at Chekhov’s Mistress of the direction of publishing and “content” in general.  It’s my belief there is a strong possibility that we are moving toward totally free content that is supported by ad revenue. That’s the kind of advertising I was talking about, sponsorship, not just an ad designed to sell a book.  I’m not personally a writer who would thrive in an advertiser-sponsored situation. The short quote given here probably didn’t make that clear.

  29. 29
    R. says:

    The problem is, some ‘artists’ feel that getting paid for their work
    means that they are somehow ruining their art. I know a very talented man
    who can learn any artistic skill from glass blowing to metalwork, but he
    refuses to take any jobs that might be considered commissioned work because
    it would somehow ruin his integrity.

    Agreed.  This comes from the asinine notion that if you do ‘something you love’ and take money for it that you’re prostituting yourself and tainting your art,….


    Who’s the dickwwed that came up with that self-serving propaganda?  To learn who might profit from repeating this stupidity, all we have to do is follow the money. 

    Van Gogh died a destitute, broken man – but how much do Sotheby’s and Christie’s get for the sellers whenever his works are on the auction block?  Everyone else is allowed to get rich off the creative individual’s work – except for the poor schnook who brings it into being in the first bloody place.  Somebody please explain to me what’s right about that, because I just cannot wrap my head around it.

    It should be no surprise that women tend to be more sensitive to the prostitution accusation.  I nearly decked the guy who accused me of ‘prostituting myself’ because I’d dared to put a price on my time and my skills and the expensive materials I had to buy for the creation of that bit of art.  My lovely S.O. had to drag me away for a glass of wine to calm me down – I was close to frothing over being called a ‘whore’ because I wanted to be paid for my time and effort just like any other working stiff with financial responsibilities.

    But dammit, does everyone who doesn’t just hate their current employment feel like a used whore when payday rolls around?

  30. 30
    R. says:

    * erk! *

    Apologies for the visually jarring quote.  T’was supposed to be a block quote, not bold face.

    [needz moar caffeeeeen]

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