WRITERS RIGHTS DAY, L.A. SPEECH
by
JONATHAN VOS POST
(c) 1993 by Emerald City Publishing

INTRO

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: (1) Cave/Fire (2) Mousike (3) Writing (4) Print (5) Cinema/Electronic (6) Digital (7) Virtual (8) Neural (9) Nanotechnology (10) Chronotechnology 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 much. (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 stop us. (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 or Hollywood. (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 truth. (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 Kerouac? (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 the cosmos. SPEAKERS [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 Press International. 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 industry. 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 awards. 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! APPENDIX: MULTIMEDIA Multimedia was first discussed in detail some 30 years ago by my co-worker Ted Nelson, the inventor of Hypertext, who used the term Hypermedia. 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. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: 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" things along. 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 Literature.
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Copyright 1993 by Emerald City Publishing.
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