Harlan Ellison's Watching...

Harlan Ellison

For those of you who are curious as to why, ah, this little sign is down here at my feet - it is shameless promotion, folks. I've had two books out this year so far, Edge Works and The City on the Edge of Forever , which is selling real well. But this is the next one. This is Slippage and it's going to be coming out in limited edition from Mark Zeising and then there'll be a trade edition next year from Horton Miflin. I urge you to get the limited edition. There's going to be 30,000 more words in it than the trade, and I just figured I'd put it out there just so that you'll get the name, Slippage. You know, why should it not be emblazoned in your mind? Has absolutely nothing to do with what I'm going to be talking about today. What I'm going to talk about today is, um, there's this ridiculous web site argument going on that, I got a web site, I got 2 or 3 that are... they tell are dedicated to me - God knows what people could find to talk about. Any how... ah, Dick, in fact, will be running a super that will give you the web site address, in case you want to get involved with any of this stuff. But the big argument is this. Now, get this, I said... word got out that I said to my wife, Susan, "when I die" - which ought to be fairly quickly now - "when I die, I want you... the, the first thing I want you to do, before you even turn me to ashes, before you bury me, before you start dancing on my grave - the first thing you do is go up to my office, you find my workbooks, you find the files of unfinished stories and you burn those suckers. You take them, you put them in a big can and you burn them. You pour gasoline all over them and set fire to them and take a big stick and stir the ashes so nobody could ever see what I wrote that was unfinished.

Anything with my name on it was written by me. A lot of people have things that were written with other people's names on them. Like V.C. Andrews. V.C. Andrews died, I don't know 8, 9, 10 years ago, and she still got books coming out every year. Bill Shatner. His name is on books,, they're all written by Ron Goulard. Ron's not allowed to talk about it because of contract. But, when you see my name on something that means I wrote it.

And this argument on the web site is really ridiculous. It shouldn't even exist. The argument is, quote, "Does a writer have, or an artist, have the right or should she or he have the right to burn his or her unfinished work?" Say What?? Who does have the right? People say, "well, we wouldn't have such and such a piece of work that was published after somebody's death. You know, I don't know what it would be but they give you all kinds of examples of great things that people found later on. So what? That's the audience. The audience wants that. The creator - it comes from the creator and it ends with the creator. If I decided my stuff is going to get burned so that 10 years after I'm dead there won't be, you know, a sequel to Blood's A Rover by, you know, Harlan Ellison and Fredrick Pohl from snippets of what I wrote, that's , that's my choice and there's no argument there. I know people like to argue about it, but in fact, there is no argument.

And it ties in with what rights do creators have? You know the people on Friends? You probably heard about them striking to get more money. They get a pay hike from the estimated $40,000 an episode, they want $100,000. And, ah, you think, "God, that's greedy". Well, Friends is a gold mine. Warner Bros. produces Friends, they make millions and millions and millions of dollars from it. They get, I don't know, a couple of million just from the syndication rights. And here come the Friends people asking for a raise and everybody is thinking they're greedy. Well, it's like the ball players who wanted a raise. You know, if these people aren't out there on the screen, you get nothing! You get monkey nuts! And if the ball players aren't out there swinging the bats, he's got more monkey nuts! It's the same for writers. Everybody is entitled to make as much money as they want. And you expect, many of you, a nobility from artists, writers and sports figures that you do not yourselves posses. There is not one of you who would say I'm gonna take less on my paycheck. I don't need a raise. I don't want a raise. No. Writers and artists; they're out there with a smile and a shoeshine, like Willie Loman. And sports figures only got a limited amount of time in which to earn the money. And so we have the right to press our case. And you do not have the right to tell us that if we're dead you want to see something written by somebody else, finished by somebody that ain't our work. Do I make myself perfectly clear?

From Sci-Fi Buzz, episode 161

Publishing Rights to 'Harlan Ellison's Watching' copyright 1996 the Killimanjaro Corporation.