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We’re still not your bitches

Yesterday I received an intriguing email from a colleague at work, asking if I would write a 140-word short story for his niece for GISHWHES (a worldwide scavenger hunt hosted by Misha Collins of Supernatural fame), and offering a bottle of booze of my choice as a thank-you. Apparently, it was necessary for the story to be written by a previously published SF author, and I was the only one he knew personally. As my friends and Twitter followers know, I’m a big fan of Supernatural, and the task was so modest (especially in proportion to the reward!), I accepted.

However I’ve since heard that high-profile authors such as Neil Gaiman have been pestered for contributions by all and sundry, and I’m pretty sure they weren’t offered any material compensation. Now, I understand that participants are keen to get good contributions, because the grand prize is an all-expenses-paid trip to an exotic locale with Misha himself, and yes, GISHWHES does a lot of work for charity – but this particular item on the list is not, as far as I know, helping to raise money. Asking a writer to contribute work so you can win a holiday with a TV star is a very different matter from asking them to contribute to, say, a anthology the profits of which will go to charity.

So before I share my own very modest contribution, I just wanted to point out the egregiousness of this behaviour. It’s particularly ironic because Gaiman wrote about entitlement issues on his own blog some years ago, resulting in an amusing song, “George R R Martin Is Not Your Bitch“, by John Anealio. Seriously, folks – writing is work. Even 140 words of it is work. Between pondering and rejecting ideas, jotting down one I liked, then honing the prose down to the set limit, I must have spent a good hour on the project*. I don’t always charge for work – I’m happy to do favours for friends, in the right circumstances – but it’s only polite to offer compensation so that the person doing the work can choose whether to accept it or not**.

Anyway here’s my story which, as stipulated in the rules, is about Misha, the Queen of England, and an elopus (the GISHWHES mascot, as seen above). Well, OK, it’s about Misha in his role as Castiel, though I include a small detail taken from a convention photo of Misha – I hope it qualifies.  Caveat: this is hardly deathless prose. I’m mostly posting it as proof to the organisers that Team BeanLovesNephilim‘s contribution is genuine. Go team!

A Midnight Visitor

Queen Elizabeth sat bolt upright and flicked on the bedside lamp. A stubble-chinned young man in an “I heart Jensen Ackles” t-shirt stood at the foot of the bed.
“Who are you?” She felt for the alarm button, briefly wondering who this Ackles person was.
“My name is Castiel, Your Majesty. I’m…an angel.”
She paused. “Come to take me to Heaven at last, eh?”
He turned white. “No.”
“Good. Charles will be so disappointed. So why are you here?”
“I’m hunting an elopus, ma’am.”
“What’s an–”
Her words were lost in an earsplitting sound like a bull elephant on the rampage. The window exploded. A tentacle snaked through the jagged fragments and snatched the angel away before she could blink.
The Queen peered quizzically into her empty cocoa mug, and reached for the brandy.

 


* Don’t go thinking that a better, more experienced writer would be faster, though. Famous writers like Gaiman are held up to higher standards than the rest of us mere mortals, and regardless of talent, writers vary hugely in how fast they write.

** I said I’d be happy with a bottle of red wine – my tastes in Scotch are too expensive for the amount of work involved in this project 🙂

Comments

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Jacey Bedford

Not sure how many invitations were sent out, but even I got one. I barely glanced at it, being in the middle of writing a first draft and pretty much on a roll. (18000 words in 3 days so far. Yay! Go me!) Not being a Supernatural watcher since somewhere around the end of season 2, I didn’t recognise any of the names, and I’d never heard of GISHWISHES, so I thought it was spam. Glad it isn’t, though. Neat story in so few words.

Yes, writing is work. Enjoyable work, but work all the same. As a musician (in my other life) I get lots of reqiests to play for ‘charity events’ or for ‘exposure’. (One of my musician friends reminded me that you can die from exposure! She is from Alaska, however.) You wouldn’t ask a plumber to go and fix a leaky pipe for charity or for exposure, would you? So why ask writers and musicians to do what they do for their day job for free? I’d love to be able to take all the time that I needed to create words and music without the hassle of having to ‘sell’ it, but someone would still have to pay my bills.

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Laura Salvati

Excellent post. Thank you for directing me to the entitlement post as well. I loved it.