The late Harlan Ellison was a brilliant writer, but he could also be a cantankerous pain in the ass. I’d had a couple of encounters with Harlan that went great, particularly for a profile that I’d written for Cinescape magazine that looked at his career in general and writing Star Trek‘s “City on the Edge of Forever” in particular; and others that just went south, resulting in his demanding copyright for an interview I’d conducted due to the fact that my questions were “insipid” (sorry?) and he did all the talking (uh, yeah, it was an interview; why would I do all the talking?). Then, of course, he would rant at others and I’d just roll my eyes, thinking, “Harlan’s being Harlan.”
Well, earlier today a fellow journalist, writer Rich Handley, related the fact that he had been contacted by a major genre website that wanted to work with him, proudly proclaiming that he could make $10 an article. Yep, you read right: $10 an article. Well, after he and I had a long discussion about the fall of respect for journalists (you can read much more at Rich’s blog), I suddenly recalled one of Harlan’s more famous rants (you suspected I’d tie everything together, didn’t you?), given the title, “Pay the Writer.”
When I first watched this video years ago, it was, admittedly met with the aforementioned roll of the eyes. But in today’s environment, where the WGA is on strike and Rich is getting offers of $10 — not to mention my own struggles in the journalism marketplace — I suddenly had a newfound respect for “Pay the Writer.” Bottom line? Harlan Ellison was right!