Saturday, May 20, 2006

Face-Lift 28

Guess the Plot

Blade to Blade

1. A fly-on-the-wall look at a critical period in the career of Wesley Snipes, beginning with his smash hit comic-book adaptation, and ending with the disappointing sequel.

2. Marcellus wants a career as a soldier in the legions. Will his boyish looks and build be a hindrance--or will they lead to rapid advancement?

3. Two ice princess rivals are disqualified from competing in a national figure skating championship when things get ugly during a warmup session and they resort to using their footwear as combat weapons.

4. Vampire slayers and ninja fighters face off in the Ultimate Monster Killing Championships, and Los Angeles will never be the same.

5. Two dashing young men appear to be the catch of the ton this season, but the ladies will all be disappointed when they discover that Tom and Warren are leaving tonight's party together.

6. In a futuristic society, hockey players carry swords rather than sticks, and anything goes--including your opponent's head.

Original Version

Dear Mr Editor

BLADE TO BLADE, an alternate history novel, is complete at 105,000 words.

Set in a world where steam trains convey cavalry to the battlefield, [That's what makes this an alternate history? Horses on trains? Surely cavalry rode trains to the battlefield in actual history at some point. It should be something like, Set on an Earth where the Etruscans invented the steam locomotive in the 2nd century, and were thus able to easily defeat the Roman Empire using horses on trains . . . or, Set on an Earth where horses developed intercontinental rail transport, and become the planet's dominant species . . . ] Blade to Blade is sixteen-year-old Marcellus Aquilla's own account of his struggle to protect the reputation of a man who can't remember him: his father.

Marcellus, victor in every boyhood campaign, [Not clear what a boyhood campaign is. Little League military crusades? Getting through puberty?] joins the Suenna officers' school in order to earn a commission in the legions on merit--a goal he believes will be easily attained. Only in the legions can he progress without his father's influence; [Seems like he could do anything without his father's influence, since his father can't even remember him.] only there can their secret be kept. [Which is? Why is it that whenever Evil Editor receives a query for a book in which one character keeps a secret from another character, the author feels a burning need to keep that same secret from Evil Editor? It's good to come to love the characters you create, but betraying their secrets to your editor or agent is not the eighth deadly sin.]

His unexplained alienation from his father [Unexplained? His father doesn't remember him; that's explanation enough for alienation.] has convinced Marcellus that any relationship, once broken, cannot be repaired. Wary of friendship, and fearing exposure, [Exposure of what? Oh, right, the secret.] he resists the guidance offered by the retired soldier who runs the school. Yet they are brought together through their interest in a forbidden philosophy. [Scientology.]

Despite the drawback of his boyish looks and build, [Boyish looks and build? Hmm. Evil Editor is starting to get an inkling of what the secret is.] Marcellus deals forthrightly with the challenges the school throws at him, including a quarterstaff fight, inadequate kit, unrequited love, and a six-minute deadline to replace a dead horse.

["What's the problem, Aquilla?"
"My horse is dead."
"Then I suggest you replace it."
"With what?"
"With a live one, idiot. I'll give you six minutes."
"I meant, sir, where am I gonna find another horse?"
"I don't kn-- This must be your lucky day, kid. Here comes the train."]

But when he develops a life-threatening illness that shatters his self-myth, a career in the legions looks to be beyond even his reach.

Isolated on his family's estate, he now must learn how to repair broken relationships, or his father's secret may yet be exposed. [Pretty vague. What relationships must he repair to protect the secret?] [So the fact that steam engines transport cavalry to battlefields in this alternate history pretty much has nothing to do with anything? Are there any battles? Any horses on trains?] [Suddenly Evil Editor can't get an image out of his head. You know those little kiddie trains they have at fairs, where the guy driving the train sits on top of the locomotive? Imagine one of those trains, only the engineer is a horse! That has nothing to do with Marcellus, but sometimes when you can't shake an image, it helps to tell it to someone else; it transfers it into their head.] [It's sort of a cartoonish horse, by the way.]

I have been an Articles Editor for webzine Strange Horizons, Submissions Manager at NFG magazine, and thrown off a horse or two.

If you would like to receive a synopsis and sample pages, please let me know whether that should be by email or hardcopy. Thank you for your time.


The query isn't bad, and to improve on it, Evil Editor would want to know the significant difference between this history and actual history, and how it changes things for Marcellus. And, of course, what the secret is. Without that information, a revised version wouldn't seem much better.

What are the "Blades" in the title? One imagines if the steam locomotive has been invented, people aren't still fighting with swords. Or is that the "alternate" history: weapons development hasn't progressed in 2000 years.

By the way, if people had hooves, instead of hands, do you have any idea how big your keyboard would be?


Emmy Ellis said...

By the way, if people had hooves, instead of hands, do you have any idea how big your keyboard would be?

Thanks for that image and the resulting fantasy I had of also having to have horses legs as my arms so I could reach the A and L keys.



none said...

Thank you, EE :), for the help and the laugh. I only had 250 words; it makes getting all the information in there hard!

Bernita said...

I like the title.

Mad Scientist Matt said...

Cavalry did still use swords in the time of the Civil War as their main weapon when fighting other cavalry. They typically carried guns too, usually revolvers or carbines instead of the larger rifles carried by foot soldiers. So, in and of itself, the combination of cavalry with swords and steam trains does not sound particularly like alt-history.

Anonymous said...

I love checking back often to find the new weirdness that EE is poking fun at, but it does occur to me to wonder -- is EE simply posting his thoughts as he works, or does he actually edit. [I gather that "edit" in this context mainly means troll though query letters and submissions hoping to find the ones that aren't dreck.]

none said...

Thanks, bernita!

none said...

A British cavalry brigade that was available for action at the time of the "last cavalry charge", in 1917, was still using swords--although it wasn't that particular brigade that was chosen to carry out the assault. (Instead, it was a brigade of Australian Light Horse armed with bayonets)

I'm thinking that missing out the word "Roman" in front of cavalry was a big mistake...

Mad Scientist Matt said...

I'd wondered from the names if they weren't Romans. So this is an alternate history as what might have happened if Richard Trevithick had been a contemporary of Augustus Ceasar.

Rei said...

"One imagines if the steam locomotive has been invented, people aren't still fighting with swords."

The first steam engine (the aeolipile, AKA "Hero's Engine") was invented in the first century AD, although it was only seen as a toy. History could have been quite different if its potential had been realized.

The first modern engine was designed (and possibly built) in 1663; the first proven construction was in 1687. It was used to power a paddle boat. Again, people were still fighting with swords quite a bit.

The first efficient steam engine was built in 1769, and steam power quickly started to become standard in British and German industry. The first "automobile" was built in the same year. Again, people were still fighting with swords, although swords were now mostly self-defense weapons.

The first true train was built in 1804.

Many types of technology do not necessarily advance at the same rate. If Hero's Engine had been taken seriously, steam engines could have become efficient and standardized before the west even heard of gunpowder.

Evil Editor said...

Of course we're talking about the "engine" that pulls a train, not a random type of engine.

none said...

Okay, each key on my keyboard is approximately the width of my fingertip. A horse's hoof is maybe three inches wide on average. So, assuming a standard querty keyboard, that would be 30 inches for the top line of letters (q to p) alone. Add in a numerical pad and you're looking at perhaps half as much again. So, I'm guessing at about 50 inches (approx four feet).

But does a horse type with all four feet...?

Anonymous said...


Three-inch-wide hoofs? You must ride small horses.

roach said...

Three-inch-wide hoofs? You must ride small horses.

I imagine that as a squirrel she finds Shetland ponies more comfortable than, say, draft horses. :D

McKoala said...

A horse only uses two hooves to type. The third hoof holds his coffee and the fourth is playing footsie with the cute pony at the desk opposite.

Anonymous said...

"This must be your lucky day, kid. Here comes the train," is now the most popular internet catchphrase in my household.

none said...

The toe isn't the widest part of the hoof :D.

Anonymous said...

That was hilarious, EE. If your novels aren't comedy, they should be. Keyboards for clydesdales?

Anonymous said...

Good comeback, buffysquirrel! Except that a horse's hoof is in fact ALL toe. :-/

Maybe you were thinking of mules, which have narrower hoofs (and shaped differently). Three inches might be about right for some mules.

My keyboard is 19" wide; the tip of my index finger is 3/4" wide; so if a horse's hoof is, say, 4.5" across, then a horse-sized keyboard would be about 114" wide (9 1/2 feet)!

none said...

I still laugh when I look at this, especially at the dialogue bit.