Sunday, August 27, 2006

Face-Lift 169

Guess the Plot

Harry's Landing

1. In this science fiction trilogy, human colonists on the planet known as Harry's Landing conflict with the native inhabitants: telepathic elephants.

2. In this romantic comedy, old flames are rekindled in the bayou, but can Harry's bar--and his newfound love--survive an alligator with a taste for gin?

3. In this literary novel, Harry's apartment is the only place for his and Velma's forbidden love to express itself. But as the cabbage smells from Mrs. Velaski's apartment drift up in a wet cloud through the air conditioning ducts, they choose an alternative.

4. In this slapstick farce, Margot Pestmeyer's apartment is tiny, but the view is worth the $3K a month New York rent. Every evening she pours a glass of wine and watches her neighbor, Harry, attempt to fly from his fire escape, three floors above the dense landscaping across the quad.

5. In this urban novel, when crack dealers invade his building in the projects and threaten to take over the stairways, young Harry makes a stand: this square meter of concrete belongs to him.

6. In this YA tragedy, Harry has called the press, Harry has staged the plane jump, and Harry is not going to let little Mary Sue steal his thunder again, even if that means substituting a knapsack for her parachute.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

I hope that you will consider representing my novel "Harry's Landing", a space opera with supernatural elements. Merchant starship captain Chernoi finds that in the covert conflict among humans, aliens and demons on a lost colony world, an outsider's questions can be more dangerous than guns. This is the first book of a trilogy, with #2 [Wilbur's Balcony,] completed and #3 [Carlotta's Veranda,] in progress. It is not under consideration elsewhere.

Captain Chernoi and her crew are dodging trouble at home when they agree to take on Aaron, a passenger to an unknown destination. [Even Chekov would have had trouble navigating to an unknown destination.] [A starship captain agrees to take a passenger somewhere, and doesn't insist on knowing where?]

[Aaron: I need a ride.
Captain: Where to?
Aaron: I can't reveal that information.
Captain: Well, it's highly irregular, but my mother always told me, you can trust a man with tusks and a trunk. You have the con.]

Aaron's homeworld is disputed territory among paranoid human colonists, telepathic elephant-like natives, and an infestation of nightmarish creatures that the colonists call demons. When the colonists refuse to give Chernoi the route-map she needs to guide her ship home, [What?! Blast 'em with a photon torpedo.] she and her crew are drawn into onworld politics. Her willingness to deal with the natives only worsens the colonists' suspicions. [Let me get this straight. They're at home (dodging trouble). They take Aaron to his home planet, where the telepathic elephant men are. And now they can't get back home without a map? Wouldn't their ship log have a record of the route they just took? Couldn't they navigate by the stars? If the colonists have a map, this can't be uncharted space, so a starship should have access to the data on the map.] [I assume this map is three dimensional?]

When Aaron disappears, Chernoi turns to the natives, [They dropped Aaron at his homeworld, why shouldn't he disappear? Why would he continue to hang out on the starship? Why do they care that he disappeared? They were just giving him a ride.] who deliver him to her battered and half-mad. Her ship's psychologist heals him, [A merchant ship has a psychologist?] at the cost of forming a tight psychic bond between them, and learns that the colony leadership has been infiltrated by demons. The conspirators [What conspirators?] try to kill Aaron, then send a demon to possess one of Chernoi's crew. [This paragraph feels like a list of stuff that we don't need to know. Maybe you should jump to the next paragraph (in which case you'll have to change "the demon on board" to "a demon who has infiltrated the ship.")]

Throwing her backing behind the least compromised human leader she can find, Chernoi triggers open conflict groundside while struggling to deal with the demon on board. The loyalist faction emerges on top, [Who are the loyalists loyal to? Who emerges on the bottom? Are the factions human, or is there an elephant man faction? Do telepathic elephant men ever forget?] although Chernoi's pursuit of the chief conspirator is foiled by a massed demon attack. Chernoi finally gets her route-map home, but the situation remains critical, and her sense of responsibility to her new allies will eventually drive her back.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


[It may be helpful to know that "Harry's Landing" is the name of the planet.]


At the beginning you say "in the covert conflict among humans, aliens and demons on a lost colony world, an outsider's questions can be more dangerous than guns." Yet later it reads "Chernoi triggers open conflict groundside." So is the conflict covert or open? And it's not clear what "questions can be more dangerous than guns" means; but maybe that won't bother anyone. Does that bother anyone?

Who would name a planet Harry's Landing? Only one person would have the gall: Harry Mudd.


Dave Fragments said...

EE - It's a Schrödinger's cat thing -
the path to the lost planet is neither here nor there nor anywhere. It's a paradox subtly pretending to be two things at once. Once it is observed then all doubt is removed but until you observe it, it exists in two states. {wink, wink}

Actually the star could exist in a region of space that is ever changing due to rogue suns wizzing in atypical orbits and hidden black holes. Each time you fly in or fly out is different and requires a map generated by the inhabitants of the planets. That device maintains the laws of physics. Violating Schrödinger's paradox trashes every law of physics. Take my word for it.

I'm sorry to say this but I think that the author has to work through the plot a little more. This description doesn't represent any sci-fi story I've ever read in 45 years. Now that could be a good thing.

Either this description of the plot is terrible or the plot is not believable. There is a story here but it won't live with the plot as outlined. Fix the holes in the plot.

The titles even argue against sci-fi
THey are a play on words that would hinder any serious story telling -
Harry's Landing, Wilbur's Balcony, and Carlotta's Veranda are more suited to children's books. (I'm sorry, to say that. I feel bad saying it.)

Evil Editor said...

Harry's Landing, Wilbur's Balcony, and Carlotta's Veranda are more suited to children's books.

The latter two, of course, are not the author's titles, but my lame attempts at humor.

Macuquinas d' Oro said...

Yes, EE, it sounds like a "Return of Harry Mudd" to me too. The demented version. And where is the "space opera"we were promised? I was waiting patiently for Captain Chernoi to show us that she carry this one as a soprano.

Pete Tzinski said...

HARCOURT FENTON MUDD! You've been drinking again!

Mudd: Shut up!

Don't tell ME to shut up!


Ahh. Fond memories.

I confess that the moment we started talking about alien telepathic elephant-men, I was of two minds on whether I was picturing Babar, or Cheech and Chong.

Anonymous said...

"Harcourt Fenton Mudd, what have you been up to?" And with all those telepathic elephant girls too? I know what they do with that trunk of theirs. Shame, shame.

I got a bit confused--was Aaron one of the elephants? If he was, why does the alien have such a common Terran name?

*bows and scraps before EE* I believe you mean Chekov, Pavel A., service number 656-5827B. And yes I do have that memorized. *blushes*
Unless Anton Chekhov was a navigator as well as an author...

Anonymous said...

Dangnabit! Pete beat me to it by mere minutes!

Anonymous said...

I really did expect at least one of the fake plots to be about Harry Potter.

I loved fake plot # 5, and that was my vote. I hoped it would not be # 1. Alas.

I was not transported by the query. Couldn't see any reason for telepathic elephants. Or any of it. The writing in the query didn't seem bad, just not good. Sorry. jmho.

Anonymous said...

Whee! I'm seven of ten on my Guess the Plot submissions. Perhaps I should give up on getting the novel published and look for a gig writing silly three-line plot summaries.

Erm, right. Anyway. Feedback for the author. Ahem.

I agree with EE that if the ship could get there it could certainly get home. Hell, I can do that in my car right now with a cheap GPS unit. You need to explain why it can't. If there is some sort of wormhole event (i.e. ST:Voyager) it certainly should be mentioned in the synopsis.

Anonymous said...

And yet, not one person had a problem with the telepathic elephants...

Story quality aside, this query letter lost me. I had to re-read it a couple times to figure out that Aaron was a telephathic elephant. I didn't understand why the crew was trapped. I didn't understand who was loyal to who. Most importantly, though, I didn't understand why I should care. And if the reader doesn't care, why would they bother to represent it or publish it?
One note on the plot - do you really need a third party? Couldn't the story be simplified to just the native telepathic elephants and human colonists? And how'd the demons arrive and why do they want to dominate the planet?

And since I just shot off four questions, I guess I should go and get a license for my questions.

writtenwyrdd said...

As a rabid sf fan, I agree the plot doesn't jive with anything I recall seeing. And I also agree, it could be a good thing. But I don't see this potential in the query.

The plot holes are fairly major. They've been adequately addressed already by others.

Beyond plot holes, though, I found there was a lack of imagination in the names and devices. Perhaps avoid likening your aliens to demons and elephants and come up with something more evocative. And perhaps come up with names which aren't quite so common to the present day on Earth. Would you rather read about Harry's World or TinTin's World?

But please don't take this as a suggestion to scrap the project. Keep tweaking it.

Stephen D. Rogers said...

Well, FOOTFALL by Niven and Pournelle describes an alien invasion by an elephant-like race.

writtenwyrdd said...

I confess, I didn't much care for "Footfall," especially the aliens. To me, making aliens like elephants is ripping off Babar. It's probably just me on that, but the thought won't go away.

It feels lazy to me when aliens are so terrestrial they can be mostly described by naming one critter we have on Earth.

word veri: okolmuko. The drink you get when you mix coke and milk.

Anonymous said...

Harry Mudd rocks! And the whole time I was reading this, I was thinking what an interesting episode of Star Trek it would make.

braun said...

I guess there's no reason why aliens couldn't be telepathic elephants - but to me the image is just too goofy for words. I wouldn't want to read this book.

none said...

Well, it bothers me, EE, for what that's worth. A statement like that needs justifying somewhere in the query. Not that my query was, yanno, above reproach.

My jaw however dropped at the nasty colonists not giving poor Captain Chernoi the map. You what? What kind of space captain worth her salt needs a bunch of flatlanders to give her a MAP so she can get home? And why would they want her to stick around anyway, her with her twelve bore questions and all?

I'm sure the plot makes sense in the author's head, but in the query, it doesn't hang together.

Not that I mind telepathic elephants particularly.

Anonymous said...

Okay, the synopsis comes across as a total hash. I can imagine a story written by a very talented writer that would vaguely conform to what this author is attempting to describe, but it's hard to imagine such a talented writer failing so thoroughly to produce a better synopsis than this.

Oh, and the name of the planet doesn't bug me at all. If the IAU hadn't decided to demote Pluto last week from planethood, we might have ended up with a planet in our own star system... named Xena... with a moon named Gabrielle.

braun said...

10:15 - "Xena" was never an official name for the new planetoid, just a nickname until a real one could be applied. Which will probably still happen in fact. Using my psychic powers I predict that they will use a (real) name from Greek mythology.