Ellison Raises The Bar

Harlan Ellison is interviewed by Damien Walter in the Guardian in an exchange far surpassing what I called the Best Ellison Interview Ever just last year.

When you can get quotes like this, what interviewer wouldn’t — as Walter offered — kill for the opportunity?

Lots of good answers, including this adamant restatement of Harlan’s insistence on being paid for his work:

DW: I think I know what you’re going to say as the answer to this question, but I want to ask you anyway. Because a lot of writers today – and I’m thinking of people like Cory Doctorow, and Neil Gaiman, who set up this interview for us – say that they can give their work away for free, and they can still sell it. Do you think there’s any chance that they’re right?

HE: I think without question they are wrong. I don’t know that Neil has ever said that. I think I’ve known Neil so many years, that I think I’ve whipped him, flayed him, and browbeaten him enough that he knows that he gives nothing away for nothing. But he has a kind heart, and so people can touch him, and they will ask him to do something for nothing because, “Well, we don’t have the money.” They have the money to buy drugs, they have money to go to the movies, they have money to buy themselves new shoes, but they don’t have the money to pay the writer. Cory Doctorow’s philosophy I find egregious. Egregious in the extreme. Stephen King tried to give things away for free on the web, and was screwed. I think any writer who gives away his work demeans himself, demeans the craft, demeans the art, and demeans the buyer. It is not only caveat emptor, it is caveat lector. I don’t mean to be crude when I say this, but I won’t take a piss unless I’m paid properly.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

7 thoughts on “Ellison Raises The Bar

  1. Harlan Ellison is right, for once. If all literature is given away, literature will be at fanfiction standard. Doctorow is successful because he runs a personality cult with a bit of writing on the side.

  2. Doctorow probably deserves a defense, I’m just not familiar enough with his work to make one. However, much as he loves his celebrity, Ellison’s always been a working writer, and is even now, not just “on the side.”

  3. Stephen King was screwed? Out of what? He can just wait a day or two and his book sales will give it back.

    I see more of, “You can have this, but I won’t give that away. You have to buy that one.”

Comments are closed.