Sunday, August 13, 2006
Guess the Plot
The Clockwork Detectives
1. The year is 2278. The city of sin covers most of Mercury. It's sizzling . . . with crime! Can a robotic police officer solve the spate of air conditioner vandalisms, and maybe find his soul?
2. An organization of robot spies in 1939 England. A German scientist who wants to defect. But when war breaks out, will the Mission Accomplished banner have to be put in mothballs?
3. Fat Willie and Bam-Bam Smith spend every morning at The Donut Hole, but promptly at eleven, they hop in the squad car for a trip downtown, where all the good restaurants are. Back on the job at one, it's a scant two hours until coffee at Rosie's.
4. The whole team assembles near the mainspring to survey the damage, but when the shaking starts, only Tibbs has the presence of mind to shout, "Take cover, he's winding his watch!"
5. A holographic interface created by a literary scholar to manage his collection of a hundred thousand 20th-century mystery novels, takes umbrage at its creator's botched murder investigation and launches its own probe.
6. A serial killer of cell phone-talking drivers converts a new gang of droogies, deputized to do her ultra-violence, with a bit of the ol' in-out.
Dear Evil Editor:
The date is August 15, 1939, in an alternate-history England where robots have integrated themselves into the country’s class structure. Erma Stroud is one such “mechanical person.” She’s also the newest rookie spy in the Bureau of Clockwork Detectives, a top-secret agency that sends out the country’s elite to further His Majesty’s interests on the Continent. But technically, Erma isn’t clockwork. Her brain has been constructed using the latest of mechanical technologies, the transistor. She’s damn proud of it, too. So when she gets paired up with the Bureau’s oldest and clunkiest spy, the nearly-obsolete Herrick Daly, to say that they fail to get along is an understatement.
[Erma: I say, old bean, you're looking a bit clapped out. Shall I wind your mainspring for you?
Herrick: Most amusing, but not up to your usual standards. Might I be so bold as to suggest it's time to replace your batteries?]
The two of them are sent on what is supposed to be an easy job – locate a particular German physical scientist who wants to defect and get him safe passage back to England.
[It's in His Majesty's interest that we get a certain scientist out of Germany.
I see. What do you propose?
We must send out our country's elite to accomplish the mission.
Tommy Hambledon? George Smiley?
You don't mean--?
Yes. Erma the mechanical woman and Herrick the obsolete robot.]
But when war breaks out and they find themselves stranded in Berlin, Erma and Herrick are going to have to cooperate if they hope to survive.
The Clockwork Detectives is a 70,000-word completed fantasy novel. I have published articles about the craft of fantasy writing in WoodWorks e-zine and written profiles of local high school students for my community newspaper. If you are interested in knowing more about Detectives, I have enclosed a SASE for your reply. I would be delighted to send you a synopsis and sample chapters.
The letter isn't bad. I'd drop the profiles of local high school students from the credits, and use the full title, rather than just "Detectives" in the next-to last sentence. This isn't going to fill your page, so you might add some information. Can you be more specific about the "country's elite" that the bureau sends out? Elite spies? Elite robots? Do the robots look like C-3PO or like humans?
Presumably this is a comedy. If not, you may have to explain how robots in the clockwork/transistor age of this Earth can feel pride and have brains that aren't the size of a gymnasium. If it is comedy, you could describe it as a humorous 70,000-word fantasy novel, or work something else (besides the clunky robot) that's funny into the plot description.