Thursday, September 06, 2007

Face-Lift 416

Guess the Plot

Welcome to Midpoint

1. Fred the Grasshopper is in a large room. Every time he leaps, he covers half the distance remaining to the other side. Can he cross the room and save little Polly Cricket before an infinite amount of time passes?

2. It's the place where all the trains leaving Whereverville at 10:55 AM traveling 65 mph and the trains leaving Nowhereville at 11:23 AM traveling 68 mph meet at 12:13 PM. It's also where a bunch of zombies stand around waiting for fresh brains to arrive. Welcome to Midpoint.

3. Midpoint, the domed city, home of the last purebreds. In a galaxy where the human race is slowly disappearing in the gene pool, Midpoint fights to remain genetically pure and free from alien influence.

4. Entrepreneur Chase Bucks proves that location is everything as he sets up a thriving business at the exact midpoint of the Iron Man Triathlon, tempting athletes and spectators alike with energy drinks and specialty coffees.

5. Tired of his menial job on Earth, Lance sets out for Midpoint, a space station located exactly halfway between Earth and Mars, where he hopes for a better life. As it turns out, the only job available is dishwasher.

6. In the 22nd Century, everyone knows the date of their death as well as they know their birth date. No longer afraid to plan for the future, people routinely celebrate their Midpoint with a huge party. But five-year-old Joey isn't enjoying his.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor

At 65,000 words, "Welcome to Midpoint" is a Science Fiction novel with elements of mystery and humor. While it lovingly mocks elements of classic juvenile sci-fi, it is intended for a mature audience. [Artemis Fowl 6: The Orgy Masters of Jupiter]

To fulfill his dream of escaping minimum wage jobs in Indiana, Lance Devlin signs an employment contract for Midpoint Station, a refueling outpost that positions itself equidistant from the Earth and Mars. [Sometimes Earth and Mars are on opposite sides of the sun. At these times the midpoint between them would be so close to the sun it would melt, and a point equidistant but on the orbit between them would be so far from either planet as to render the refueling station worthless. Also, Mars moves about 54,000 mph, and it takes about four months to get from Midpoint to Mars. So when leaving Midpoint for Mars, you wouldn't want Midpoint to be directly between Earth and Mars; you'd want it to be a couple hundred million miles ahead of Mars so that you can take the shortest line to the Martian orbit and arrive just as Mars does. Or am I wrong?] He arrives at Midpoint to find the station is obsolete, falling apart and staffed by criminals and misfits. Then he learns his new space job: dishwasher. [The good thing about being a dishwasher in outer space is that when you drop a dish it doesn't fall on the floor. The bad part is the water won't stay in the sink. I know it's bad for the solar system's environment, but I think I'd go with paper plates.]

In addition to the station's other problems, there are almost no women. [Midpoint: the Alaska of refueling stations.] Lance falls for the station's Communications Officer, but despite her being easy, she shows no interest in a lowly dishwasher. [Not when there are criminals and misfits to be had.] Though he has no chance, Lance manages to repeatedly make a fool of himself over her.

Lance does not stay a dishwasher for long. Todd, the station security chief and Lance's high school classmate, promotes Lance to junior security officer in an attempt to fix him up with Todd's high school sweetheart, Janice, who he has recently dumped, as the lower two thirds of his body is cybernetic. [That's why he dumped her?

Lance: I gotta let you go, babe.

Janice: But . . . Why?

Lance: I'm self conscious about the bottom half of my body being a machine.

Janice: Listen, pal, the bottom half of your body is the only reason I didn't dump you six years ago.]

Before Lance settles in as Todd's assistant, Todd dies in what, at first, seems be a recycling accident, [That's the trouble with taking your glass and newspapers to an automated recycling center when two thirds of your body is cybernetic: the sorting machine thinks you're a humongous aluminum can.] but turns out to be murder. To appease and hopefully woo Janice, Lance must solve Todd's murder with the station owner breathing down his neck [A person owns this place?] for a quick resolution, an executive officer bent on locking up Lance in his own brig, and his shifty friends from the station cafeteria trying to help him with his investigation, while helping themselves to the privileges of his position.

As he begins to uncover the mystery, Lance suspects Todd's murder was more than just a random act of violence, and the closer he gets the more dangerous the investigation becomes. Of course, if he's lucky, he may also get the girl… or the other girl.

Thank you for your time.


Either you don't need a refueling station in space because fuel isn't needed much once you get going, or you do need one, in which case it's hard to believe the place would be obsolete and staffed by criminals and misfits. Who's in charge here, Haliburton? Maybe it should be a bordello.

If I owned a refueling station halfway between Mars and Earth, I wouldn't be there, breathing down the neck of the ex-dishwasher. I'd be lying on a beach in Tahiti or in my pleasure dome near Cydonia Mensae.

It sounds funny. If you describe it as a comedy set in space you don't need to worry about the science, but since you call it a Science Fiction novel with elements of mystery and humor, your audience will want the science to be accurate--and it may be, I'm no expert, but with Earth and Mars moving at different speeds, getting an obsolete station to stay equidistant is asking a lot, and as I said earlier, it doesn't seem like staying at the midpoint is best anyway.

I'd drop the paragraph about the communications officer (and, therefore, the words "or the other girl"); there's more plot here than we need, and that's the easiest part to do without.


Church Lady said...

Haliburton-Ha! LOL!

Why do I feel the need to surf porn sites after reading EE's blog? Bottom half a machine--which site would that be?

Anonymous said...

It sounds like it could be a great farce along the lines of Spaceballs and Galaxina. That's hard to write well.

Always love the comments, EE.


iago said...

Not sure about that first sentence. Kind of reads like it's a Science Fiction novel because it's 65,000. Like at 65K it's Sci Fi, by 70K it'll be literary.

By the way, I thought "Sci-Fi" was frowned upon by devotees of the genre? Or is it Trekkies that don't like being called Trekkies, or something. Or is Sci-Fi the juvenile stuff and Science Fiction is the highbrow end of the shelf?

I generally take my Sci-Fi Douglas Adams flavored. If you're in the same ball park, I could be interested. I'd like to feel some of the humor more in the query, though. Actually, maybe it's there, but it's in a binary system and the humor of EE's star is just that bit brighter.

150 said...

Women do better in isolation situations than men. I'd expect a society advanced enough to build a stopover point to Mars to be far enough along to populate it evenly.

WouldBe said...

OMG, EE. I love it when you talk technical.

Dave said...

a refueling outpost that positions itself equidistant from the Earth and Mars.
Reading that makes me want to do bad things.

Mr Science here.

The "points" or locations you want in space that would serve this purpose are referred to as Lagrange Points. Here's a reference that isn't too mathematical:
A Lagrange point is kind of a gravity free zone. A sort of gravity pothole where things stay still rather than slip into the sun or fall to earth.

The Wikipedia entry contains equations that might scare the non-mathematical among us. more important, it has a list of all the literature that uses Lagrange points without explanations of what the locations actually are.

It's an easy change to the query and manuscript because most SCIFI readers have already heard of Lagrange Points. The SOHO satellites and Microwave Anistropy (background) satellites are located on Lagrange Points. They'll stay there for a few thousand years with almost no effort.

You can call it "Midpoint" station or something more inventive like Yakmat's Outer Space Bar and Grill or "Poincaire's Livery and Brothel" or maybe "Hotel Bathesphere" ... or John and Mary Bland's Cafe and Diner (they serve the Bland Omelet).

blogless_troll said...

EE throwin' down some hard astro-nommy. Who woulda thought?

I think the easiest fix would be to change it from a fueling station into something else. Then it could be halfway between anything you wanted and you avoid the SF persecution. Also, since it's a comedy and the place is falling apart, you could make it some ill-conceived business venture that never caught on, something inappropriate for space, which would make it funnier. I liked this a lot and it sounds like it would be a fun read.

Robin S. said...

Hi author-

This sounds like a really fun story. The humor comes through in your writing. I wouldn't read science fiction normally, but I'd read this. The idea of some guy from Indiana going to work on a space station for excitment and being assigned the job of ...(yeah, I'm really into these ellipses now) dishwasher. Good one.

And, good one, EE:
" Lance: I'm self conscious about the bottom half of my body being a machine.

Janice: Listen, pal, the bottom half of your body is the only reason I didn't dump you six years ago.]"

I skipped over the science humor, as science gives me headaches almost on a par with math word problem headaches. Mars and Earth and Earth and Mars and equidistance...No.

I really liked this as the last sentence describing your story: "Of course, if he's lucky, he may also get the girl… or the other girl." It made me want to find out about the other girl. But I'm not an editor or an agent, so...

I'd buy your book.

Lightsmith said...

Not crazy about the title. The word "midpoint" sounds dry and mathematical. It doesn't suggest a comedy.

WouldBe said...

I wonder if the restroom facilities for space ladies are adequate. I ask, because I am a sensitive guy and I'm concerned.

I think the story could work, but EE thoroughly thrashed the notion of hard or semi-firm SF.

~Nancy said...

Maybe it should be a bordello.

I like the bordello bit that EE came up with: Get boinked in space. In zero gravity - yippee! ;-)

A fueling station between here and Mars, I would think, wouldn't be allowed to become obsolete, not if Mars has become a tourist mecca. I'd think that some entrepreneur-type person would see to it that the fuel was always available (as well as a bordello and a place to eat, heh).

I think this does have potential - especially as it's humor - but I just don't see the fueling station being run by misfits; it's just too close to Earth.

Just my 2 cents, of course.


BuffySquirrel said...

Hatred of the term Sci-Fi isn't as strong as it used to be, I think, but some people use Science Fiction for the writing, and reserve Sci-Fi for the tv/movies. With the confusion between whether SF stands for Science Fiction or Speculative Fiction, Sci-Fi may become the preferred term. Or maybe some bastardised version--SFi or Sci-F!

Space bordellos have been done, which isn't to say they can't be done again, but some SF fans feel written SF should try to be ahead of tv (I'm thinking Lexx here, just off the top of my head). Also, the menial job to menial job reminds me of Futurama, where Fry the delivery boy travels over a thousand years into the future to become...a delivery boy (woohoo!). These resonances can work for your novel or against it, but SF is read by a small (and apparently dwindling) community that knows its onions, so resonate it probably will.

Hard SF is only a smaller part of a small market, and something like this might fit comfortably into space opera or science fantasy, as it's more about the people than the science. Die-hard SF fans tend not to like stories that could be set in a mundane setting, but have been shoehorned into space instead, however.

(Last I heard, "Trekkies" was the (somewhat derogatory) term used by outsiders, and "Trekkers" was the preferred insider term, but it could all have changed by the time I've finished typing this)

pacatrue said...

Maybe it should be a bordello. says EE.

Dave identifies the LaGrange points....

Many people probably know what was in the shack outside LaGrange, yes? The Best Little Whore House in Texas. (As ZZ Top once said in their classic tune, LaGrange, "I hear it's tight, most every night, but now I might be mistaken, a how how how" followed by a 4 minute guitar solo.) Space Musical here? I bet you could still get Burt Reynolds to be in the movie version.

But if we do make the LaGrange point a bordello, it could ruin the whole "leave Indiana for excitement and end up on Station Lame-o" aspect of the story.... But a-ha! I have the solution!

There's also a LaGrange multiplier in math, and the symbol for the multiplier is the Greek letter lambda. That letter lambda is, of course, often associated with various gay-oriented associations, such as Lambda Legal (I don't think lambda lambda lambda from Revenge of the Nerds counts though).

So the clear new plot is that our hero thinks he's going to work in a sexy space bordello, but he didn't quite understand that the workers are in fact all men, serving the gay space traveler. Great if he's gay himself, but probably disappointing since he seems straight.

There you go. Hetero guy mistakenly ends up working in a gay space bordello. Hilarity ensues.

To be a bit more productive for the author, I didn't see how the juvenile sci-fi parody carried through in the query, other than that someone goes off to find adventure. I think that needs to become more apparent or perhaps rephrase the sentence so that there's just comedic elements.

Phoenix said...

Remember Newton's Laws? Here's the reason MidPoint as a fuel station doesn't work: An object in motion stays in motion until something acts upon it to stop it. In space, fuel is consumed on liftoff and landing, not so much during the flight inbetween (yes, some may be consumed for minor course correction because there ARE forces acting upon spacecraft, but it's pretty negligible, especially for the "short" hop from earth to mars). You'd want a refueling station close to your destination or departure point.

This query puts me in mind of an old SF filk song called "Asteroid Named Rest Stop" about a "bus" driver making moon and station hops around Mars. Broken-down bus, third-class cargo, a bunch of unsavory riders, and a bus driver ready to chuck it all:

As for the query, I was momentarily puzzled over "the other girl" comment at the end because it was so far removed from the stuff about the comms officer (especially with EE's comments to giggle over) that I'd forgotten about her. Especially when it appeared Lance doesn't make any headway with her.

Um, the place is staffed by criminals and misfits, and, though obsolete, it not only has a security chief, but the funds for a junior security officer, too? That could be very ironic, but if it's intentional irony, maybe the query can point out the irony a bit better.

Gosh, I guess if I'm the audience for this book, and it lovingly mocks classic SF (space opera!), I'd like to see more of that played up. Kind of like Indiana Jones lovingly mocked Saturday afternoon B movies.

I see the elements and storylines you're trying to mock: a high-testosterone story with the girls only being love interests. A young man low in social status who, on an isolated station with hardly any women has every young teenage boy's dreams realized of having TWO women to compete for. And, of course, the space travelling dream turned reality (be all that you can be...). But I'm not really seeing the mockery here. It feels too "real," and while it still may hook a 12-year-old (but I've spoken on panels at a number of SF conventions and met my share of those 12 YOs and believe me while their testosterone level is high, they're pretty danged astute when it comes to space travel), I'm afraid it's not hooking me.

If the query played up the nudge-nudge aspect of the space opera stuff more and set the fuel station on Phobos or Ceres, then maybe I could buy into it a bit more.

Shannon said...

I am the author.

I've had a busy day and I haven't been around much, but thanks for all your comments. I'll get to them as soon as I can.

Just a quick note about the science. In several places I parody hard science fiction, giving long-winded scientific explanations for things that make absolutely no sense.

Thanks again EE and minions. Your thoughts are appreciated.

Shannon said...

A few more notes for the curious:

These represent my reasoning for why I made the choices I did. I’m not saying that your suggestions aren’t better. I’m just saying that this was what was in my head.

I knew that the “mature” audience statement was maybe a little “space orgy-ish” it is quite light fare for most people’s taste and well within the limits for today’s science fiction, but it does include swearing, adult situations, drug use, bar-flies, unintentional sex with aliens, masturbation references, prostitution, and the very sensual eating of blueberry muffins. Would “R-rated” suffice? Or perhaps “not intended for audiences of all ages?”

Why was a refueling station necessary? Well, part of the joke is that it doesn’t really make sense. I came up with the idea, realized immediately that it made no sense at all and then decided it was perfect for the setting. So, I had to fudge the laws of physics a little bit, no big deal. It happens on the Sci-Fi channel a hundred times a day. In the story, it does serve as a drop-off point for asteroid miners, which is maybe a little more practical.

Why isn’t it a brothel? Those services are only available to first class tourists. They have special hostesses right on the ship with them (No, I’m not shitting you, that is in Chapter 2.)

How does it say halfway between Earth and Mars? The station is essentially a very slow moving ship. There are dark windows where the Earth and Mars are too close to make Midpoint matter or too far away to make it work.

How did it become obsolete? It was new technology of course. Fuel-efficient ships mean fewer trips to the gas station. Maybe gas-electric hybrid ships?

Why did Todd dump his girlfriend after being made a cyborg? You have to chalk that up to depression. Todd doesn’t think of his metal body as a godlike shell of hard steel. He sees it as a disgusting prosthesis and considers himself less of a man for it.

Why are there so few women? (Good point 150.) I found myself asking the same question. The station could implode at any minute do to the incompetence of its crew. I just think women tend to be more sensible. In addition, they are statistically less likely to be criminals.

By 70,000 will it be literary? Good point, maybe I should throw in a couple more chapters.

Why is Midpoint named something so dull? For the same reason my town once had a Standard North, Standard South, Standard East and Standard West. A businessman more interested in selling fuel for profit then coming up with zippy names built the station.

Why does the title suck? I really struggle with titles. Welcome to Midpoint was a working title. I just really have come up with nothing better.

The menial job aspect (ie Futurama): I wasn’t consciously thinking about Futurama at the time, but it makes a good point. Just because you live in The Future!(tm) doesn’t make you prettier or smarter. You never hear about the guy who cleans Captain Kirk’s toilet. Of course not, he uses a futuristic space toilet, which doesn’t get dirty.

Why did you call it a “Science Fiction novel with elements of mystery and humor?” I wasn’t sure what to call it, and I figured someone (hopefully EE) would correct me and give me better ideas.

How about a gay space bordello? I don’t know 300 pages of gay jokes. I wish I did, that would be awesome. In addition, I think the story would have to contain a sort of after school story lesson I don’t know I’m ready for.

Why “didn't [you show] how the juvenile sci-fi parody carried through in the query, other than that someone goes off to find adventure?” Great point. I will have to work on that. Maybe the end product doesn’t even qualify. I’m too close to it, and it’s hard to get an informed neutral party to read a manuscript so I can ask a couple questions. I can say that when I sat down to write it, I kept in mind the early Heinlein stories, which were my favorite.

“Remember Newton’s Law?” Those little seeds get stuck in your teeth? I know, you shouldn’t change the laws of physics just to move the story line, but as I pointed out, others whose books sit on the Science Fiction shelves have done it, and I find it delicious.

What about “the other girl” comment? I’m caught red-handed, it was the kind of cheese that belongs on a dust cover and not in a query letter.

“It not only has a security chief, but the funds for a junior security officer, too?” Maybe I don’t come across well with the scale. Midpoint carries a staff of over two hundred and is meant for twice that. In the story it is written that because the Security Chief (fancy title for security guard) should have subordinates (plural) they have given him a part time deputy who receives almost no pay in exchange for a shiny uniform and additional duties to his regular full-time job.

“It feels too ‘real,’ and while it still may hook a 12-year-old… I'm afraid it's not hooking me.” Rats. Well, I wanted to put in the part about his pet alien having sex with his nose, but it just didn’t fit well with the query. (Again, I’m not shitting you, somewhere around Chapter 23, if I remember correctly.)

Evil Editor said...

The station is essentially a very slow moving ship.

The Earth and Mars both move more than 50,000 miles an hour in their orbits. How can a slow-moving ship maintain a position equidistant from them?

Lightsmith said...

Terrible Suggestion #472:

Instead of being located midway between the Earth and Mars, the station could be located at the arse end of the galaxy. New title:

Welcome to Arse End

Anonymous said...


Is that at a Mars bar?

...unintentional sex with aliens...

Happens to the best of us.

So long as there are no Uranus gags.

blogless_troll said...

Well, part of the joke is that it doesn’t really make sense. I came up with the idea, realized immediately that it made no sense at all and then decided it was perfect for the setting.

I liked this better before you started explaining. I don't wanna get all Science Dave on you, but you do understand that...ahh, never mind. You sound like your mind's made up. Lemme put it this way. Winning ways to break the laws of physics for comedic purposes: Improbability Drive, yes. Gas station, no. The difference is one makes sense in a nonsensical way, the other is asensical, if that's even a word.

Dave said...

The Earth and Mars both move more than 50,000 miles an hour in their orbits. How can a slow-moving ship maintain a position equidistant from them?

I'll give you two choices:
a) magic farts from Schroedinger's Cats ;)
b) Lots of mathematics to describe a point on the ecliptic (that's the flat piece of paper the planets tend to fly on) that balances gravity from both planets and the sun. It's a three body gravity problem that requires a computer to solve simultaneous equations.
c) All speed is relative. The International Space Station is flying at 17,000 mph and still orbits the earth.
d) geo-synchronous satellites orbit one position above the earth at even greater speeds than 17,000 mph.
e) Quantum rubber bands hold it in place

It's all relative (like Auntie Einstein and Uncle Hyugens and their bastard child Carl Sagan).

Phoenix said... does serve as a drop-off point for asteroid miners, which is maybe a little more practical.

Not when the asteroid belt is between Mars and Jupiter, not Mars and Earth.

Some things can be fudged with fair impunity: faster-than-light travel, molecular transporters, etc. But the basics? Not so much.

I do think you need to put in a detail or two that supports the "mature" statement. Right now, the query makes it sound like safe territory for a 12-year-old. Maybe even word choice would help. The Comms officer, for example, could be an "easy lay" rather than just "easy."

Phoenix said...

One final (I promise!) thought here. Since the query mentions mocking juvenile classics, you'll be happy to know my comparison point WAS Heinlein as I made my comments.

But your explanation of what's in the book makes me think Red Dwarf. For agents who LIKE comparisons in their queries, maybe likening it to Red Dwarf would help highlight the mature raunch factor in an economical way.

It sounds like you DO have parody elements in your story that I, as well as several other commenters, are simply not seeing come across in your query.

And btw, I absolutely ADORE Red Dwarf, so I'm not at all dissing what you're trying to do with your story. It's all in the execution...

Robin S. said...

Oh, Red Dwarf. I love, love, love that show!

Hi Shannon,

You know, as this is a farce of sorts, done very purposefully tongue in cheek, people like me, (who have to take an aspirin if they're even in a room with a math book), wouldn't know or care if the scienece is remotely close to 'real'.

And I like Welcome to Midpoint as a title, to be honest, for what it suggests to me. (One side of my family comes from a county in the middle of nowhere USA. The name of the town: Central City. Which is ridiculously funny, as it all that it's central to is the middle of freaking nowhere.)

Take what you want fromm all of this discussion - use it to make certain your query says what you need it to say- but (don't get mad, all you sciency people here) I wouldn't sweat the science stuff too much. Red Dwarf was so much fun to watch- I and I never gave one rat's ass if any of it made actual scientific sense.

Shannon said...

How can a slow-moving ship maintain a position equidistant from them?
EE, you are a science guy, how lovely. Let me rephrase. The station generally keeps an orbit around the sun that tends to put it in a useful place for both planets and usually needs minimal course correction. When the two are too far apart for commerce, it spends a few months closing with earth, restocking, and then repositions. This fits a 26-month cycle if I remember correctly. So instead of zipping back and forth from Earth to Mars in a matter of weeks, it plods along at the speed of a planet. As Dave said, relatively slow. I know it’s improbable and impractical, but look at Ice Road Truckers. When there’s money to be made, we humans do crazy things. What is ultimately important is the happiness of the stockholders. When our solar system is colonized it will be for the benefit of the boardroom, not the science geek.

Gas station, no.
Without too much trouble, I could probably rewrite it to be a supply station for the Apollo asteroid miners, made obsolete by the fact that the larger ones are nearly mined out.

Not when the asteroid belt is between Mars and Jupiter, not Mars and Earth.
Quite true, but there is a smaller belt between Earth and Mars that is more practical to the supply lines and technology level of the story. As it stands, there are roughly 5000 or so objects between Earth and Mars compared to hundreds of thousands in the Main Belt. There are enough to keep humanity busy for a generation or so, until going beyond Mars becomes cheaper

I do think you need to put in a detail or two that supports the "mature" statement.
Would “it does include swearing, adult situations, drug use, bar-flies, unintentional sex with aliens, masturbation references, prostitution, and the very sensual eating of blueberry muffins” be too audacious?

Is that at a Mars bar?

I’m not touching Uranus. (Nine o’clock show is completely different form the seven o’clock show. Don’t forget to tip you alien slave girl.)

Thanks again everybody, you’ve been great.

Shannon said...

I wanted to address this point on its own.

You sound like your mind's made up.

Yes and no. If it survives, it will be because of the story. Details can be fixed, and if I have to fix them, I am sure the comments here will be my bible.

It’s really easy to sound overly defensive when replying to these comments, and I tried my damndest not to. I’m sorry if I sounded that way. However, I wanted to address as many points as possible to keep the dialog flowing.

I appreciate all the science advice, but what I am more worried about is the funny factor. Something we can’t solve without someone reading the whole thing. Humor is hard to write because it means different things to different people. Especially when you are aiming for a certain flavor of humor. I like absurdity with a dash a raunch and an occasional sight gag. Sight gags are hard to write, but very rewarding.

Shannon said...

Robin, thanks for the kind words.

Would that be Central City, Iowa? I don't live that far away from there (relatively speaking).

Anonymous said...

Humor is hard to write because it means different things to different people.

True, but as luck would have it, this place is a masterclass in writing funny. Take a look around. There are some seriously funny people here.

Robin S. said...

Hi Shannon- Nope. Kentucky. Same basic deal though, I'm guessing.

Thanks for taking the time to do a run through of the thinking behind your work. It was enjoyable to read.

Dave said...

An intermediate station makes sense if you have chemical rockets for propulsion. The reason I mentioned Lagrange points is that they are naturally places that objects drift to or from.

So you make a freighter with half the fuel capacity it needs. It's the freight that's worth $$$. Use all the fuel to point it at the intermediate station where it refuels it on the fly. Then it has enough fuel to slow itself into an earth orbit. Back at Earth, it never lands, it just refuels with an amount to leave earth's gravity and make it back to the intermediate station.

It's like that amazingly sexy sports car Chyrsler made called the "Crossfire"... It only had a ten gallon gas tank so when you drove it, you drove from gas station to gas station. Normally you drive a car between destinations. As a hot and testosterone filled little red sports car, the Crossfire left everyone with a smile but with a small gas tank, it continually required minor stops at every available gas station. Think about rockets as trucks and cars with fiery tail pipes.

Who said science and math has to be painful?

Church Lady said...

Bill Highsmith/Lightsmith's title is....okay.
But I liked what you had embedded in one of your posts: "Captain Kirk's Toilet." That sounds fun.

Good luck.

Lightsmith said...

Bill Highsmith/Lightsmith's title

I'm not the same person as Bill Highsmith. I chose the name Lightsmith based on my profession, which is lighting artist. The two names are very similar, though, which is an unfortunate coincidence. (Sorry, Bill!)

P.S. Welcome to Arse End was a facetious suggestion, in case you didn't realize that. Which you probably did. I'll shut up now. :-(

Phoenix said...

Yes, I lied, I do have more comments.

You're right, Shannon, that it's hard to judge humor, but we're critiquing your query, not your story here. Your book could well be gut-busting funny, but your query is not getting that across. It hints at some mildly amusing tongue-in-cheek stuff, then insists at the end it's a mystery.

So, I took a stab at including, and excluding, some of the elements you've given us:

A send-up of classic science fiction, WELCOME TO MIDPOINT, complete at 65,000 words, will appeal to "Red Dwarf" fans and anyone who's read -- and loved -- Heinlein.

When Lance Devlin signs an employment contract with Midpoint, a waystation for asteroid miners, he thinks his days working minimum-wage jobs are over. High-tech repairman, maybe, or mission programmer. But none of the space recruitment brochures prepare him for the reality. Midpoint station is obsolete, falling apart, and staffed by the dregs of the solar system: criminals, prostitutes, barflies, and sex-hungry pet aliens. Oh, and Lance's new job? Dishwasher.

Another thing Lance didn't count on is the absurdly low ratio of women to men. Even though a certain communications officer has a reputation for being an easy lay, Lance can't seem to interest her despite [playing submarine in her tub and slipping aphrodesia drugs into her beer]. His inability to score may change, though, when the station's security chief, Todd, fixes Lance up with Todd's ex-girlfriend, [a hot little number who's still in lust with the jackhammer action of the cybernetic lower half of Todd's body].

Then Todd dies in a recycling accident that Lance is convinced was really murder. Promoted to junior security officer, Lance sets out to solve the crime and woo Todd's ex. But with the station owner breathing down his neck for a quick resolution, his pet alien going into heat and humping his nose everytime he gets near it, and shifty friends [smuggling 'steroid dust on his watch], his murder investigation is going nowhere fast. Then [a couple of dangerous things happen] and it becomes clear someone doesn't want Lance tying Todd's death to [whatever].

Thank you for your time.

Blogless, I think I love you. This is so perfect -- way better than how I tried to say it:

Lemme put it this way. Winning ways to break the laws of physics for comedic purposes: Improbability Drive, yes. Gas station, no. The difference is one makes sense in a nonsensical way, the other is asensical...

Phoenix said...

The fallacy with your theory, Dave, is that a rocket needs about the same amount of fuel capacity to get from Point A to Point B or from Point B to Point C as it needs to get from Point A to Point C, especially assuming a low-gravity departure and arrival platform, either using orbiting launch platforms around Earth and Mars or using the Earth's moon and one of Mars' moons.

Fuel to accelerate from Point A then decelerate at Point B = the same amount of fuel needed to accelerate from Point A then decelerate at Point C. Short-burn corrections between Points A and B or Points B and C wouldn't account for much extra fuel capacity need. And there would be the loss of time and the wear-and-tear on the rocket to decelerate then re-launch at Midpoint.

As for refueling on the fly, you would not place a station midpoint. In order to "catch" a rocket speeding from Earth to Mars, a refueling craft would have to attain the same velocity as the rocket has. That means the refueling craft would have to leave the station long before the rocket flies by and it would be somewhere between the station and the rocket's destination that the refueling craft could hope to pace the rocket and refuel it. Refueling on the fly might possibly work when a rocket is flying one direction, from either the Earth to Mars or Mars to Earth, but not the other direction from the same fueling station.

If the rockets are stopping at Midpoint to pick up payload, then having fuel available is a good idea, but whether rockets are also picking up payload is not made clear in the original query. The query suggests the ships are going from Earth to Mars (or vice versa) and simply making a pit stop at Midpoint.

From the author's comments, we know miners for the Apollo asteroids are being dropped off at Midpoint. However, the Apollo and Amor asteroids do not have nice neat orbits between Earth and Mars, and the distances between these relatively few small bodies is vast. Assuming there's anything worth mining from the asteroids to begin with, there isn't any logic, economic, or physic benefit to the station being midway between Mars and Earth, as the author has already noted. Like building a gas station on a hiking trail.

So, in my query rewrite, I just left all that out. Not there, no questions raised at the query level...

Dave said...

No it's not a fallacy, All my idea needs is a speedy shuttle that can catch a spaceship in flight and refuel it. Then the shuttle returns to the midpoint station. Various huge mother tankers containing fuel visit Midpoint and stop there. However I can think of a pod system so that even the tankers do not have to stop. The station can simply let the fuel pods deaccelerate themselves and park in near orbit to the station.

These are details for the novel, not the query.

blogless_troll said...

I chose the name Lightsmith based on my profession, which is lighting artist.

Which means Bill's profession is...

Shannon said...


There are some good things in your sample query. I will use that as an outline when I write my final query.

Shannon said...

I was actually thinking of a non-chemical drive system. A ship just relocates itself in space and time ala Heinlein’s continua craft. However, this drive uses calculations so complex that only short hops are safe.

To travel, a ship uses a series of small hops to travel, this takes almost no power, but the ship still needs chemical fuel for maneuvering, especially asteroid miners less fuel means more cargo, hence the need for Midpoint.

Midpoint becomes obsolete when a mathematician at Tokyo University discovers a short cut for more accurate drive programming. This means longer safe hops, meaning faster travel, meaning less full cargo ships, and then more room for fuel.

Dave said...

That works for me, Shannon. "Longer jumps" means less business for Midpoint.

I was thinking more along the lines of refueling airplanes in midflight.

Starship Trouper said...

A send-up of classic science fiction, WELCOME TO MIDPOINT, complete at 65,000 words, will appeal to "Red Dwarf" fans and anyone who's read -- and loved -- Heinlein.

No no no! Dear dog! "anyone who's read -- and loved -- Harry Harrison." Make the "science" grotesque, as Harry did in several famous sf spoofs. In one celebrated passage (as it were), he has his sweating starship boiler crew shoveling in the tremendously powerful element transvestite. Sort of thing.