SciFi Writer David Gerrold Reacts to Olson's "I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script"

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Among the hundreds of comments we've received in reaction to Josh Olson's acerbic rant, "I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script," was this gem by longtime science fiction writer David Gerrold. For those of you who don't obsess about Star Trek, it was Gerrold who penned the "Trouble with Tribbles" episode of the original series. A Hugo and Nebula award winner, Gerrold has written dozens of novels. And here's his take on Olson's piece:


Josh is being way too polite. The only proper response when an amateur attempts to hand you his manuscript, his screenplay, his unpublished novel, his short story, his treatment, his outline, his notes, is to take an axe to his laptop, follow him home, burn down his house, and salt the ground.

Not too long ago, a writer of my acquaintance (a person of some fame in the industry) was hired to work on a major franchise. After several months of development, the project was making genuine progress and looked good. Then one day, out of the blue, an amateur from West Elbow, Nevada, sends him an email containing her outline for a spinoff of that franchise, asking him to help her sell it because "she has the story, but he has the access to the people who will produce it."

My friend backed away in horror, but the damage was done...

He had received this woman's email. Even the act of telling her, "No, I can't help you," was an acknowledgment of receipt. Therefore she could prove that he'd had access to her material -- and it didn't matter that he'd already done six months on the project -- her email had created a situation where she (and an unscrupulous lawyer) could claim that he had ripped off elements in her material.

The studio's lawyers were not happy and my friend almost got booted off the project, until he informed the amateur that he intended to sue her for compromising his ability to earn a living. She signed and notarized a waiver and he got to keep his job.

After that, he changed his email and now has an assistant screen everything and reply with a, "Mr. Twain does not live here anymore and if you send anymore unsolicited material, we will forward your email address to the Dept of Homeland Security for attempting to terrorize an American author."

Reading someone's manuscript is a great way to get sued by an idiot and an unscrupulous lawyer.

Real writers write, they understand enough about writing to know that writing time is so precious that you NEVER impose on someone else's working time.

On the other hand, if you're really serious about getting the opinion of a professional author, I bill at $500 an hour....

David Gerrold


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6 comments
gkatfr
gkatfr

quote:  "Real writers write, they understand enough about writing to know that writing time is so precious that you NEVER impose on someone else's working time."

 

This article by Mr Gerrold is, to say the least, ironic  since David Gerrold broke into screenwriting by sending an unsolicited script to Gene Coon (one of the star trek producers).  Coon liked it and bought it, it became 'the trouble with tribbles.'  Its all written down by Gerrold himself in his published nonfiction book:  "Trouble with Tribbles: the birth, sale and final production of one episode"

 

from amazon http://www.amazon.com/Trouble-With-Tribbles-Star-Trek/dp/0345347889

hcvang
hcvang

 @gkatfr thats how you did it back then, before people sued you for looking at them the wrong way. Coon was a producer/script editor... it was his job to find writers. Hell, it can still be done like that today in some countries.

Matheson
Matheson

@hcvang yeah even if thats "how you did it back then"  Gerrold is less than forthcoming by not at least stating outright that its (ironically or not) what HE did back then. He could go on then and say what you said namely: you cant do that now because they'll sue you etc, but he gave no hint that he did that back then.  Fact is if it was ok to just out of the blue mail somebody a script back then --why not point it out?   

Also Coon's job was not to read slush submissions nor was there ever any call by star trek or the studio to submit such manuscripts.  While publishers and magazines routinely ask for such submissions (ie by letting it be known on the Writers Digest index etc)  studio story hunters like Coon did not do that.  Coon's job was to seek out already published and well known writers for Star Trek.  People who were already in the industry.   Gerrold went to some lengths to find out the mailing address (there was no open call for submissions) and he did exactly what he is now condemning.  Sure its different now with people being sued, but be honest and say that 'in the good ol' days its exactly what I did kids'.   

Look at the credits of all the writers who ever wrote for the original Star Trek, every one of them was  a TV writer with professional sales under his belt.  Coon would contact the agent of the writer and the agent would talk to the writer.   Gerrold was an unknown unpublished kid with no writing credits or history in paper or media.    Now what he did was smart but dont condemn others for trying the same thing.  Besides Gerrold seems to be focused on "you are wasting the writer's time" more than anything else and I would think that would apply back then or now.    Coon bought the story because he liked it.  If  somebody did that today and was successful --good for him or her.

Trek4vr
Trek4vr

@Mathesongood points but according to Memory Alpha even D.C. Fontana had script writing credits before she worked as a secretary for Roddenberry:

"Fontana worked as a writer for a few television series before Star Trek, then briefly worked as Gene Roddenberry's secretary, before she became a writer on the show."

Matheson
Matheson

Anyway, Coon was hired to get pros and their scripts not to read unsolicited uncalled for scripts.    Gerrold knew this was a great coup he pulled --it brought him an entire career. That is the whole point of his nonfiction book "Trouble with Tribbles: the birth, sale and final production of one episode"  --- that it was a great unexpected surprise for him an unpublished newbie.   If he wants to say "you cant do that nowadays because of all the litigation" then do so but at least mention unsolicited manuscript submission is exactly how you broke in.

Also Coon was not just a script editor in his own right and his time was valuable too, I'm sure. He wrote some great episodes.

Matheson
Matheson

Forgot to add: DC Fontana was an exception --but she knew and worked with Gene as his personal secretary and friend. She was great to work with because since she was a direct employee of Gene --he wouldn't have the headache of script change hassles when he wanted changes.  After all many of the writers did not want their scripts changed at all and it could be a problem to deal with them. But the others were pros -remember though these were TV script writers like Hamner you have to look up their work in the proper category only a few had printed books like Sohl (ie lit writers).   However all of them were pros inside the industry.



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