January 31st, 2008


[links] Link salad, supersized for your convenience

The rewriting post and poll

Movie mashupsSpeed Eraserhead, anyone?

I may be a distant cousin of Barack Obama — Some of my ancestors are Kansas Dunhams from the same small town as his mother, who is a Dunham. Also, the town where Rocket Science Powell's | Amazon ] is set. (Thanks to Aunt Mary for spotting this.)

Blessed are the cheesemakersellameena becomes my new hero.

Ask Oxford — My dad sends along this link to the Oxford Dictionaries site, with a number of help resources.

StarshipSofa: SF Audio Podcast — These folks brought themselves to my attention. Worth checking out...looks like they've got a lot going on for your earbuds.

Eccentric genius: Antiques from a Parallel Universe — (Thanks to Z.)

ScienceShorpy with a WWII photograph that looks like a Thomas Dolby album cover.

Cheeseburger in a can — If this is available in the US, I'll order one and try it. (Thanks to AH. I think.)

The Fail Blog — Hahahah. (Thanks to AH.)

Reviews of the Bic Crystal Ballpoint Pen — Teh funny. (Thanks to tempested_bird.)

Vodaphone looking into femtocells — I had to click through to figure out what a femtocell was. Interesting squib about distribution cellular networks even further.

The most expensive PCs — (Thanks to lt260.)

Brattleboro, VT engages in sedition — (Thanks to lt260.)

Why Obama Matterslordofallfools sends along this fascinating Andrew Sullivan article in The Atlantic about Obama as a unifier. The theme is that he can bridge the cultural divide of the last 40 years, with its roots in the Baby Boom's divide over Vietnam. (The fact that Sully has to balance the violent rantings of O'Reilly on the right with the carefully measured reasoning of Olbermann on the left (for example) in order to help make his case tells me a lot about the nature of the divide.)

Food Fight — A filmic critique of the history of modern warfare, culminating in the global war on terror, in food. Weirdly compelling.

[process] Death and taxes, or at least, taxes

lonfiction recently asked me via email about tax planning for writers.
ie When should a new writer begin claiming writing income/expenses etc, and how would a smart new writer go about maximizing his personal (and legal!) tax benefits?? What can you claim that few people realize? What errors of knowledge or recordkeeping follies will get you in trouble with the tax man?
Disclaimer: I am not a tax professional. I am not a legal professional. Nothing I say on this topic constitutes legal or financial advice.

That being said, I began claiming writing expenses on my taxes once I began seeing measurable income. Ie, the second year I was selling. There's a lot of confusion out there about the IRS's "hobby" rule, but every piece of solid advice I've ever seen seems to indicate that if you're making documentable career progress (which includes year-over-year growth in income), you can consider it professional work.

An enormous amount of what a writer does is potentially claimable. For example, a trip away from home may constitute research. But the nuances are incredible -- did the trip include a spouse or kids? Can't claim their portion of the expenses. Etc. Etc. Likewise, I know people who deduct their cable bills, but they write media tie-in novels and that's a research expense. I claim many of the books I buy, because they're research expense.

One of the two most important things you can do, in my opinion, are track your work with a work diary. At a minimum, log each first and finished draft, log each send-out, and log each sale. That way if you get audited, you can readily produce documentation of continuous professional effort -- ie, prove you're not scamming a Schedule C.

The other is to save everything. I even photocopy checks I receive, and file them. Documentation of all expenses (duh) is critical for tax compliance.

Most of all, either read up on this topic in detail or (even better) hire a tax accountant who's very conversant with writers and their tax profiles. Writers have a very different tax picture, including allowable deductions, than most professions, so your average bear of a tax accountant may have no idea, or even flat out wrong information, about how to advise you.


[writing] Mainspring and echoes of history

ericjamesstone has pointed out to me something pretty interesting, which is to say that the opening of Mainspring Powell's | Amazon | Audible ] resembles Joseph Smith's experience of the Angel Moroni.
The angel gleamed in the light of Hethor’s reading candle bright as any brasswork automaton. The young man clutched his threadbare coverlet in the irrational hope that the quilted cotton scraps could shield him from whatever power had invaded his attic room. Trembling, he closed his eyes.


It no longer seemed made of brasswork. Rather, it looked almost human, save for the height, tall as his ceiling at the attic’s peak, close to seven feet. The great wings crowded the angel’s back to sweep close across its body like a cloak, feathers white as a swan. Its skin was pale as Hethor’s own, but the face was narrow, shaped like the nib of a fountain pen with a pointed chin and gleaming black eyes. The lines and planes of the angel’s visage were sheer masterwork, finer than the statues of saints in the great churches of New Haven.

Hethor held his breath, afraid to even share the air with such perfection. No dream, this, but perhaps yet a nightmare.

The angel smiled. For the first time it appeared to be more than a statue. “Greetings, Hethor Jacques.”
With voice came breath, though the angel’s scent was still that of a statue — cold marble and damp stone. Or perhaps old metal, like a well-made clock.

Hethor dropped his grip on the blanket to grab the chain around his neck and traced the wheel-and-gear of Christ’s horofixion. “G-g-greetings...” he stammered. “And welcome.” Though that last was a lie, he felt he must say it.

“I am Gabriel,” said the angel, “come to charge you with a duty.”
Meanwhile, from The History of Joseph Smith:
30 While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor.

31 He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant. His hands were naked, and his arms also, a little above the wrist; so, also, were his feet naked, as were his legs, a little above the ankles. His head and neck were also bare. I could discover that he had no other clothing on but this robe, as it was open, so that I could see into his bosom.

32 Not only was his robe exceedingly white, but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. When I first looked upon him, I was afraid; but the fear soon left me.

33 He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.
As I said to ericjamesstone, I'm generally familiar with Smith's story, but not conversant with the details. There's certainly a symbolic language of the divine which I as a modern American have in common with the 19th century America of Joseph Smith — the culmination of millennia of Abrahamic art, culture and the religious experience which pervades the fabric of Western civilization. It's a striking parallel, but ultimately not enormously surprising.

What ericjamesstone is indirectly pointing out is the core irony of my body of fiction. As I said to daveraines when I first met him, I'm engaged in a decades-long argument with the God in which I don't believe. Meanwhile, I'm quite pleased to share a historical echo with Mr. Smith.

[writing] Generation slip

I just had a funny thing happen to me. I was working on editorial changes to a short story, when I found a comment suggesting I explain who Karen Silkwood was — in connection to an in-story reference to a "Silkwood squad." It took me a minute to realize this was a generation gap between me and the editor. The editor was right, most readers more than a bit younger than me (ie, too young to remember either the original event or the Meryl Streep movie based on it) won't get it.

It's not often that I am forced to realize how much what is considered "general knowledge" shifts with time. This also points out the difference between Second World and naturalistic narrative -- in a Second World piece, I wouldn't have dropped a reference like that blind without a very good reason.

Funny stuff, this getting older.

[links] Link salad evening update

sandramcdonald with the definitive takedown on me — Hee hee hee.

http://www.networkworld.com/news/2008/012808-google-hack.html — (Thanks to BB.)

Weaponized geoengineering — Hacking the planet.

Pilot is bundled out of cockpit and tied up in economy after invoking God mid-flight — Hmm. Strange how ecstatic prayer is a gift on the ground but a mental illness in the air. (Thanks to goulo.)

Romney Says McCain Used Nixon-Like Tactic — Uh huh.

Fox News Ailing — Fair and balanced? (Thanks to MB.)

Glenn Greenwald on Mukasey and torture — Once again, the true conservative victory lies in redefining the rules. (Thanks to MB.)

[writing] It finally happened

For reasons too complicated to go into right now, I was assembling a (fairly accurate) lifetime bibliography tonight. Right there in the middle of it all was a story I didn't remember writing, marked as sold to a market I didn't recognize. It finally happened, but wow I feel like an idiot.