WRITERS RIGHTS DAY, L.A. SPEECH
JONATHAN VOS POST
(c) 1993 by Emerald City Publishing
Good evening: humans, corporate entities, virtual personalities, and
digital beings. Welcome to the Writers Guild Theater for the Writers
Rights Day celebration and acknowledgment by 14 co-sponsoring
organizations: the largest coalition of writers groups in California in
some 50 years.
I will be thanking each organization, and each major contributor to
this event later this evening. But for now, let me tell you who I am, what
is the subject for discussion tonight, and what will happen as various
people attack that subject from different angles.
I am Jonathan Vos Post, your master of ceremonies and co-chair of
the 1993 Los Angeles Writers Rights Day. I'm here as a 3-time member of
the Steering Committee of National Writers Union L.A. Chapter, and an
elected Delegate to the Union Assembly. I also co-represent, with other
members here tonight, Science Ficion and Fantasy Writers of America; and
Mystery Writers of America.
I have over 600 publications, presentations, and broadcasts to my
credit, beginning with paid professional writing at the age of 12. I co-
implemented the first working Hypertext for personal computers when I
worked with Theodore Nelson in the early 1970s. Ted Nelson is the
keynote speaker tonight in San Francisco. They thought we were crazy,
Ted, but look at us now!
My company, Emerald City Publishing, is responsible for the New
York-based 27-year-old magazine Space & Time; my company Computer
Futures Inc. handles high-tech consulting worldwide, most notably by my
wife: Dr. Christine Carmichael; and my company Sherlock Holmes Résumé
Service has helped over 400 clients seeking new or better jobs.
It has been my privilege to be a co-author with such outstanding
authors as Ray Bradbury and the late Nobel laureate Richard Feynman, co-
editor with Arthur C. Clarke, and co-broadcaster with the late Isaac
Asimov. I've been working with computers since 1967, over 26 years ago,
and have done computer and software projects for the Army, Navy, Air
Force, Boeing, F.A.A., Ford, General Motors, Hughes, JPL, NASA, Rockwell,
SDC, Yamaha, and other entities. I worked on the software for the Space
Shuttle, for the Galileo spacecraft on its way to Jupiter, and as Mission
Planning Engineer for the Voyager 2 spacecraft's flyby of Uranus.
But tonight's subject is even more far-out than that. Before our
superb panelists explore the new worlds of electronic publishing, what
they mean, how they can help you, how they can hurt you, and how to avoid
getting ripped off in Cyberspace; and before the internationally famous
Harlan Ellison provides his unique individual inspiration, let me
summarize in a nutshell what it has meant to be an author for the last
million years, and for millions of years to come. As Hamlet said, "I could
be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself king of infinite space -- were
it not that I have bad dreams."
FROM CAVE TO COSMOS
The history of authorship starts in the Neanderthal caves and ends in
the farthest reaches of the universe. I divide the author's timeline into
10 steps, with the world today barely on step 6. The 10 steps are called:
A microencapsulated description of each of the 10 steps runs
something like this:
(1) Cave/Fire: the first authors were storytellers sitting around
campfires, 100,000 to a million years ago, and their collaborators in the
transcendent Mysteries were the first painters, illuminating the walls of
torch-lit caves. Today we call the caves "houses" and the flickering
firelight comes from TVs and computers, but we have not changed very
(2) Mousike: Multimedia presentations were developed in every human
civilization. Authorship and the human brain have co-evolved. In European
history, we refer to the peak of 3000 years ago as MOUSIKE, the perfect
balance in the Greek city-states of music, poetry, drama, masks, dance,
feasts, prayers, food, wine, and community spirit. Unfortunately, when
Pythagorus discovered the mathematical basis of musical harmony, music
was reclassified to fit in with the divine arts of geometry and astronomy;
while poetry, drama, and the rest were consigned to the pop-culture
ghetto. Aristotle's barrier between Poetry and Rhetoric deepened the
split, which is only healing today.
(3) Writing: from the cuneiformed clay tablets of Mesopotamia, 6000
years ago, to the Post-It notes and graffiti of today, writers have tried to
prove that the stylus, pencil, pen, crayon, chalk, typewriter, and marker
are mightier than the sword. In truth, one sword is mightier than one pen,
but when ten thousand writers band together, no weapons on Earth can
(4) Print: invented in China, and Europeanized by Gutenberg's moveable
type, the print medium led to an explosion of books which continues today,
and the unexpected birth of magazines, newspapers, billboards, flyers,
pamphlets, and junk mail advertising. Today, a writer without a a
published book is looked on with pity, if at all. Now that celebrities have
taken over the top rung of the book best-seller charts, it's time for real
writers to move on.
(5) Cinema/Electronic: the 19th Century technologies of organic
chemistry and electromagnetism led to the dominant media of the 20th
Century: photograph, motion picture, telegraph, telephone, wireless radio,
and television. With the exception of the telegraph, strangely ahead of its
time as invented by Johan Carl Fredrich Gauss and improved by Samuel
Morse, these are all ANALOG technologies, which record and then play back
greater or lesser levels of light or sound by greater or lesser levels of
chemical dyes or electrical voltages. These technologies, not those of
aerodynamics or rocketry or nuclear physics, are what won the Cold War.
The Truth Shall Make You Free, even if that truth is distorted by New York
(6) Digital: the Digital Revolution has come, but there is not yet a Digital
Constitution or a Digital Bill of Rights. That is why we are gathered here
tonight. The simple substitution of analog recording and playback
mechanisms with digital recording and playback mechanisms has led to
quadrillions of little zeros and ones streaming through the capillaries,
veins, and arteries of the global body. Like blood cells, these endless
streams of bits move through and bring to life the capabilities of
computers, personal digital assistants, fax machines, floppy discs, CDs,
CD-ROMs, CD-Is, computer networks, computer bulletin boards, and the
growing anarchic Information Superhighway. One goal of writers, in the
digital world, is to create royalty checks that have a dollar sign, followed
by a one, followed by as many zeros as possible.
(7) Virtual -- Virtual Reality is the next best thing to being there. We
yearn to avoid the freeways, the traffic jams, the drive-by shootings, and
to leave our bodies at home while our minds -- interfaced by earphones,
data gloves, and full-color video eyephones -- range through real and
imaginary worlds populated by real and imaginary beings. In a time of
limited budget, the near future of space exploration will be robots roving
the planets and moons and planitesimals of our solar system, while
women and men and children peer though the remote TV eyes and feel
through robotic hands. Whom among us will be the Voltaire of Virtuality,
or the Shakespeare of Sensors? The Virtual world is referred to as
Virtual Reality (VR) and as Telepresence. Combined with Artifical
Intelligence, it will be known by my term: VRAI, vrai, the French word for
(8) Neural -- At one of the invitation-only hackers conferences, Timothy
Leary personally leaped to my defense against techno-skeptics when I said
that the next important computer interface had nothing to do with
keyboards, microphones, screens, or mice. I speak of Neuromagnetometry,
the direct magnetic coupling between electronic sensors and nerve
clusters in the human brain. Beyond this, some people will achieve even
higher-speed sensori-motor linkages to the digital world though surgical
implants in the central nervous system. Cyberpunk authors write of
"jacking in." Are we ready for the Jack London of jacking in, or the Jack
(9) Nanotechnology -- my doctoral research, in the early- and mid-1970's,
was in what I called molecular cybernetics. Somewhat later, my
acquaintance K. Eric Drexler came up with a better title -- nanotechnology
-- and excited the academic and popular world with a fully developed
vision of sub-sub-microscopic machines and computers the size of large
molecules. Nanotechnology devices will be able to dissassemble and
reassemble matter into any programmed form desired, freeing human
beings of material poverty forever. Nanomachines will rebuild the Garden
of Eden, and course through our bloodstreams to fight the ravages of
illness and, perhaps, to make us immortal. In the global reconstruction of
dumb matter into smart matter, who will write the scripts? We will. We,
the fabulators of fantasy and the writers of reality.
(10) Chronotechnology -- finally, we will go beyond even nanotechnology
to control the fundemental structure of the space-time continuum,
mastering the technologies of Einstein and Hawking just as the electronic
age mastered the technologies of Faraday, Maxwell, Volta, Hertz, and
Edison. We will use the power of gravity, the majesty of black holes, and
the virtues of the vacuum to spread human civilization across the stars
and galaxies like grains of sand in the ocean of night. We will refurbish
the universe to our hearts' desire. And who will lead the way in creating
whole new universes? Why, writers, of course!
And that's our 10-step program, that will turn us from cave-
dwellers into gods. But it will only happen if we work together, assert
our rights together, and guide the world to an era of peace and prosperity
beyond anything that ever existed before. Today the copyright, tomorrow
[This section compiled from Press Kit and Harry Youtt's
notes on Speakers' topics]
Our first speaker, Ashley Darlington Grayson, founded an
independent literary agency in 1976. Today the agency focuses on an elite
list of authors with distinct and unique voices in science fiction, fantasy,
action/adventure, horror, suspense, and young-adult fiction. Agency
strengths include European and global markets and electonic media.
Ashley Grayson is also a computer publisher, which gives him a position
on both sides of the electronic media: buyer and seller.
Ashley will provide an introduction and overview of the broad topic
which all speakers shall be addressing. He will outline the state of the
markets such as they are, and the current interplay among the technical
experts, the investors, and the creative elements. He'll provide an agent's
perspective on the scene, including war stories about providing protection
of writer interests in the realm of digital technology. Ashley has also
coined the slogan for tonight: "In chaos lies opportunity."
Roger Holzberg, the Director of the Knowledge Adventure Inc. Film
Group and the designer-writer for multimedia adaptations of the IMAX
movies THE DISCOVERERS and SPEED. He is also the writer of THE LIVING
SEA, an IMAX movie scheduled for Spring '94 release. He recently
completed writing and directing the live action and dialogie units for THE
MAGIC 7, an animated/live action project starring Ted Danson and Dee
Wallace. He is the writer-producer of WHALESONG, also with Ted Danson.
Roger will discuss the field of interactive multimedia applications,
both from the perspective of a working writer and as the Director of the
Knowledge Adventure Film Group. As part of his presentation, Roger will
demonstrate Knowledge Adventure's latest project: the multimedia
adaptation of the IMAX movie SPEED, which will serve as an "eyes-on"
introduction for many in the audience, of just what the field of
interactive multimedia is all about.
Grace Reiner is a graduate of UCLA School of Law. She was Screen
Credits Administrator at the WGA for almost six years, then a business
affairs attorney at a production company. She returned to the Guild two
years ago, where she is now Director of Contracts Administration. Her
department reviews and interprets Guild agreements and writers'
individual contracts in the area of motion picture and television writing,
and it polices compliance with those agreements.
Grace will focus on the topic of re-use and the rights of writers
when the libraries of the major entertainment companies are incorporated
into new electronic formats. This will include a discussion of the
relevant industry collective bargaining agreements.
Joel Block is the newly appointed Director of Industry Alliances
for the Writers Guild of America West. His duties include the development
and implementation of WGA policies in the area of interactive multimedia
programming. Block was previously associate counsel in the Guil'd legal
services department. Prior to the Guild, Block was in private practice as
an attorney, representing local, state and federal public employees as
well as private-sector workers, and he was the first staff attorney for
the Newspaper Guild of New York. Block received his Juris Doctor degree
from Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles, and his
Masters of Law degree in labor law from New York University School of
Law. He is a former journalist for the Chicago Daily News and United
Joel will cover the ramifications of writing original work for the
interactive arena. He will discuss the current Writers Guild one-page
agreement in use in this new industry. He will also outline in general
terms the Guild's future plans to deal with and organize the interactive
After Joel concludes his presentation, we will entertain questions
from the audience to a panel of these first four speakers: Ashley Grayson,
Roger Holzberg, Grace Reiner, and Joel Block.
*** Question Period ***
Marvin J. Wolf has written 8 books, the most recent of which is
FAMILY BLOOD (co-authored with Larry Attebury), about the Yom Kippur
murders in Brentwood, California. His next book, PERFECT CRIMES,
includes a dozen intricately plotted true crimes that went wrong. He is
also working with Russell Means on the Native American leader's
autobiography. Born in Chicago, Marvin J. Wolf has lived in Los Angeles
since 1957. He served 13 years in the Army, earning a battlefield
commission in Vietnam, and he was a regular contributor to SOLDIER OF
FORTUNE magazine. He is the immediate past President of Independent
Writers of Southern California.
Marvin will discuss the state of the art of the electronic media, and
its impact upon the working print journalist. He will outline the diversity
of product currently being offered and the risks and rewards this presents
to the writer. He will also present the need to develop new tracking
mechanisms to enable writers to protect their rights to compensation. He
will additionally discuss the risks that come into play in the areas of
plagiarism, free speech, and fair use.
Harry Youtt is an instructor in the Writers Program at UCLA. He
also publishes the HERMOSA REVIEW, a modest literary journal. He is
active in the National Writers Union, where he is a member of the National
Oversight Committee and Grievance Officer of the Los Angeles Local. He
writes and publishes freelance articles and short stories, and is the
author of a volume of poetry. Before he was seduced by the big bucks of
the poet's life, he supported himself for 20 years as a trial lawyer,
primarily in New York City.
Harry Youtt will discuss the interests of writers in the realm of
computer networks. This will highlight the significance of recent merger
activities by major telecommunications companies. Harry will also
outline the policies currently being supported by the free use activists
who are striving to preserve computer networks against commercial
encroachment of any kind. He will sketch the plans of the national Writers
Union to conduct test litigation protecting the rights of print journalists
to compensation for subsequent applications and use of their work in
commercial data bases.
Mikki Halpin, producer at the Voyager company for the past two
years, produced A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, a CD-ROM title recently named "Best
CD-ROM Ever Made" by MacUser magazine. She has also been part of the
team for the Voyager Expanded Book Toolkit, the Residents Freak Show
CD-ROM, and SETI CD-ROM. Currently she is working on a multi-CD project
with Warner Records and on "New Visions", a laser-disc survey of
electronic and media arts. Before coming to Voyager, Mikki ran BEN IS
DEAD, an underground arts magazine.
Mikki Halpin will present a demonstration of A HARD DAY'S NIGHT
multi-media product, emphasizing the function and opportunities
presented to the writer (both print and audio-visual script) by the
interactive multimedia field.
After Mikki's presentation, we will entertain questions from the
audience to Mikki, Marvin Wolf, and Harry Youtt.
*** Question Period ***
And finally, saving the best for last, the highlight of the evening, the
one and only Harlan Ellison, whose shoes I am am not qualified to polish. I
tremble at my audacity at even trying to introduce this gentleman. I tried
to prepare a scholarly listing of his publications, editorial triumphs, film
and television masterpieces, and public service activities, but that list
would take up time better allocated to hearing from the man himself.
Suffice it to say that one day in March 1949, a teenager plucked from a
library shelf in a Cleveland, Ohio high school a strangely glowing edition
of August Derleth's anthology THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOON, and the book
mysteriously fell open to "City of the Singing Flame" by California's
greatest fantasy author and poet, Clark Ashton Smith.
Harlan was drawn through a portal into a weird alternate dimension,
and was transformed, like a block of dry ice becoming vapor without
passing through an intermediate liquid phase, into America's greatest
living author of magical realism, science fiction, fantasy, media
criticism, and a dozen other genres. A television commecial for the GEO
automobile rightly captioned Harlan as a Leading Futurist, only because
there was no room in that caption to list his dozens of books (including
the recent collection ANGRY CANDY), hundreds of stories (a complete
edition of which will be released next year by Pulphouse Press in Oregon),
breakthrough anthologies (leading up to THE LAST DANGEROUS VISIONS),
more Best Teleplay awards than anyone alive for series such as OUTER
LIMITS and STAR TREK, multiple HUGO AWARDS and NEBULA AWARDS by
fans and professionals respectively, and many other well-deserved
Harlan is a modest man who does not boast of all his
accomplishments fighting at the front lines against censorship, against
racism, against sexism, and against predatory producers and publishers
who try to suck the life blood from fellow writers.
Harlan refuses to let me call him a genius, so let me merely
introduce him as a living legend and a hero to millions of readers
worldwide and to every writer on the planet, I give you our keynote
speaker: HARLAN ELLISON!
Multimedia was first discussed in detail some 30 years ago by my
co-worker Ted Nelson, the inventor of Hypertext, who used the term
There are now several hundred Multimedia hardware producers,
interactive networks, and software publishers in North America alone.
They range from tiny start-ups run out of livingrooms and garages; to
subsidiaries of huge corporations such as Apple, Disney, LucasArts,
Microsoft, Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Time Warner, and Turner. The first
comprehensive index to the world of Multimedia is The Multimedia
Directory by Jon Samsel and Clancy Fort, Los Angeles: The Carronade
Group, 1993. Every writer, and every consumer in North America, will be
affected by these companies, their products, and their visions. What are
the applications and platforms embraced by the term multimedia?
MULTIMEDIA includes at least 8 categories of applications:
business, clip media and fonts, education, entertainment (digital film and
television), games, graphics, interactive television, and kiosks.
There are at least 18 standard platforms on which multimedia
systems run today: 3DO, Amiga, CD-I (Philip's Compact Disk Interactive),
DOS CD-ROM, DOS Floppy Disk, Gameboy portable player, Kodak Photo CD,
Laserdisc, Macintosh CD-ROM, Macintosh Floppy Disk, Microsoft Windows
for CD-ROM, Nintendo Entertainment System, SEGA Compact Disc, SEGA
Genesis, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, UNIX, Microsoft Windows,
and various implementations of Virtual Reality.
Thanks first to Jonathan Vos Post, co-chair of tonight's event,
Master of Ceremonies, Panel Moderator, National Writers Union L.A. Local
Steering Committee, elected Union Delegate, Active Member of Mystery
Writers of America and Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America,
prolific author and distinguished scientist. Not even the wildfires in his
part of Altadena, where he is Town Council Member, stopped his work for
Writers Rights Day! Much credit should go to the other co-chair, past
National Writers Union L.A. Local chair Cheri Senders, who got the bulk of
the organizing done before she gave birth to her daughter on October 1st.
If tonight was a success, we must acknowledge Cheri, who also organized
last year's Writers Rights Day in Los Angeles. Thank you for "nursing"
Cheri's responsibilities were inherited by Judy Sims, the new L.A.
Local Chair, who ran both the local and the planning for tonight, while
working a full-time newspaper editor's job. Judy also coordinated the
other members of the L.A. Local Steering Committee and the Writers
Rights Day Committee, which include but is not limited to Julia Stein,
Gary Phillips (especially for his liaison to the Black Journalist
Association and the South Central Writers Workshop), and tonight's
speaker Harry Youtt (who met with each of the other speakers beforehand).
We owe a debt of gratitude to Mona Field (National Writers Union)
who served as liaison to the Writers Guild in getting the use of this
magnificent facility; to Jessica Hanlon of California Lawyers for the Arts,
who produced the co-sponsor portion of the press packet; to Union
President Jonathan Tasini and Regional Organizer Alice Sunshine who
made possible not only this event but also the events in San Francisco,
Santa Cruz, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, New York, Washington D.C., and other
cities; to Sarah Arsone who was invaluable in bringing the Jewish Labor
Committee into the fold; to the Presidents, and executives of each of the
14 co-sponsoring organizations tonight.
In particular, thanks to Charlene Solomon, President of the American
Society of Journalists and Authors; George White, President of the Black
Journalists Association; Nancy Lonke, Associate Director of California
Lawyers for the Arts; David Drum, President, Laura Meyers, Newsletter
Editor, and tonight's speaker Marvin J. Wolf, immediate past President of
Independent Writers of Southern California; Janine Parker and Jim Talbott
of the International Interactive Communication Society; Michael Nye of
the Jewish Labor Committee; Jim Stinson, Regional VP of Mystery Writers
of America; Jim Smith, Organizer, Newspaper Guild, LA; Sherrill Britton,
Executive Director, PEN Center USA West; Sheila Finch, Grievance Chair,
Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America; Sarita Stevens, Sisters in
Crime; Anthony Williams, Ismae Morrow, and Jimmy Sherman of South
Central Writers Workshop; speakers Joel Block, Roger Holzberg, Grace
Reiner, and each and every one of the executives, and staff of Writers
Guild of America West.
Thank you to Ashley Darlington Grayson, tonight's speaker, literary
agent since 1976, computer publisher and all-around nice guy. Thank you
to Mikki Halpin, producer for the Voyager company, who provided tonight's
demonstration of A Hard Day's Night, and to all the people at Voyager and
Knowledge Adventure who brought real live interactive digital stuff to
exhibit. Thanks to Judy Sims and Harry Youtt for procuring the projection
TV system from A V Specialist. I'd say more if they'd let us have it for a
discount, or free. Maybe next year.
Thank you to Paul Sanchez, our Audio Technician; and Paul Bloch, our
video technician; to Writers Guild Theater Manager Phil Haggood,
Assistant Manager Marty Chin, and Milt the Mixer; and to Richard Curtis,
the literary agent for the incomparable Harlan Ellison, who will someday
become the first North American magical realist to win a Nobel Prize for
Want to tell the author what you
Copyright 1993 by Emerald City Publishing.
All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission.
May be posted electronically provided that
it is transmitted unaltered, in its
entirety, and without charge.