Sunday, July 23, 2006

Face-Lift 131


Guess the Plot

Scarabaeus

1. Jason was excited to find a magical Egyptian ring which endows the wearer with all of the powers of a scarab--armored shell, crushing mandibles, heightened senses--until he discovered that the ring also curses the wearer with an irresistible craving for dung.

2. Funded by TV addicts, the US army's elite Timesquad travels to ancient Egypt to retrieve the Scarabaeus, a mythical amulet that allegedly reveals what's on the island on Lost.

3. Seven years ago the planet Scarabaeus was ruined by terraformer Edie Shade's meddling. When Edie returns, will the now-sentient planet seek revenge?

4. When the gargantuan, pandimensional, superintelligent beetles that built the pyramids invade the Earth, archaeologist Quincy Powers enters their dung heaps hoping to discover their fatal weakness.

5. 14-year-old figure skater Jason Pond hopes to beat the competition with his unique patterns based on the geometric scarabaeus. But when commentator Lionel Humphreys finds Jason's form attractive, Jason realizes he needs more than math to figure out who he is.

6. Can Sarah Ashworth of the Newport Ashworths ever find true happiness amidst a swarm of in-laws and a dung beetle who thinks he’s God almighty?


Original Version

Dear Agent:

I would like to submit my 100,000-word science fiction novel, Scarabaeus, for your consideration. The first of a series, it is followed by Children of Scarabaeus and Soul of Scarabaeus. [After that will come Revenge of Scarabaeus, Scarabaeus V: The Final Chapter, Scarabaeus Rises, Scarabaeus vs. Predator, Scarabaeus Meets Abbott and Costello, The Positively Last and Final Appearance Ever by Scarabaeus, and Return of Scarabaeus.] Because of your success with representing women’s science fiction, I feel you would be an excellent agent for my work.

One woman, one planet, [Now there's a woman who shouldn't have any trouble getting a date.] one chance for freedom...

Edie Shade has been trained by the oppressive Crib government since childhood as a cypherteck. [A fancy word for people who enjoy solving cryptograms.] She programs the advanced technology called ‘biocyph’ used to terraform new colony worlds. [This all sounds like gibberish; but what did I expect from the Crib government?] Her job is both highly skilled and highly valued – so valued she is kidnapped and coerced into working for rovers, who steal biocyph and sell it to the outlawed Fringe worlds. [This is like Serenity. The rovers are the Reavers. Edie is River. That's all I remember about the movie: Reavers and River.] [Wait, the rovers are the Serenity crew, the Crib are the Alliance, and Edie is still River. And the Reavers are the Borg.]

Captive on the rovers’ ship, where the flexible loyalties of the crew add to the tension, [Sounds like a Klingon ship.] she must prove herself useful in order to survive. [Not clear why she must prove anything; they kidnaped her because they knew she was useful.] To make matters worse, she is assigned a reluctant bodyguard, the dark and mysterious convict Finn, who is motivated to protect her by a chip in his skull that will kill him if she dies. [How exactly does having a bodyguard who's highly motivated to keep you alive make matters worse?] [Not only would I welcome a reluctant bodyguard with a skull chip, I would request a dozen more.]

With the authorities on their heels and a traitor on board, the rovers take Edie back to Scarabaeus, the planet she first visited as a Crib trainee. Awed by the beauty of Scarabaeus, she sabotaged that terraforming effort and the mission was pronounced a failure – and that makes it a prime target for rovers. [If rovers are going to this planet to steal biocyph that Edie had a hand in programming, wouldn't it be faster to just have her program some more than to travel light years through space?] [Who are the good guys? The thieving, kidnaping rovers or the oppressive Cribs, or the meddling, planet-destroying Edie? I'm not fond of any of them.]

But seven years later, Scarabaeus has become a terrifyingly changed world, its evolution now under the control of the mutated biocyph the Crib left behind. As the rover team navigates the dangers of this sentient jungle planet, Edie must risk her own life – and Finn’s – to save Scarabaeus, [from . . . Crib Death!] the world that her naïve meddling created. [Scarabaeus is the good guy, right? Scarabaeus and Finn. Sounds like a comedy team. A better comedy team: Scarabaeus and Scaramouche.] [Wait, Scarabaeus is Earth, Edie and the Cribs are the Bush Administration, and the rovers are Greenpeace. Which makes Finn . . . Huckleberry Finn!]

With a BSc in Biology, I use futuristic concepts of genetic engineering as the backdrop for my novel. I was the associate editor of Australia’s foremost SF magazine, Aurealis, for several years. I work as a textbook editor and migrated to the USA in 2005.

If you’d care to consider representing the book, I’d be happy to send along sample chapters or the complete manuscript. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,


Revised Version

Dear Agent:

Edie Shade has been trained by the oppressive Crib government to program advanced technology called "biocyph," used in terraforming new colony worlds. Awed by the beauty of the planet Scarabaeus, her first assignment, she sabotages that terraforming effort, and the mission is pronounced a failure.

Years later, Edie, whose job is both highly skilled and highly valued, is kidnaped and coerced into working for rovers, mercenary biocyph thieves who sell to the outlawed Fringe worlds. Captive on the rovers’ ship, where the flexible loyalties of the crew add to the tension, she must prove herself useful in order to survive.

Eventually the rovers are drawn to Scarabaeus, seeking abandoned biocyph from Edie's first project. But the planet's evolution (thanks to Edie) is now under the control of mutated biocyph; Scarabaeus has become a terrifying--and sentient--jungle world. As the rover team navigates the dangers of Scarabaeus, Edie risks her life to save the world that her naïve meddling created.

Scarabaeus is the first of a series, to be followed by Children of Scarabaeus and Soul of Scarabaeus. I use futuristic concepts of genetic engineering as the backdrop for the novels.

I have a BSc in Biology, and I was the associate editor of Australia’s foremost SF magazine, Aurealis, for several years, before moving to the USA in 2005. I now work as a textbook editor. Your success representing women’s science fiction leads me to believe you would be an excellent agent for my work. If you’d care to consider representing the book, I’d be happy to send along sample chapters or the complete manuscript. Thank you.

Sincerely,


Notes

There seems to be an expectation that the book will involve beetles. Or geometry. Is that how the planet was named?

BSc seems to be a UK thing, so you might mention the source to avoid confusing those who've never heard of such a degree.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

After that will come Revenge of Scarabaeus, Scarabaeus V: The Final Chapter, Scarabaeus Rises, Scarabaeus vs. Predator, Scarabaeus Meets Abbott and Costello, The Positively Last and Final Appearance Ever by Scarabaeus, and Return of Scarabaeus.

You forgot Law & Order: Scarabaeus.

-c- said...

Crib Death.



BAHAHHAHHAAAAAA!!!

Feisty said...

This book definitely needs a mutant beetle.

Teresa said...

Followed by CSI:Scarabaeus.

Anonymous said...

Not to be too nitpicky, but migrate is what birds and antelope do. People emigrate...unless they go from the US to Australia every 6 months or something.

Anonymous said...

EE: What?! We have B.Sc. degrees here in Canada; how different could the United States be?

xiqay said...

Yay! Once again I guessed the correct plot.

I liked this story and definitely would want to read it. Not based on the fake plot blurb (which I found confusing and unbelievable. I couldn't see how sentient beings could arise from a "ruined" planet in just 7 years--but the query does a good job of explaining that).

I would expect the title to be explained, though.

Also, since this is initially promoted as "women's" sci-fi, you might want to give your main character a more womanly name. Edie is a female name, but closely tied to the masculine Ed. Eve on the other hand has lots of womanly (and creation) connotations.

And we have Bachelors of Science in the states. I think we just abbreviate as BS though (and that has it's own connotations!)

EE's version is great. (Makes the main character more likeable up front.) As is his humor (great). (I liked "crib death" too!)

And finally, we know what to get EE for his holiday gift--a bodyguard with a chip to protect EE at all costs.

Anonymous said...

I'm also Canadian, but the BSc doesn't seem all that strange to me... it's a bachelor's degree in science...

Daisy said...

We call them B.S. degrees here. Seriously.

It's a pretty good descriptor.

Sara said...

I've since learnt it's called a BS here (which is about all it's good for). As if I didn't have enough to worry about, what with the endless Search & Replace for colour/color, -ised/-ized, grey/gray...

Anonymous said...

What is "women's science fiction?" I've heard of military, space opera, dystopian, hard science fiction, cyberpunk, steampunk and tons of other subgenres, but I've never heard of "women's science fiction".

Sara said...

What is "women's science fiction?"

I don't know. I made it up.

It's the sci-fi I want to read. Female protagonist, no military, no physics, a little politics, a couple of guns, lots of biology, a heap of sexual tension. (Evil Editor killed my sexual tension!)


This book definitely needs a mutant beetle.

Indeed there is a mutant beetle, and it's vital to the plot. Just not that vital to the query.

Heyoka said...

I'm with Anon 11:17 -- what is "women's science fiction" supposed to mean?

Anonymous said...

With a BSc in Biology, I use futuristic concepts of genetic engineering as the backdrop for my novel.

Look at this line. Apart from the BSc BS, this is one big comma splice. "With" is not the right word to start of this sentence. I think this happened because the querier wanted a tight sentence. This one is too tight. Try: "I have a BSc in Biology and I use..." It takes a few more letters, but it's much better grammatically.

Novelust said...

Women's SF is all Prada bags and aliens, strappy sandals and androids.

Catherine said...

Not my cup of tea, but the rewritten query makes the novel sound like something my daughter would love to read. I do not mean that as an insult...she's twelve, intelligent and loves SFF with female protagonists.

BuffySquirrel said...

I think naming the protagonist "Eve" would guarantee instant rejection. That's something of a travelled road in SF, women's or otherwise.

I imagine women's science fiction is like what's in those Women's Press SF novels I have upstairs somewhere: SF by women for women about women. Or perhaps the querier just meant that the agent she's approaching has a lot of female clients who write SF...

not Jack Chalker said...

Those who like this pitch might also like The Four Lords of the Diamond by Jack Chalker, in which an oppressive gov't terraforms four planets of the Diamond using advanced but mysterious technology; in which technicians are kidnapped by outlaws spawned on the Frontier Worlds; in which smart bio-implants threaten to kill their implantees, and in which the terraformed Diamond planets all evolve under the control of the mutated micro-organism that makes the planets sentient.

Del Rey Book Club Edition published 1983.

kcawhy said...

To make matters worse, she is assigned a reluctant bodyguard, the dark and mysterious convict Finn, who is motivated to protect her by a chip in his skull that will kill him if she dies.

It is obvious how this makes matters worse. Finn is seriously suicidal but too scared to kill himself, so he spends the rest of the book trying to off Edie.

Evil minion #667 said...

Eventually the rovers are drawn to Scarabaeus,

Delete "Eventually," which suggests a lot of aimless wandering before the plot actually materializes. Kind of like Star Trek III (The Search for Plot). (Credit to the late Kelly Turner for that one.)

Bernita said...

Excuse me, Anon, for being nit-picky, but people may "migrate" as well.

Evil Editor said...

Delete "Eventually," which suggests a lot of aimless wandering before the plot actually materializes.

To me it suggests an unspecified amount of time has passed. We know seven years passed between the time she screwed up the planet and the time her kidnapers returned her there. But since we don't know how long after she was kidnaped she returned, or whether her captors were aimlessly wandering during that time, we'll need the author to tell us whether they went there immediately after capturing her, or . . . eventually.

Sara said...

"Eventually" is in fact inaccurate, although I can't blame Evil Editor. The novel starts on the day she gets kidnapped, and she's kidnapped specifically because she's the best person for the job (stealing biocyph from Scarabaeus). They go there immediately, although the journey takes a couple of weeks. (Her sabotage 7 years earlier is backstory.)

Thanks for your comments and thanks EE for the ideas I garnered from the rewrite.

(There are no strappy sandals!)

Angelle said...

After that will come Revenge of Scarabaeus, etc.

You forgot Law & Order: Scarabaeus.

Followed by CSI:Scarabaeus.


You also forgot Scarabaeus Messiah, God Emperor of Scarabaeus, Heretics of Scarabaeus and Chapterhouse: Scarabaeus

I just can't let a potential SF series pass w/o a Dune reference. It would violate the terms of my parole.

Daisy said...

Not to mention Scarabaeus Babies and Scarabaues: The Musical

Dave Kuzminski said...

Then we'll get Scarabaeus 33 1/3 and Moby Scarabaeus and Nightmare on Scarabaeus Street and maybe even Basic Scarabaeus though the interrogation scene might be too rough for anyone under 35 to handle.

Jeb said...

Novelust said... >>>Women's SF is all Prada bags and aliens, strappy sandals and androids. <<<<

Thanks. Now I'll be trying to fall asleep to an image of Data in drag , possibly channeling Meryl Streep in 'Devil Wears Prada'.

>shudder<

'Scarabaeus' made me wonder if there was an unheralded sequel to The Bartimaeus Trilogy... in which Barti stops materializing as a young Ptolemy and goes for a less exalted, but still Egyptian, look that's less exhausting to maintain.