Harlan Ellison ANGRILY Sues Paramount Over His Old "Star Trek" Script
Harlan Ellison has launched a lawsuit against Paramount and the Writer's Guild West for residual rights to his famous, Hugo-award winning "Star Trek" teleplay entitled: "City on the Edge of Forever."

You can watch the whole episode here.

Many "Star Trek" fans consider Ellison's episode the finest episode ever, and one of television's finest moments, whatever that means. Television's other finest moments include the last episode of "ALF" and the time in 1974 that news anchor Christine Chubbuck killed herself live during a news broadcast.

You get the feeling that Ellison has launched this lawsuit because it will provide a good time. In fact, while he seeks every penny in damages from Paramount, he is only suing the Writer's Guild for one dollar, merely to be vindicated by the Federal Court system and to prove that the Writer's Guild has failed to protect his interests.

Ellsion is suing Paramount for money based on the toys, novels, and other nostalgic memorabilia that Paramount has sold over the years: memorabilia that directly references "City on the Edge of Forever" and characters specific to it. Ellison's lawsuit comes snug against author Clive Cussler's recent legal loss to Crusader Entertainment regarding breach of contract on the movie "Sahara."

Here's what Ellison had to say at great length on the subject of author's rights in his press release:

"To quote Gandhi: 'First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.'

"And please make sure to remember, at the moment some Studio mouthpiece calls me a mooch, and says I'm only pursuing this legal retribution to get into their 'deep pockets,' tell'm Ellison snarled back, 'F[uck]in'-A damn skippy!' I'm no hypocrite. It ain't about the 'principle,' friend, its about the MONEY! Pay Me! Am I doing this for other writers, for Mom (still dead), and apple pie? Hell no! I'm doing it for the 35-year-long disrespect and the money!

"The arrogance, the pompous dismissive imperial manner of those who 'have more important things to worry about,' who'll have their assistant get back to you, who don't actually read or create, who merely 'take' meetings, and shuffle papers -- much of which is paper money denied to those who actually did the manual labor of creating those dreams -- they refuse even to notice...until you jam a Federal lawsuit in their eye. To hell with all that obfuscation and phony flag-waving: they got my money. Pay me and pay off all the other writers from whom you've made hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars..from OUR labors..just so you can float your fat asses in warm Bahamian waters.

"The Trek fans who know my City screenplay understand just exactly why I'm bare-fangs-of-Adamantium about this.

"They maintain fortresses staffed and insulated with corporate and legal Black Legions whose ability to speak fluent bullshit is the ramadoola of gyrating, gibbering numbers via which they cling to every dollar. And when you aren't getting paid for the marvels you helped bring forth -- fine, hard, careful artifacts that are making others pig-rich -- at some point any sane person knows he has three, and only three choices: the first is to sit around dinner parties and ceaselessly whine over your sushi about how they screwed you, boo hoo, but you can't beef about it Out There in the World or they'll blacklist you; the second is to pick up an Uzi somewhere, crash your SUV through a Studio gate, and just run amok; and the third, last, choice is this one -- to act like an adult, to take 'em on in Federal Court and to make the greedy, amoral bastards blink blood out of their eyes. What they do is tantamount to common street-thug robbery...just add the pig-rich Madoff-style smoothyguts attorneys.

"And I learned today that the Actors Guild is having to fight, right now, just to maintain the very concept of residuals as part of their agreement with the Producers. So I am happy as a centipede-with-track-shoes that this infamous behavior, arrogantly ignored for too damned long, is timed to call attention to the degree to which the creative cadres in this business are getting parboiled and served up in a dog-dish! The part of this imbroglio that truly dismays me, is that my once-tough, beloved Guild -- my UNION -- that got massively screwed when it let the Alliance scare the slacker-gen dolts into thinking not losing a job meant 'just bend over and grin,' -- if one's own damn Guild won't help you, â€" when you've entreated them for months -- then hell, you've got no choice but to raise the skull and crossbones, hone the edge of your demon attorney, and just start cutting off noggins and nuts.

"Cowardice is like parrot fever in this town; I think there are writers and other artists who revel in being bitch-slapped, in being pilfered on a regular basis, as if they were artistic trailer-trash! And if the WGAw isn't going to watch my back -- and I've been their loyal hit-man, pit bull, and go-to guy for 47 years -- I dread the possibility that the timorous Guild won't raise the bloody axe for other artists, writers, actors...saner and less pissed-off than I. So you can tell 'em I'm coming!"


Here are some facts about Harlan Ellison, if you don't know who he is or why he is so angry.

While I agree that Ellison should be compensated for his work, I think it is a falsehood to call himself an artist (even a "trailer-trash artist") for the work he did for "Star Trek." In fact, under the terms that the Writer's Guild negotiated during their bid for consolidation in the fifties, people who write for television and film CAN'T be considered artists, which is why they are entitled to union representation in the first place. Artists always own their own work, and sell the rights to copy it or reprint it. Those who work for television and film are instead workers -- corporate cells without liability for their products -- which means they can collectively bargain like teachers or cops. This also goes for actors and directors.

The work of people who write for television and film is wholly owned and managed by the corporations to which they have sold their time and creativity.

Which is why Mr. Ellison is so irate. He can see the stamp of his individual talent on the work he has done, and every cell in his tyrannical writer's body calls out to have his work returned to him, to be compensated and remembered as its creator. He gave his baby up for adoption and now he wants it back. Ellison would hate to admit that he was one of the figures who was most instrumental in selling out literature in the first place; in creating an entire generation of people who view television and film as the apotheosis of creativity, as opposed to a throbbing pustule up creativity's ass-crack.

Ellison tossed aside a difficult life as a short-story writer and novelist in New York to move to California and write bad television shows and bad movies. He once even worked for Disney for one famous day, a day he didn't spend honing his craft as creator or "pit-bull" for literature.

I respect him as a writer, and I appreciate his lawsuit here, but future writers and artists will have to work long and hard to undo the damage that Ellison and other members of his generation did for literature and fiction. I don't blame them: they were duped, conned, jumped, and mugged.

I think Ellison is just now waking up to what has been done to him and others, and may even come around to pointing his finger in the right direction: not at corporations who are only doing what corporations were designed to do, but at New York publishers who built such a doomed and belly-crawling industry that writers had no choice but to turn to film and television in order to eat food, pay bills, and live decent lives.

I wonder if Ellison will repent his TV work before he dies and insist that every bit of celluloid crap that he penned be emblazoned with his famous pseudonym "Cordwainer Bird?"

It would be nice to have Ellison on the side of real, broke, risk-taking fiction writers for a change, and not self-loathing television writers who whine and beg for their name to be bigger on products created to sell more advertising, toys, and little ideas. "PAY ME," sure. But "pay me" for writing, and not for temporary plastic sculptures of my eternal dreams, fugues, and passions.

You can't hurt Paramount. You can't make them notice, or make them blink. You can't even hurt their image. They have a whole file cabinet full of methods for dealing with people like you, and they will win, settle, make you look bad, or make you owe them more money than you've got.

You can make money writing TV and movies. Easy money. Good money. But then age catches up, and you look back over your life, and you wonder what it all means, and you wonder if you would have done better work if you had chosen to reign rather than to serve, even if your life would have been uglier, angrier, shorter, and more desperate.

You would have done better work down on Skid Row instead of up on the Paramount. That's the answer. If you want to write good stories, you first have to own your own mind. No amount of lawsuits against Paramount will give you back the time you wasted working for them. Harlan Ellison = object lesson for the rest of us.

Posted by miracle on Mon, 16 Mar 2009 17:27:17 -0400 -- permanent link

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