Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Firebrand And Freedom

A Firebrand at 69: An Interview with Harlan Ellison - a very provocative interview with a cantakerous writer - a very good writer at that.

He talks of "Cultural Amnesia" and attributes it directly to the Internet. He talks directly of the lawsuit brought by him against AOL and Stephen Robertson for posting his work online in scanned form. He settled out-of-court with Stephen, but continues his case against AOL.

WD: Would you go so far as to say the internet has destroyed the writing trade?

HE: I don't think that's going too far. When you destroy the basic philosophy, the parameters of a field of endeavor ... everything changes. You stand on the cusp of a gigantic paradigm shift, where nothing is of the same value.

I'll go to speak at a college, and I'll have some kid stand up and say, "Well, writers shouldn't be paid; they should put their stuff up; and if people like it they get paid for it." And I think: what the hell looneytune universe are you living in, kid? The question indicates a total lack of understanding of how Reality Works. This kid's been living off mommy and daddy too long.

WD: But basically, it sounds as if you still have no fear.

HE (assuming noble pose): I guess that's my curse. As Spider-Man says, "With great power comes great responsibility." (I like quoting from the classics.) Well, in my case, with fearlessness comes great stupidity. I'm just not afraid of things. There's nothing anybody could do to me that would make me afraid.

Personally, while I find Harlan to be a creative and good writer, ref my notes on Paingods, I think he's way over the top in this day and age - the millions of voices heard due to the Internet cannot be underestimated - sifting through the chaff is the responsibility of the discerning reader/browser.

The ethics of the writer may be well understood, but perhaps the reader has certain ethics, such as not stealing the writer's work, and respecting the writer's art.

It would be interesting to see Cory Doctorow's views on this issue.

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