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July 12, 2010

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Whether Prince is right or wrong, one must acquiesce in the fact that his ability to operate from without the conceptual box, free from the constraints of industry dogmatism and at times, perhaps reason, is what has kept his career alive..

http://www.themusicvoid.com/2010/07/prince-and-the-yawn-of-digital/

I believe Ellison's ire over the IO9 piece is due to their (poor) treatment of the Terminator/Cameron "settlement". Cameron is not mentioned by name and the way the settlement is characterized makes it sound like it was a trouble-maker being coddled, rather than a true copyright infringement case that Ellison won.

Artists couldn't manage how audiences reacted in the pre-internet era, either--they just couldn't see it as easily, and people reacting couldn't communicate with each other and build critical mass as quickly. But uh, I'm pretty sure there were plenty of people out there thinking poorly of Prince and Ellison way before the internet existed.

I have very little respect for diva artists of any stripe. Frankly, as good of a writer as Ellison is, there is no call for some of the temper tantrums and "controversies" he's been involved with over the years. I mean, he told the studio head of Warner Brothers that he has the intellectual capacity of an artichoke and got himself completely dropped from the WB I, Robot movie project - he's either got the cojones of a Kodiak grizzly or he's a temperamental idiot who just happens to be a talented writer as well.

In my opinion, any writer who refuses to accept rapidly evolving digital and social singularity may as well kiss his or her career goodbye. You get out of the Internet what you put into it. If all you to offer is vitriol and a bad attitude, well you can't really be justified in surprise at getting it back.

Writing is art, but at the end of the day it's also a business, and nobody wants to do business with someone who prides himself on acting like an ass. *shrug*

Harlan's a narcissist, and when you refuse to give a narcissist what they demand, they call you names and exile you from their life. Then they're back giving you gifts, because without you to reflect on them, they have to face their own emptiness. Harlan will be back.

Both Ellison and Prince should retire. These artists who think they should keep producing for endless decades are finally too boring to do anything else with their lives.

On 20th June 2010, a good couple of weeks before the Ellison book purge, Harlan Ellison wrote the following on his website:


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Twice, in the past 25 years, my wife has gone through the vast, extensive vaults, spaces, nooks, storage bins, drawers, cubbies and subterranean chambers here at Ellison Wonderland; and she has offered up for sale or auction, books and assorted memorabilia of my career. PURGE III is apparently underway. It will be the last, if I have anything to say about it. I will not lie to you: I hate it when she does this. I have been hiding...I sneak into the living room, chilled-steel night, and liberate bedsheet-size mint copies of Knight Magazine with Dillon art emblazoning my stories. I hide out, here in the manse. At night, I sneak out like a coyote and whittle down the stacks of goodies she has pilfered. One of a kind stuff never intended for other eyes than mine, dammit! As we guys say to our mothers when they "neaten" our closet and throw away all those nice copies of Fantastic 4 #1 or Action Comics 1-thru-50, dammit, it's MY stuff! !!!
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He makes it absolutely clear that the "purge" is none of his doing.

This, I believe, is all the explanation we need for his upset with what you call the "rather innocuous article on io9". The article, like many others on the web, incorrectly reports that HARLAN is selling HIS books. Just about the only source that reported it correctly, if memory serves, was the LA Times.

>He makes it absolutely clear that the "purge" is none of his doing.<

What?? Like he can't tell his wife to not sell his stuff? What is he, 12 years old?

Sorry, this looks like an attempt at humor to promote a sale, which Ellison certainly approved of.

Quite apart from Jason Sanford's misreading of the reason Harlan Ellison wishes to flense his life of the pesky Internet -- it is not so much "control of his image" that concerns him as the cheap and repetitive nastiness and imprecision (the retailing of myths and rumors rather than a concern for investigation of the facts of the matter) -- several of the comments above illustrate the point quite nicely.

Kellye Parish complains that Ellison said a studio head had the intellectual capacity of an artichoke but doesn't bother to include (or perhaps does not know) the circumstances: the man was demanding Ellison change basic premises of a screenplay he had labored on for year, without ever having bothered to read it. I'd say that kind of disrespect for one's work deserves a strong insult.

It is precisely "vitriol and a bad attitude" that makes so much Internet traffic unpleasant and a waste of Mr. Ellison's (and yours and my) time. And what the heck does "rapidly evolving digital and social singularity" mean? Clarity is much to be preferred over fancy but imprecise lingo.

What is in fact narcissistic (as well as "boring") is the expectation on the part of so many Web surfers and fans that they are entitled to attention for their blather, that folks like Mr. Ellison who have long since proven their worth and talent must bow to their notions of fairness and right behavior, and that they should have access to the person's work and company without having either earned or paid for it.

"Kellye Parish complains that Ellison said a studio head had the intellectual capacity of an artichoke but doesn't bother to include (or perhaps does not know) the circumstances: the man was demanding Ellison change basic premises of a screenplay he had labored on for year, without ever having bothered to read it. I'd say that kind of disrespect for one's work deserves a strong insult."

^ I did not know the particulars of the situation, but to be honest they don't really change my opinion of the situation all that much. I sympathize with Ellison being upset, but that doesn't change the fact that this instance is just one of numberless encounters where Ellison has overstepped his bounds professionally. I'm an editor, and entertainment media is a business - frankly I don't care how good your work is if you're unbearable to work *with*, and I'd be willing to put money down that most editors would agree with me.

"It is precisely "vitriol and a bad attitude" that makes so much Internet traffic unpleasant and a waste of Mr. Ellison's (and yours and my) time."

^ Like I said before, you take what you get out of the Internet. Acting like a jerk causes people to act critically towards you, because it's not socially appropriate no matter what your job is to act that way towards other people, much less your fans or the people who work with you.

"And what the heck does "rapidly evolving digital and social singularity" mean? Clarity is much to be preferred over fancy but imprecise lingo."

^ Just take a look at Twitter, Facebook, iPhones, Myspace, etc...where people have the capacity to be socially connected in real-time at all times. That's digital and social singularity. Right now "rapidly evolving" just means that last year, Facebook reported 150 million active users. This year it was 400 million. Next year...who knows? That is a lot of untapped marketing power if a writer decides to go the Luddite route and cut himself off from fan interaction.

Sorry if that term was unclear, I didn't think singularity was that unfamiliar of a concept in speculative fiction circles.

"What is in fact narcissistic (as well as "boring") is the expectation on the part of so many Web surfers and fans that they are entitled to attention for their blather, that folks like Mr. Ellison who have long since proven their worth and talent must bow to their notions of fairness and right behavior, and that they should have access to the person's work and company without having either earned or paid for it."

^ Talent is as cheap as table salt. Ellison is talented, but talent doesn't mean a thing if your personality holds you back on the business and marketing side of things. There are tons of aspiring writers out there struggling right now in the slushpiles that are just as good as Ellison (or better). Likewise, there are tons of published writers out there just as good as Ellison that are making a killing by *not* treating their fans like dirt.

Being good at what you do doesn't give you a free pass to make an ass out of yourself in public - I don't care who you are or what you do.

And without "blathering" fans, writers would be nothing, Ellison included. Authors that forget that are authors that have to purge their remaindered collections when they're grumpy old men and the whole "enfant terrible" act they used as a young artist isn't cute or shocking anymore. That's about the time people start making "Get off my lawn!" jokes at your expense and rolling their eyes at your temper tantrums.

Or, on the flip side, they're authors who never get a foot in the door at all, because nobody deliberately chooses to work with someone like that if they can help it.

All that being said, I really like Ellison's work. I just think it's unfortunate he feels the need to act like that for attention.

Bottom line, I think "artistic temperament" is a copout.

I wrote a blog post to further explain my position on this issue here: http://kellyeparish.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/harlan-ellison-is-not-better-than-you/

Kellye -
I haven't stepped in here, but have to clarify one very inaccurate paragraph you posted.

"Talent is as cheap as table salt."

If you're an editor this must be a truly disheartening statement for the artists you work with. Talent isn't, it's simply treated that way by our society.

"Ellison is talented, but talent doesn't mean a thing if your personality holds you back on the business and marketing side of things."

I am sure there are spectacular examples to be cited in both directions. But Harlan is in his seventies and has had a far more successful career than 99% of the writers out there. He accomplished more than the vast majority of "successful" writers have, in more genres and in more media. His personality did not hold him back, and in fact was something that DID help him over the course of years.

"There are tons of aspiring writers out there struggling right now in the slushpiles that are just as good as Ellison (or better). Likewise, there are tons of published writers out there just as good as Ellison that are making a killing by *not* treating their fans like dirt."

Ellison does not treat his fans like dirt. Have you ever seen his interactions with them? I'm meaning true, honest, face ton face interactions?

I have seen him spend four hours signing books -- the majority brought by folks who did not purchase them in ways which put money in his pocket -- and spending individual time with each and every one of the 300 folks who passed by. I have seen his give and take with multiple audiences. I have seen his interaction with folks who stop him in the hall.

I can assure you he treats nobody like dirt -- even when insulting them. The only folks who get bludgeoned are those who are rude or try to "outdraw" him. Once you've spent time with him, watching his multiple interactions, listening to what is said and by whom, I will grant you the above opinion if you choose to retain it.

If you're a fan of Ellison's work, you undoubtedly know his own statement on the validity of an opinion versus that of an informed opinion.

(BTW - You don't know me, I don't know you. My father was a publisher and I've known, personally, a lot of writers and musicians in my day. "Artistic temperament" may be a copout, but it exists with many, many succesful artists.)

"If you're an editor this must be a truly disheartening statement for the artists you work with. Talent isn't, it's simply treated that way by our society."

^ I think you misunderstood me - I meant cheap as in abundant. Stephen King said it first - that success in the literary world doesn't come from talent, but hard work. I didn't mean to imply that the work of talented authors is worthless, but rather very easy to come by.

Give me two talented authors, one who is egotistical and argumentative, and one who is cooperative and easy-going, and see which one I sign.

"His personality did not hold him back, and in fact was something that DID help him over the course of years."

^ I just don't think the "any publicity is good publicity" attack is going to work for any other author the way it has for Ellison - the vast majority of them will simply be pushed aside as unnecessarily obnoxious if they try to cop the same contentious attitude that Ellison does when it comes to the business aspect of what he does for a living.

"Ellison does not treat his fans like dirt. Have you ever seen his interactions with them? I'm meaning true, honest, face ton face interactions?"

^ To be honest, I have not. But this interview with Ellison, I feel, gives a pretty good idea of the attitude I'm talking about - http://www.doorly.com/writing/HarlanEllison.htm

Is it exaggerated for the media because he's Big Bad Ellison? Sure. But that's really my main issue with it. It's attention-whoring, and when your work is as good as Ellison's is, you don't *need* to do it. It's just overkill.

But it is good to know that you have seen a kinder, gentler Ellison than the one that Ellison portrays himself.

"I can assure you he treats nobody like dirt -- even when insulting them. The only folks who get bludgeoned are those who are rude or try to "outdraw" him. Once you've spent time with him, watching his multiple interactions, listening to what is said and by whom, I will grant you the above opinion if you choose to retain it."

^ Like I've said, my issue is more with Ellison's way of doing business than with Ellison himself. If it works for him, I give him joy of it. But that still doesn't change my opinion that Ellison deciding to give up the Internet because, in a nutshell, he can't take what he loves to dish out is kind of ridiculous.

"(BTW - You don't know me, I don't know you. My father was a publisher and I've known, personally, a lot of writers and musicians in my day. "Artistic temperament" may be a copout, but it exists with many, many succesful artists.)"

^ Yeah, but I think for the most part those who display a negative artistic temperament (Christian Bale, Harlan Ellison, Russell Crowe, Ian McKellen) are successful in *spite* of their personalities, not because of them.

I'm an editor, and entertainment media is a business - frankly I don't care how good your work is if you're unbearable to work *with*, and I'd be willing to put money down that most editors would agree with me.

Ellison is his mid-70s and while he may think he's still a working writer, a look at the bookshelves or the screenplays that are currently being sold indicate he is not, unless it's repackaging of material he wrote decades ago.

That repackaging is to be expected and welcome, but arguing about who is going to work with Harlan Ellison in 2010 seems a pointless argument, because the easy answer is nobody has worked with Harlan Ellison for some time, except for fanboy documentary filmmakers.

Kellye - Fair enough. But Ellison, like a number of other '60s era writers DID make themselves marketable as a result of the controversy. And while his output has diminished in scale over the last decade, he has still turned out some substantial works. Bear in mind that the short story format has gone by the wayside, and his commentaries have largely been replaced with "do it for free" blogs. Not a lot of profit in that for him.


"except for fanboy documentary filmmakers."

Um. Gregg? Do you have any CLUE who Erik Nelson is and has worked with? Just askin'.

Ellison is back. Apparently he needed the Internet after all. I'll wager that Prince will stick to his guns.

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