(In mobster voice) All-right you planarian worms you, Iíve got you this time. I love doing these; these are the commentaries I like best, where I respond to my audience.
I get this letter from someone named Shannon Ferrell. First off, she misspells my name, Harlan, H-A-R-L-E-N.
"My question is this: Why do you hate J.R.R. Tolkien? Has he insulted you in some murderous way, stolen an idea from you, or perhaps just the simple fact that his popularity has been run through writing and not being," and she uses the word for that portion of your body which is below your spine on your rear side. We all know that. She talks about how Tolkien is dead now and how dare I say bad things about him, and why does Michael Moorecock denounce him, and why is that W.H. Auden praised him and blah blah blah blah. She goes off at great length about how I hate J.R.R. Tolkien.
Now, if we give a damn, and we donít really give a damn, because whether I like J.R.R. Tolkien or not, doesnít really matter. If you like Tolkien, read Tolkien. What do I care what you do as long as you donít set fire to any churches, synagogues, and abortion clinics, I donít give a damn what you do. But I wrote back Ms. Farrell, and this is the way I answer this kind of mail....I wrote:
"Dear Ms. Ferrell,
You really must stop acting like a jerk. It puts such a strain on my respect and affection for you. I refer, of course, to your dopey, undated letter.
1) Unless youíre telepathic, you have no way of even assuming--much less "knowing"--that I "hate" Tolkienís writing. (Since the man died long ago, and I never met him, I presume youíre not smart-aleck enough to think that I have anything against him personally.) So where youíre getting this crap you wrote me... I have no idea. Except that youíre obsessed by it and you think I should be obsessed by it.
2) If the degree of respect you have for me and my TV comments (since you probably havenít read any of my 70 books...TV-watching takes up too much of your time I guess) hinges on my like/dislike of one of tens of thousands of authors, then your respect ainít worth my worrying about."
And finally, and this is the nicest part, I said, "3) If youíre going to bust someoneís chops, kid, you might at least learn to spell their name correctly. It makes you seem less like a drooling adolescent."
Thatís the way I respond to some of you. Iím not even going to go into Patrick Shiun.
Shiun, Shiun who is in, heís in Cleveland, which is where I come from originally. Shiun tells me that Iím a sellout. He says, "Youíre a sell-out. You, the *godfather* of sci-fi, youíre a sell-out." Do you know why Iím a sell-out; because Iím not spending all of my time helping to get Doctor Who on this channel. Now, youíre going to say to me, "What?!" And Iím going to say to you, "I donít give a damn!" Doctor Who is not my obsession, I like the show, I watched the show, it was nice. It was a television show. I wouldnít spend five minutes trying to get it on the network. Itís not my problem, but Iím a sell-out because Iím not working for Doctor Who?
Do you begin to understand that some of these people are a little obsessive? Well, one of these little obsessives worked real well on your behalf and on the behalf of Robert A. Heinlein. I got this fax from Bruce Hightower who is up in Clovis, California. And he says, "I just wanted to bring your attention to something in which I think you could best appreciate and/or deal with. I picked up Dark Horseís," (Dark Horse is a comic company), "Dark Horseís Starship Troopers: Insect Touch #1." Now you all know that there is a movie coming out called Starship Troopers based on Robert Heinleinís novel. Well, this is a prologue miniseries called Insect Touch. And it says, "Couldnít find Robert Heinleinís name anywhere on or in the comic book. Obviously, there wouldnít be a Starship Troopers without Heinlein." And heís real upset about it, and he says, "Can you do anything about it?"
Your wish is my command. If you ask nice, Iíll do anything for you. Iím your ombudsman, Iím here to serve you. Iím there for you.
So I call Dark Horse and I say (in mobster-ish voice again), "Eh, what it this? Ya know, Iím looking at Starship Troopers. Got a nice poster. Iím looking here at Starship Troopers, I donít see Heinleinís name. What are you doing here?" And they said to me, "We wanted to use Heinleinís name. We were told we couldnít use Heinleinís name because *Ginny* Heinlein, Bob Heinleinís widow, wouldnít let us use it".
So I call *Ginny* Heinlein. I said, "Ginny, do you know about this?" She said, "Theyíre lying. They never approached me on this." Sony, the people who own Tri-Star, who made the movie; this was attorneys. I got a Dark Horse letter here explaining the whole thing to me. It was the attorneys at Tri-Star, (the word "Disclaimer" appears) who want to justify their existence as attorneys, because they got no other life out there. And so they said, (the word "Disclaimer" disappears) "Well, we donít know, there may be an ambiguity in the contract somewhere..." So they forbade Dark Horse from putting Heinleinís name on it.
So now, because you, the sci-fi community out there in Buzz-land, wanted it, theyíre going to be putting Bob Heinleinís name on every issue from #2 through to the end of the miniseries. Because you asked for it.
Now you see what happens when you speak to me nicely. You see what happens, how sweet I can be. But if you get on my wrong side, I know where you live. I will come to your house and I will nail your petís head to a coffee table.
From Sci-Fi Buzz, episode unknown
Publishing Rights to 'Harlan Ellison's Watching' copyright 1996 the Killimanjaro Corporation.