Saturday, September 29, 2007

Face-Lift 429


Guess the Plot

Escape from New Deseret

1. Joshua and Ruth are young and in love. But on the distant moon New Deseret, love is only for the Elders, and Ruth is slated to be Elder Brennar's twelfth wife. Can they flee to a place where love is permitted?

2. A box of broken china. Three suitcases. And one cat. That's all that washed up on the island with Jim Fortine after his boat sank. Will he ever be able to . . . Escape from New Deseret?

3. Louise Young got the house in the divorce, but the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market means she can't unload the property. After she forces the bank president to issue a loan to the only buyer she could scare up, it's time to make her Escape from New Deseret and leave her conniving, two-timing ex-husband Brigham behind.

4. The wives were all the same. The houses were all the same. They all brought Jello salads to Marjorie's house on the day she moved in. Something funny is happening in New Deseret, and Marjorie is determined to get out before she's turned into . . . a Mormon.

5. Moishin had murdered twenty eight people and earned himself a berth on New Deseret, a prison ship that orbited the dead star of Janicyth. Kept in stasis for his 400 year term while he is bombarded with rehabilitation messages, Moishin is inexplicably awakened when Janicyth suddenly bursts to life. And now Moishin isn't alone on the ship. Can he survive the alien infestation and prove his new morals by saving the nearby colonies?

6. Faced with the choice of keeping plural marriages in the closet or seeing their leaders arrested, extremist Mormons set up New Deseret, a colony on Mars. It doesn't take them long to realize they would have been better off choosing a location where there's some air.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor;

I am a new reader of your site, and would like you to consider representing my science fiction novel Escape from New Deseret, complete at 81,000 words, set on a near-future Mars.

Imagine a world where college students and retirees can afford weekend vacations on Earth-orbiting space stations, and a significant portion of Earth’s heavy industry has moved to the Moon. What kind of people would want to settle on Mars?

Mormons extremists, for one. [I did like you said and imagined a world where college students and retirees can afford weekend vacations on Earth-orbiting space stations, and a significant portion of Earth’s heavy industry has moved to the moon, but somehow I didn't follow the train of thought to Mormons moving to Mars. Which leads me to wonder why spring break in space was even brought up.] Faced with the choice of keeping plural marriages in the closet or seeing their leaders arrested, even an airless and barren Mars looks good. [Airlessness may look good for about five seconds, but after that you tend to become disenchanted with the idea.] There, they can do whatever they want, [It's like Pleasure Island in Pinocchio, right? Are they eventually transformed into donkeys?] [Of course, as I recall, on Pleasure Island they had air.]free from the interference of an un-Godly Earth. There, they can wall out the wickedness and live holy lives.

But the small colony, named New Deseret, is seriously under funded. Octavia Vutrick, 19, widowed and pregnant with her second child, has had to assume a man’s role to ensure the survival of her children and the colony. [She has to marry a dozen men.]

For a decade, Octavia’s growing independence is tolerated in the name of survival. A marriage of convenience to a respected rich colonist helps. Octavia’s oldest child Ruth reaching the marriageable age of fifteen provokes a new crisis. Ruth has discovered that wickedness, like rot, comes from within. Humans cannot wall it out. This wickedness, and a leadership crisis provoked by the death of the colony’s founding leader, put the lives of Octavia, Ruth and her brother Alex in grave danger. [Not clear what the crisis is that Ruth provokes, nor why the family is in danger.] [What is clear is that they'd be better off on Uranus.] [You didn't think we were going to get through this whole query without a Uranus crack, did you?]

Thank you for your consideration. My website above has biographical information and a link to my blog. I have enclosed a SASE for your reply, and I hope to hear from you soon.


Notes

The line about retirees being able to afford vacations on a space station isn't a good hook for this novel. I don't see that it has anything to do with the story. Octavia is your story. If you condense your setup into something like:
Octavia Vutrick, 19 and pregnant with her second child, is wondering whether moving to New Deseret, the Mormon colony on Mars, was the right decision. Sure, there are no unGodly Earthlings bugging her, but on the other hand, THERE'S NO FUCKING AIR!

there'll be plenty of room to expand on Octavia's trials. And the part about the escape.

When a Mormon on Mars goes on his two-year mission, where does he go? Where else . . . Uranus!

Wasn't the movie Mars Needs Women! about Mormons on Mars? Better title: Mars Needs Mormons!

Beyond the niche audience of Mormon science fiction fans, I'm wondering if there's a big market for this. Have you considered making it extremist Muslims on Mars?

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

As EE suggested, I'd omit the first 3 paragraphs and start this with Octavia's story. I wasn't too interested until I started to read about her. Your hook is her struggle.

BuffySquirrel said...

How does the colony survive? The query states that it's free from Earth's interference, which also implies that it's self-sufficient, as any dependence on Earth would give the Earthlings leverage. Yet the query doesn't give even lip service to how the colony has become self-sufficient on a barren and airless planet, and in such a short time.

Phoenix said...

The Martian atmosphere is mainly carbon dioxide. If there's trapped water on Mars either in the polar icecaps or underground, then add some energy and a mechanical means for photosynthesis and you can separate carbon dioxide into its component carbon and oxygen molecules. I'll assume a large biodome of some sort, and I can see a VERY small colony surviving in the not-so-distant future.

If we conveniently forget all the other facts, religious freedom was purportedly a basis for America being colonized. So I think you could draw some parallels there.

Except that the query does not give me confidence the subject matter will be dealt with sympathetically or judiciously. "Mormon extremists" is not a term this group would use for themselves, is it? "There they can do whatever they want" makes them sound like hedonists, and "un-Godly Earth" makes them sound just as intolerant as those forcing them to move on. Obviously, these people are just people with human flaws and not saints, but already I don't like them.

Ultimately, what's this story about? Redemption that makes it uplifting? Wickedness wins out so it's a tragedy? Since we don't know what the wickedness and the crisis are, why Octavia and her family are in danger, or who the antagonist(s) is(are), then I can't tell if this is a story I would want to read.

Nix the setup as EE and Anonymous suggest and that will leave you with some room to expand on the obstacles, make "wickedness" concrete for the reader, and give the agent an idea of how this book ends. And please make sure you as author at least sound somewhat sympathetic to their cause. Done right, I think it's a salable idea.

Another title that generated a whole slew of really great GTPs!!

AmyB said...

I like the "Mormons on Mars" setup--I like science fiction that deals with social issues. I agree with the others that we need more details on Octavia's story. It's being described in generalities, and I wanted more specifics.

I'm not Mormon, but I live in a neighborhood where I'm surrounded by them. It's my understanding that any splinter group that practices polygamy is not considered Mormon, at least not by the church authorities. So these colonists would not technically be "Mormon extremists," though I think we all get what you mean.

AmyB said...

Oh yeah, and I needed a beverage alert for this:

Octavia Vutrick, 19 and pregnant with her second child, is wondering whether moving to New Deseret, the Mormon colony on Mars, was the right decision. Sure, there are no unGodly Earthlings bugging her, but on the other hand, THERE'S NO FUCKING AIR!

Dave F. said...

Let's see - If you add twinkies and fold those tiny marshmallows into the jello, I'll follow you anywhere.

4. The wives were all the same. The houses were all the same. They all brought Jello salads to Marjorie's house on the day she moved in. Something funny is happening in New Deseret, and Marjorie is determined to get out before she's turned into . . . a Mormon.

The novel is an interesting idea, but you have to make the science not just work, but almost become transparent. This reminds me of parts of FireFly (the sci fi show). It's basically a western set in space.

Lightsmith said...

They don't need air. They've got magic underwear. ;-)

Chris Gerrib said...

I'll out myself here and say thanks for the comments. They were all truly helpful, even (especially?) the snarky ones!

I'll have to say "trust me" on the science - it's thought out. To Evil Editor's point, I actually did consider extremist Muslims during writing, and decided against it, partially because there's a group calling themselves "fundamentalist" Mormons in Utah doing some of this stuff. (Multiple wives, not Mars colonies.)

At any rate, all this is very valuable food for thought. Thank you again for your suggestions.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I usually remain silent but I felt compelled to comment on this one.
Those who practice plural marriage are not mormons. They call themselves mormons, but they are not in any way affliated with the Mormon Church. Any person practicing plural marriage is not allowed to attend the church, it is against mormon beliefs. There is also no such thing as mormon extremists.
Please do your research before including any minority or religious group in your novel. It's called respect and professionalism. Please be aware that if you submit this to an agent they may not read past the first few lines as the information is incorrect.

BuffySquirrel said...

I do think the query needs to convince the recipient that the science is all worked out. They have no reason to trust what isn't on the page :).

Robin S. said...

Hey anon- You said - "There is also no such thing as mormon extremists."

Here's the reality of human beings:
There is ALWAYS such a thing as an extremist, in any group, at all times.

Your self-righteous attitude is a pain.

writtenwyrdd said...

Having an entirely Mormon family on my mother's side, I can safely say I have some familiarity with the religion and its followers. I've even lived in Utah for that matter.

So please take this comment as intended to be helpful Author when I say that, based on the language of this query, I am extremely doubtful of your expertise in this area. You call the Latter Day Saints "Mormon extremists" (biased language) and say, "faced with the choice of keeping plural marriages in the closet or seeing their leaders arrested," which implies that all Mormons are in favor of polygamy. It also implies that the actual polygamists aren't breaking any laws, which they could be, depending on how they go about it.

FYI author, only certain groups are still proponents of polygamy, and these groups are not part of the mainstream LDS culture. I am sure that some folks still believe that people of color are descended from Cain, too, but that is also no longer part of the mainstream LDS dogma and hasn't been for decades. for fictional purposes, of course, you can show how the LDS church has changed or split from now to your near-future story. But perhaps you might rethink how you describe these radical elements, as you make them sound like the bad guys with no real basis for it in the beginning of the query.

All I am saying, Author, is that your statements imply bias and do not lead me to trust your vision as explained in the letter. It doesn't matter what you know, it matters how you present it in this query.

What I suspect the real drive of the story is the longing of a sect of Mormons to turn the clock back to the good old days of the original LDS dream, and this Mars colony is the next migration to the promised land-- with polygamy again legitimized.

But I have to ask...do they have lime Jell-o on Mars?

Chris Gerrib said...

Anon and Writtenwryd: There is in fact an organization calling itself the Fundamentalist LDS Church in Arizona. It's leader, Warren Jeffs was convicted for rape in forcing a 14-year old girl to marry her 19 year old cousin.

Having demonstrated that truth is stranger then fiction, I understand both your points. I suspect that I should take "Mormon" out of the query (even though it's technically correct) and use "cult" or some such.

Bernita said...

In fact, there is more than one break-away crypto-Mormonic sect, claiming to adhere to the original principals.
But I would strongly advise adjusting your terms in the query - lest it come across like the hand-cranking of a religious grindstone.

writtenwyrdd said...

Chris, you aren't reading what we said. It's how you word it, not whether or not you are correct.

And you aren't technically correct. The LDS church does not recognize these other sects. To insist that a splinter group of the Mormon church IS the Mormon church (which you are so saying by your use of language) is like saying the Roman Catholics speak for the Greek or Russian Orthodox churches. They all split off from the same group, after all...

Chris Gerrib said...

Bernita - we're in agreement here. "Mormon" will disappear from the query. (It might actually disappear from the novel, but that's another decision.)

Anonymous said...

But surely the jello can remain?

Chris Gerrib said...

writtenwyrdd - if a guy runs around in warpaint, a feather headdress and says "I'm an Indian," it would be normal for others to refer to him as an Indian.

Even if his name is Otarski and his family's from Poland.

The folks I based this story on call themselves Mormons and act (in their mind) like Mormons. Calling them such is therefore appropriate. BTW, they consider the "official" church as the breakaway sect.

It is settled (in my mind) that the word Mormon does not belong in a query letter.

Anonymous - lime Jello can definitely stay. (I actually *like* the stuff.)

Dave F. said...

I knew a secretary whose fifth child was conceived in a bathtub full of lime jello.
I'll bet that's way more than you ever wanted to know, huh?

Anonymous said...

"if a guy runs around in warpaint, a feather headdress and says "I'm an Indian," it would be normal for others to refer to him as an Indian."

LOL, only in a derogatory or condescending fashion.

ME said...

This struck me as overwrought with an "odd" agenda and I searched in vain for any mention of an escape in the query for "Escape from New Deseret".

"Uranus Crack" O! Evil, that is so what I love about you!

Andrew said...

I was going to put my tuppence worth in but realised that this post has probably petered out.

But I will say if your wording or presentation of an idea is causing cantankerous conflict here, it'll likely confusion the agent too. Agents don't want these kind of questions, they want everything laid out. So reprharing and rewiting is the option

The book plot is decent, reminds me a little of Stephen Baxter's Exultant, 'cept they were a hive organization living underground in a huge vault. Therefore the idea has value - trick is finding out what the plot is to drive on through the query. In your case it looks like Octavia's problems with her daughter and protecting her from corruption and abuse.

Start with this and build the query from there - then eat some Lime Jelly (we english invented the language....wish you lot would stick to it....LOL :0P)

sboydtaylor said...

Extremist Muslims on Mars sounds like it would be very similar to the plot of DUNE... ;)