Philip José Farmer once sent a very long letter to Science Fiction Review, circa 1970, which contained this interesting bit:
Maybe I should write a column for you called "The Steam Room." But you know my time is limited, and it's only when I get riled up that I write. Once I break that bad habit, no more letters. Unless you can pay at least two cents a word.
If I could pay myself two cents a word for the stuff I've written here over the years, I'd have to write a check... hmmm, let's see... four hundred seventy-five of these things, seven thousand or so blog entries, a bunch of other things that nobody reads... let's call it one million words.
So I'd have to write a check for twenty grand or so, plus $35 to cover the inevitable overdraft fee. Not a whole lot for almost ten years' work. (Twenty thousand dollars over 119 months comes to about $168 a month, which is less than I made as an Army private. On the upside, no one has asked me to field-strip a rifle lately.) Then again, I still have a day job, and it's not like anyone is offering to pay me for any of this, um, material. Dawn Eden once suggested to me that my collection of 45-rpm stories might be salable, which, if you ask me, reflects an optimism that makes Pollyanna look positively Kafkaesque.
On the other hand, Joe Goodwin might think I'm in the wrong racket entirely:
In Dvořák's New World Symphony, the tuba part has only five bars. This possibly makes tuba players the highest-paid members of the orchestra when computed on a per-note basis.
Of course, there's always the question of how much market there is for a tuba player who plays only Dvořák's New World.
Then there's Gilbert Kaplan, who conducts only one orchestral work Mahler's Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection," which he's recorded twice. Then again, Kaplan started out as a magazine publisher, paying people more talented than I to write for him. Maybe even for two cents a word.
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Copyright © 2006 by Charles G. Hill