Monday, August 29, 2011

Face-Lift 947

Guess the Plot

Artificial Friendship

1. When you're an editor, is there really any other kind?

2. Charlie, the lonely school geek, builds a beautiful robot companion to hang out with. When she develops an independent streak that he never programmed, he's not sure whether to press her off-switch or try to win her silicon heart.

3. Shy, geeky nerd Grover Washington hides in class, gets straight As and is routinely given wedgies by classmates. If only he were like Stormward, the Blood elf he plays in World of Warcraft where he's in a guild with Horace the Dwarf and Meg the Gnome. When he learns that they're in his math class, will hilarity ensue?

4. Cassia's father gives her the best birthday present ever: Annie, an android friend. When Annie protects Cassia from a bird attack, instead of fleeing as it was programmed to do, the android's inventor wants to dismantle it. Ha! Over Cassia's dead body!

5. It's the answer to the prayers of sad and lonely people everywhere: robots programmed to become their best friends! Roy's Robotics thinks they have a surefire winner on their hands. Then someone turns on the robots in the factory. And they all befriend each other.

6. Lonely programmer Wesley Walters invents the Friend3000, a robot with artificial intelligence that is a boon to the detached and disaffected. All is well-- until the Friend3000 wins the Republican nomination for president.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When Cassia first meets ANNIE, her initial reaction is delight – not only did her absentminded father finally remember her birthday, he has given her a wonderful present. ANNIE is the latest prototype of the android FRIENDs, whose friendship "lasts forever", the perfect gift for a girl with few friends.

However, a freak accident at the park soon changes Cassia's joy to concern, not for herself but for ANNIE. As a prototype, ANNIE's primary programming should have sent the android away from danger, [;] instead she protected the girl from an attack of genetically altered birds. [Even if Cassia somehow knows the birds have been genetically altered, it's not clear in what way. Maybe they should be described as vicious or savage or monstrous or malevolent. Or birds that make Hitchcock's look like lovebirds.] The daughter of a scientist who works on androids, Cassia knows such programming cannot malfunction without shutting down the android itself.

What allowed ANNIE to override that programming? Cassia is not the only one who wants the answer to this question. Branston, the mysterious inventor of FRIENDs, [Mysterious in that he has only one name.] [Instead of Branston call him Brainstorm. Sounds more like a supervillain.] plans to investigate the matter thoroughly, even if it means dismantling the android. However, Cassia won't let someone [anyone] destroy ANNIE, not after what happened, and certainly not without a fight.

At 58,000 words, Artificial Friendship is a science fiction novel for teens. The completed manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for considering my work.



A nice query. To me it sounds like middle grade, even if Cassia's older, but of course I don't have the whole plot.

Perhaps the bird attack could be called an incident or an occurrence rather than an accident. And how much danger are these birds to an android?

If I invented an android friend, and I had to choose between programming it to handle danger by protecting its owner or by fleeing, I'm not sure how I'd justify choosing flight. Does this so-called "friend" also bully Cassia and steal her boyfriend?

I realize Annie's a prototype, but it's being given to a kid. It should be programmed to act like a friend forever, not a self-absorbed coward. What is Brainstorm's sales pitch when he sells Annie to Cassia's father? "It's just like the version that'll be in Best Buy, except I've programmed it to run away anytime your daughter is in danger."?

Now, if the android were programmed not to hurt humans, but shoved down a kid who was bullying Cassia, that would be a more controversial flaw. True, any flaw could mean there are others, but dismantling the kid's friend because it saved her from being pecked to death by ferocious finches? Not good.


Anonymous said...

Just like someone called Branston to get themselves in a pickle.

none said...

No disassemble! Number Five is Alive!

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Yeah, the thing about science fiction is that it's all been done before, and this of course brings up multiple memories of old, old SF books.

Not that that's necessarily a flaw as long as the treatment is fresh.

Before he turned to teddy bears, Frank Asch did some dark, demented little picture books, one of which was Elvira Everything, about a girl who is given a wonderful android friend by her parents and ultimately drowns it in the bathtub, IIRC.

The all-caps ANNIE started to get on my nerves. Is it necessary?

vkw said...

Yeah, kind of like EE said, but not.

Cassia's robot saves her from imminent danger and, therefore, doesn't do what it is suppose to do.

What is it suppose to do? runaway when there is danger or runaway when it is in danger? Besides, best friends always have each other's backs. So violating one directive may violate another directive. . . . maybe that is the meaning behind the novel. Ethical delimmas are never easy.

Later in college, Cassia will learn that very smart professors have theories and 25 step processes on how to solve ethical delimmas. There will be an essay question on the final and a paper.

Book Two: Cassia goes to college and becomes more confused about delimmas.

The query doesn't say ANNIE was the focus of the pecking. So it, Annie, not being in danger, saves Cassia and, therefore, does as programmed without violating it's first directive. Is that the resolution?

Anyway, I think Annie should violate the prime directive, (do as your programmed to do), more seriously.

How did anyone find out about Annie's violation? Was Cassia a blabbermouth? Maybe that is the point of the story because it can't be "don't get adults involved in problems" because the prime directive for children's books is to promote a child's wellbeing and good behavior.

Not a bad query and at second glance it sounds a bit interesting.


none said...

I assume that ANNIE is some kind of acronym that the author hasn't explained in the query. Usually these are so contrived as to make the reader flinch.

journeytogao said...

I'm with ARclaw on ANNIE -- I get that it's an acronym, but the first time in all-caps is enough.

I thought this query was weak in spots. Branson "plans" to investigate? How about something more active or even sinister -- Branson is determined to investigate, or Branson schemes to unbolt Annie limb from limb?

Another issue: I suppose it will be important in the book that Annie is a prototype and not the retail version, but it seems like an unnecessary detail in the query that could be dispensed with in favor of more important plot points.

All I see is setup: Cassia wants to save Annie, Branson wants to take her apart. Does Cassia run away with Annie? Seek legal protection? Reverse-engineer Annie in an attempt to find out more about Branson and Annie both?

Ink and Pixel Club said...

Author of Query #3> Your premise is flawed. Blood elves are member of the Horde, while dwarves and gnomes are Alliance. They can't be in the same guild. Duh. ;)

Author of actual query> There's definitely potential here, but i feel like the query cuts off too soon. I don't know what kind of fight Cassia might put up to protect ANNIE, what abilities she has that might help her succeed in this, or what obstacles Branston is going to throw in her way. While you don't have to tell the whole story, I'd include enough so that an editor will have some idea of whether the remainder is about Cassia and ANNIE on the run, battling a horde of enemy robots, searching the internet for clues, or something else.

I'd like to know more about Cassia and her relationship with ANNIE so I have more reason to care what happens to them. Consider dropping the dad from the query since he isn't adding much and going into more depth about who your main character is and what she's able to do with her new robot friend that she couldn't do previously.

"...Cassia knows such programming cannot malfunction without shutting down the android itself."

I think what you're saying is that if ANNIE takes any kind of aggressive action, she should automatically shut down, but it's not very clear. Revise so it's easier to understand.

It might help if you're more specific about hoe ANNIE protects Cassia. As EE said, parents would likely want a robot that's going to protect their children rather than run away. If the problem is more that instead of passively standing between Cassia and the monster birds to shield her from harm until help arrives, she goes on the offensive and snaps their necks, then you have a robot who shouldn't be able to kill, but is rather than a robot that's supposed to run away but doesn't.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a middle grade plot. Dunno why you have these birds just put in the one appearance. Random act of violence? Sounds like they just get thwarted in 5 minutes. So there's no ongoing evil scheme, just a quality control issue. And some poor girl who is more attached to a robot than to actual people. Sad.

150 said...

I'd like to hear more from the author. This sounds a little thin on the ground; you could do the story describes in an episode of the Twilight Zone, but for 60k? What else is going on in the book? Why should we read this instead of one of the existing robot-Pinocchio stories? What makes the story and the characters awesome?