Serling Awards

I missed the livestream of the 2016 Rod Serling Award for Advancing Social Justice Through Popular Media honoring BLACK-ISH creator Kenya Barris a couple of weeks ago. The presentation included remarks by writer, producer, and director Bill Froehlich, Diane Gayeski, the Dean of Ithaca College’s Roy H. Park School of Communication (where Serling taught),  and actor Marcus Scribner who plays Andre, Jr. on BLACK-ISH.

I miss the old Rod Serling Conferences they used to hold. Full disclosure: I presented at two of them, and was looking forward to more. I’ve no clue why TPTB decided to make the transition, but it’s understandable. Mining the past has its benefits but so does looking forward, which is what this award does.

I will say this year’s award seems an improvement over last year’s with respect to diversity and representation. I didn’t read about (or, look for to be honest) any criticism about the award then, but I have to give it props that it turned things around 180 degrees in a year. Barris was definitely an inspired pick, with his work on BLACK-ISH being the most recent best example of fulfilling what Rod Serling thought as the writer’s role…

The writer’s role is to menace the public’s conscience. He must have a position, a point of view. He must see the arts as a vehicle of social criticism. And he must focus on the issues of his time.

–Rod Serling

A New Old Writing Manifesto

I was reading the latest issue of Warren Ellis’s ORBITAL OPERATIONS newsletter this morning and while I myself didn’t expect a Spider Jerusalem rant, this shouldn’t have surprised me:

I’m sure some of you tuned in today expecting a Spider Jerusalem-scale political rant. Some of you may even have been wincing in expectation of it. But I’m not Spider Jerusalem. He was my Id from twenty years ago. Going off here would be empty virtue-signalling from someone with no serious skin in this particular game. Whatever I say next, it’ll be through the work.

And so it immediately brings to mind how I resolve that conflict as I write. How do I make whatever I say come through the work? As always, I’ve had the answer all along…

What are you dealing with now in terms of plot points, themes, concerns now? The world and everything in it: Hunger, poverty, the anguish of the human race, the desperate sense of self destruction that we entertain all the time, the deep pervading gloom that comes with our inability to cope. Of course, you’re going to over-concern yourself with issues. It’s right that you should do so, and it’s expected… this year. Next year. But not three years from now.

Leave that soapbox behind. Carry with you, at all times, your sense of caring and your concern. But put it into the mouths of flesh and blood people. If not, write tracts.

Now, not to be critical, but I think it’s fair to say there’s a certain privilege in being allowed three years before transforming your soapbox feelings to good fiction writing. But that part of the prescription isn’t important, really. And I don’t want to dismiss tract and pamphlet writing, either; lots of folks do both. But the principle is sound.

As for me and my writing though, I have the motive, and now I have the means. And now I have some writing to get back to.

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Today’s soundtrack: BLACKLISTED by Neko Case