Postcards from Ludditeland

No, I am not blind, [well, maybe,


I don't own a computer.

I am a dinosaur.

But unlike the brontosaurus, with his

pea-sized brain, I can see the meteor heading toward the Earth, I can see the

ultimate extinction of my species —

The techno-intolerant.

My mistrust of technology is nothing

new. I stopped writing on a typewriter

when they went electric. At the birth

of photocopying, I mourned the death of the mimeograph machine – but, then

again, that probably is because the smell got me high.

The truth is I'm scribbling this in

longhand. I'd use a quill if they

weren't so goddamn messy.

Yet, here I am writing a piece for the WGAE

website. I guess the "New York Times

Book Review" would call that irony.

Sometimes I feel like Moses, atop Mount

Nebo, looking down at The Promised Land, enjoying the vista but knowing I will

never be a part of it.

I'll admit I have always been fascinated by

the potential of the Internet.

Back when we were making Homicide,

we did a series of what you'd now call webisodes – titled "Second Shift" –

separate characters, but still Baltimore cops, trying to close murder

cases. Eventually, some of our broadcast

TV characters appeared in the webisodes and later, the Internet characters

showed up on our series.

We even did a live news conference on the

website, where our audience played reporters at a press briefing. People were allowed to ask any questions

they wanted — only they had to be about the homicide case and not about Yaphet

Kotto's hair.

A lot of fun. And, I think, a first.

What attracted me to the idea of "Second

Shift" was the endless possibilities, the chance to tell stories from divergent

yet compatible points of view.

As a result, an episode of a TV show

becomes more than the sole source of the story, it's the launching pad off of

which different perspectives and facets can be revealed.

For Oz, we created a virtual prison

where fans could travel through the corridors.

(And leave unmolested.) We also

did a couple "teasers" where we set up a character on the Internet — an

undercover cop who was saying goodbye to his family before going inside — and

then introduced him onto the series.

For The Bedford Diaries, we put our

fictional characters' profiles on MySpace, as if they were real college


Someday — and soon — all of these

"experiments" will be commonplace. They

will be an expected and integral part of the storytelling.

Which is why the next MBA contract

negotiation is so important. We, the

members of The Writers Guild, East and West, will be doing what we always do —

creating — and whether it's broadcast or cable, celestial radio or feature

films, webisodes or anime, we deserve to be respected for our work.


in July, the WGA negotiating team and the corporate types will sit down to sort

through business models, real and imagined, to figure out a way to compensate



will gripe and groan, but they will not be able to alter one fact: The media

may be evolving, but ordinary people want to hear breaking news or see new

legends unfold. That hasn't changed

since we were cave dwellers squatting around the campfire.


on Mount Nebo, I have seen the future.

And it is still us.




Tom Fontana