Wednesday, February 08, 2006

writing assignment

We're still working with the IRS trying to settle our taxes for 2001. They're disallowing the business expense deductions I made that year by saying that what I was doing wasn't a job, it was a hobby.

I thought about that critically and realized that I did not have a good idea of the work I actually did that year. It was before my monthly column at LowCarbLuxury, but right in the thick of my Farscape activity -- and there was a lot of that.

So, as a way of organizing my thoughts, here's a rundown on what I did in 2001:

* I wrote a handful of reviews for Epinions, but most important I kept up my ties with all the other writers I had met through the site.

* I became a reviewer with

* I continued my gig as's Farscape reviewer, writing reviews for each new episode, and filling in reviews for old episodes when I could. I held this position from May 2000 to June 2001, when was bought out and re-organized.

* Early in 2001, I posted weekly episode reviews and occasional interviews at The ThemeStream site was my first effort at publishing Farscape-related content somewhere "public."

* When went under, I applied to and was accepted by the WebSeed Publishing Network, and thus was born Designing the site and writing and uploading all the content was a tremendous undertaking, but was universally praised as "professional" and "exceptional." was selected by as among the "best of science fiction/fantasy online."

* I built a mailing list, which at the time of Farscape's cancellation in 2002 had grown to around 500 confirmed e-Mail addresses. I sent out a weekly "eZine" (e-Mail magazine) with news, trivia, and links to my reviews and analysis. The eZine was extremely popular within the online fan community, and it was voted a "top zine" by

* In 2000, I began writing for Bob Furnell, the publisher of Jigsaw, the Canadian Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy Television. Bob was very interested in Farscape because it was just beginning to be broadcast by Canadian television. I wrote several stand-alone pieces for him, and he approached me with a project idea: would I be interested in putting together a Jigsaw Farscape Special, an entire issue of the magazine dedicated to Farscape? Yes! I put a call for submissions, and collected reviews, character analysis, artwork, and other contributions, wrote some pieces myself, edited it all, and got it up to Bob and his guys in Canada. The issue sold out in record time, and remains one of my proudest accomplishments.

* Early in the year I responded to a call for submissions from freelancers for the Farscape role-playing game being developed for Alderac Entertainment. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that they took advantage of me: they gave me a writing assignment with the promise of a contract to follow, and I completed the assignment but never saw the contract, much less a dime. My love of the show and my desire for the game to succeed overcame my annoyance when the company called and asked me, as publisher of, to pull out quotes from the series that they could "sprinkle" through the text. I did get credit for the quote work in the book's acknowledgements, I did not get credit or compensation for the more substantial work I did, the profile of the Hynerian race.

* In addition to the writing and research I did to publish the eZine, I also interviewed professionals associated with the show, including Ben Browder, the lead actor, and Keith DeCandido, author of two Farscape tie-in novels. (Over the history of the site, I was honored to interview Virginia Hey ("Zhaan"); Melissa Jaffer ("Norante"); Guy Gross, the series' composer; ToyVault, manufacturers of Farscape action figures, and other industry professionals. Of all the varied tasks producing the site required, interviews were probably the most fun of all.)

* I made contacts at both the SCIFI Channel and Jim Henson Co, who helped me confirm news reports and cleared interviews for me.

* Throughout the year, I promoted my site by registering it with online directories and ensuring that it would have high visibility on search engines. ( is still in the top 20 Google search results for "farscape.")

It's next to impossible not to get depressed looking at that list. I was busy! Also consider that DS2 was born in February, so I did most of that stuff with a nursing newborn -- like his brother and sister, DS2 nursed for nearly a year -- plus a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. Yikes. I was so ambitious, too -- I produced some really great stuff and laid a great foundation, an "instant market" for my episode guides whenever I got a chance to write them.

Of course, 2002 was the Year Everything Went to Heck: the series was cancelled, and my health problems were escalating. WebSeed went under, and I had to learn to fly solo in the web publishing world. I did manage to get the site up and it's not too shabby, but it's appalling how much content is just sitting on my hard drive. I really need to get my act together, don't I?

But just now I need to polish this up for IRS-consumption. If I can convince them I was serious, we stand to save close to $1K. That makes this assignment the best-paying writing gig I've had in a long, long time.

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