punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

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Link - Ursula? Just Deal...

Poor Ursula.

A Whitewashed Earthsea

I read this article by her, and I want to give her a hug, and say, "Ursula, you don't understand: they don't care!" They don't care at all what your design was, your vision, or your element of whatever. They only see your books as a commodity to take from. You are not some great writer like we sci-fi fans see you, they see you as nothing more than a line in a contract. I wouldn't mind if you had said, "This was not my vision, but that's what I get for selling it. Sorry, fans." But instead you act personally insulted by the liars in Hollywood, and for that, I say, too bad.

When I sold the rights to Earthsea a few years ago, my contract gave met he standard status of "consultant"--which means whatever the producers want it to mean, almost always little or nothing. My agency could not improve this clause.

Then you shouldn't have sold it. If you cared that much, you should have said, "Nah... it means too much to me."

But the purchasers talked as though they genuinely meant to respect the books and to ask for my input when planning the film.

They lied. Hollywood lies. All the time. This should be common knowledge, especially with what they did to your "The Lathe of Heaven". You complained about that, too, so why do you sound so shocked? Lawyers, Hollywood, and politicians lie. The game is to hold them to that lie by controlling what they actually respond to (usually legal embarrassment or votes), and sometimes, even that doesn't work. It's the nature of the business.

They said they had already secured Philippa Boyens (who co-wrote the scripts for The Lord of the Rings) as principal script writer. The script was, to me, all-important, so Boyens' presence was the key factor in my decision to sell this group the option to the film rights.[ ... ] By the time the producers got backing from the Sci Fi Channel for a miniseries--and another producer, Robert Halmi Sr., had come aboard--they had lost Boyens. That was a blow.

And it wasn't written down as an agreement. If it isn't on a contract, it's worthless. Oral promises rarely end up in court, and if you sued them, they just regroup and claim the old group was responsible, and then you're left high and dry.

I hoped they were making no unnecessary changes in the plot or to the characters--a dangerous thing to do, since the books have been known to millions of people for decades. They replied that the TV audience is much larger, and entirely different, and would be unlikely to care about changes to the books' story and characters.

And they are right. To a majority of the Hollywood community, sci-fi is just another vehicle with a genre name attached to it so they know what shelf to sell it on. It could just as easily be Western, Romance, Action, or Comedy. Hollywood is a business, not an art. The people who wrote the script were told, but the producers (the financial backers), what to do. I would not be surprised they think of you as a silly old coot who bears no real impact other than barest minimum contractual obligation. They made the decision of what to write and hire based on demographics and standards of business. They are selling ad time and space, and are not trying to appeal to "a bunch of Star Trek geeks," which may number in the tens of millions, but to a wider TV audience, most of whom don't know your name from any other in the phone book. You are upset they didn't give "fan service" to you. Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but we're a rare breed, and rare enough to not make an impact on Pepsi cola sales.

That's the beauty of science fiction and fantasy--freedom of invention. But with all freedom comes responsibility. Which is something these filmmakers seem not to understand.

I agree with your first statement whole-heatedly. The second is a nonsensical jump in logic. The freedom of invention for F&SF does not preclude responsibility, really. I can think of a dozen or so cases where that could be disproved. And that last statement proves what you don't understand is that the producers of the sci-fi channel don't care. At all. You might as well yell at hurricanes for killing people. You're a great writer, a good person, and your works will be hailed as literary greats for our time.

But don't play the victim.
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