Thursday, February 01, 2007

Face-Lift 269

Guess the Plot


1. To prevent total domination of the galaxy by interdimensional aliens, Earth sends a team of its best warriors to fight alongside the amazing energy manipulating metal men of Epsilon Orionis.

2. Steven H. Brine is a pathetic wretch living a life of ostracism--until that very ostracism drives him to realms no pimple-faced thirty-six year old software developer has ventured. He meets the "Outcasts," and becomes their Emissary.

3. Janz Interplanetary Guide urges travelers to the Planet of New Belau to stop by the Blue Vase for some sweet smoke called "emissary," guaranteed to drain away a river of tears. But Jon Silva arrives to find chaos and a turf war. Now he's looking for a safe way out without more grief.

4. Eleven of the twelve crew members who will represent our planet in first contact with an advanced alien civilization have been selected. Now call-in votes during the highest rated reality show of all time will decide who gets to be . . . the final Emissary.

5. When the fifth grade decides to revolt, Joey Eggers volunteers to deliver the news to Principal Smith: Starting Monday, they're staging a sit-in until their teacher is replaced by an animatronic bear.

6. Didion has ruled the demonic sub-plane for seven hundred years. When he needs more human souls for his slave camps, he sends a young imp, Frincessco, to the mortal plane to gather them. The catch: they must come willingly.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

My science fiction novel, Emissary (100,000 words), is set in the far future when a powerful faction of xenophobes rises to political power just as mankind is finding new, alien races living among the stars.

Of the many alien races discovered by human explorers, the metal-men of Epsilon Orionis are unique. [Wrong: Other famous metal-men: Ironman; The Terminator; Most of Maxwell Smart's villainous enemies, including The Claw, Leadfoot, and Bronzefinger; the Six Million Dollar Man; Captain Hook; The Tin Man; Bender; Robocop; and Dennis Rodman.] They can absorb and manipulate pure energy with their metallic bodies. [Ah. So that's why the Tin Man wasn't afraid of the Wicked Witch of the West.] Earth initiates a secret operation to obtain the technology. [Earthlings. Even in the far future they can't stand for anyone to have anything they don't have.] Eager to succeed, Ambassador Spanner Templeton, Captain Randall and Lieutenant Buck Owen [Buck Owen? You should call the other two guys Hank William and Garth Brook. Or, for short, the Buckaroos.] guide the crew of the Dreadnought Apollo and a cohort of marines through their conversion to metallic humans regardless of the consequences.

Each race – the humans, the metal men of Epsilon Orionis [If you ever want to cut 20,000 words from this book, consider calling them "Lorgons" instead of "the metal men of Epsilon Orionis."] and the hybrids – [Not sure I'd refer to one cohort of Marines as a "race." As the next sentence also starts with the words "Each race," you might drop those words from this sentence.] struggles to adjust to new circumstances and unexpected changes both physical and mental. [For instance, the marines who've been converted to metal men are surprised to find that they suffer from lead poisoning, and that their enemies can now easily capture them using gigantic magnets.] Each race hides their true agendas [Which are?] as they race to defeat a xenophobic cabal of humans [Cabal of humans, faction of xenophobes, cohort of Marines . . . is there a nice, normal "group of people" in this book?] who have opened a gateway to another dimension. Only a select few understand the consequences of failure – total domination of the galaxy by the interdimensional aliens. [Actually, the way this galaxy's been going lately, maybe a little alien domination is just what we need.] Only by combining the human aptitude for war and the metalloid’s [Lorgons'] ability to manipulate energy through their bodies can they defeat the alien onslaught. The personal and political struggles of the characters lead to a final confrontation with the xenophobes and their invader allies along with the personal struggles of a new race of human-metal hybrids. [Too many personal struggles in that sentence; cut it off after "allies" and it'll make sense.]

I am a retired chemical engineer with technical article publishing credits and as yet unpublished in fiction. [I don't care about any of that; do you have any metal body parts?]

Thank you for your consideration.


There was a comic book called Metal Men. The title characters were named Tin, Lead, Iron, Gold, Mercury and Platinum. Platinum was actually a metal woman (she went by "Tina"). Here's a scene in which they're battling other metal men. These metal men weren't from Epsilon Orionis, so don't worry.

I wonder why people never refer to themselves as "Earthlings." We should take pride in our planet. In fact, I've changed my Blogger profile to show my planetary roots. They didn't have a place for "planet," so I put it under "occupation." I encourage all minions to do the same.

I'd drop the phrase "regardless of the consequences" at the end of paragraph 2, as I didn't ever find out the consequences.

Wouldn't a xenophobic cabal of humans be happier isolating themselves on a deserted island than opening a gateway to another dimension? Just asking.

You might want to leave the hybrids out of the query. Basically, the xenophobes want to open the gateway, and the humans, led by a team of Marines, team up with the metalloids to stop them. The humans and metalloids are happy to save the galaxy--as long as it doesn't interfere with their own agendas.

Also, the name Buck Owen is a distraction, Buck Owens having been one of the best-known country singers ever, with such lyrics as:

Well, I ain't got nothing but the shirt on my back
And an old two button suit.
I walked outta my job about a week ago,
And now I'm sleeping in a telephone booth.
But I'm a gonna be the richest guy around
The day you say you're mine.
I got the hungries for your love,
And I'm waiting in your welfare line.


GutterBall said...

...their enemies can now easily capture them using gigantic magnets.

Why does no one ever think of this?? I always wondered while watching the Terminator movies why Sarah Connor didn't just run to a hospital and fire up an MRI scanner or something!

Anonymous said...

The query letter contains too much world-building and not enough plot - or rather, the plot is there, but it's so vaguely described that I can't figure out what it is. Specifics, please!

Here's some vague phrases:

Earth initiates a secret operation to obtain the technology.
-> Tell us what do they actually do.

Eager to succeed...
-> Tell us what the personal motivations actually are. circumstances and unexpected changes...
-> Specifics, please.

Each race hides their true agendas...
-> No need to hide those agendas from the person reading the query letter, right?

Only by combining the human aptitude for war and the metalloid’s ability to manipulate energy through their bodies can they defeat the alien onslaught.
-> Tell us how. Specifically.

The personal and political struggles of the characters lead to a final confrontation with the xenophobes and their invader allies along with the personal struggles of a new race of human-metal hybrids.
-> Tell us what happens. You're hinting at all kinds of juicy stuff here, but you're not telling us what it is.

It sounds like you're too close to your book. You're trying to tell the reader everything and winding up telling them nothing. Focus on one character, and outline his goals, motivations and obstacles.

Be specific and don't worry about all the wonderful stuff you haven't got space to describe in the query letter. That's what the novel is for. The trick is to make the reader care about the one character enough that they will want to read the whole book to see what happens to him.

Anonymous said...

I'm waiting in your welfare line, too, EE. You are my hero.

I caught some of the energy you had in the third paragraph. It just seemed to me you were like a little boy having fun--and I liked it.

Don't read enough of this genre to offer any other comments.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Curses! I wanted it to be #6, but I guessed it would be #3. Well, maybe I'll liberate #6 and use it myself.

The query was rather confusing - too many groups doing too many different things to each other. With a bit of streamlining, it might make more sense.

shaded-lily said...

To me, the name "Spanner Templeton" was a distraction. I'd rather you call him "Monkey Wrench Templeton." Then I went looking for a picture of a spanner and found something even worse than a wrench: (not for the faint of heart!).

E.S. Tesla said...

I actually thought this sounded kinda cool. It has a kinda old school feeling to it, like the first battlestar galactica and space age comics from the 60s.

Sure, it's a bit much to prosess right away, but I'd want to read pages after reading the hook.

Anonymous said...

Add four more metalmen -- Hank William, Garth Brook, Bronk Itis and Pace Maker -- and you've got yourself a bestseller.

Does Buck Owen have a red, white and blue phaser gun? Hee Haw!

Anonymous said...

Does Spanner Templeton ever meet up with Bronk Itis?

Anonymous said...

I'd add an angry wolfman. You could call him Temper Spannleton.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Data.

I think you have a good idea for a story, it's just a matter of pulling it off right. Good luck. -V95

Blogless Troll said...

First of all, theo katz, that was completely unnecessary. Just because you stumbled across that didn't mean you had to scar the rest of us as well. The word spanner now causes me to flinch involuntarily. And possibly Templeton too, by association.

Author, this sounds cool, but I agree with above comments about the query. Too much info, yet not enough.

One nitpicky thing: "faction of xenophobes rises to political power just as mankind is finding new, alien races living among the stars." Maybe change this to after mankind finds new, alien races... I know xenophobes aren't known for their calm demeanor, but even so it sounds like they're jumping the gun a bit. Or else you’re gonna need a charismatic xenophobe leader who was molested by aliens as a child, or something other than generic xenophobes.

Anonymous said...

Or else you’re gonna need a charismatic xenophobe leader who was molested by aliens as a child, or something other than generic xenophobes.

Why? In political terms, a xenophobe could be rebranded an "isolationist" or some other term. There are those in the USA who are strongly opposed to any immigration at all, yet i doubt most of them were abused by Mexicans or Pakistanis as children.

A wonderful thing about people: They do not need a rational reason to fear the unknown.

Dave Fragments said...

The author has a few answers to EE’s questions.
Yes, no, no, yes, yes, and maybe. Thanks for the comments

But seriously, folks! I appreciate the comments, even the humorous ones. One of my guiding principles is that there is insufficient humor in the world.

For EE:

a) I resent being mentioned in the same sentence as Bender. ;)

b) “Earthlings. Even in the far future they can't stand for anyone to have anything they don't have.” absolutely, positively! This ain’t the universe of Jean Luc Petard. This is a universe of backstabbing, power-hungry egomaniacs eager to dominate and control anyone they can.

c) The Buckaroos: That a great idea. Imagine a quartet of drunken, steroidially enhanced little boys yelling hoohah and behaving like a “Jackass” video. Buckaroos is a good name.

d) Race of Marines: when I get done, they are a new race.

e) “Cabal of humans, faction of xenophobes, cohort of Marines . . . is there a nice, normal "group of people" in this book?” NO. Humanity as a great capacity to hate and I can’t see those utopian, smiling futures of goodness. I firmly believe in the inherent non-normalcy and unexpectedness of mankind. (I actually said those ugly words? Yuck Me!)
Everybody has an agenda. Everyone has a hidden motivation. They still have spies and moles in the best, cold war sense of those terms.

f) “Do you have any metal body parts?” strangely, yes I do – titanium and stainless steel.

g) I remember reading the Metal Men comic book but that was years ago when I was a kid. I completely forgot about it until you mentioned it.

h) “Wouldn't a xenophobic cabal of humans be happier isolating themselves on a deserted island than opening a gateway to another dimension? Just asking.”
well, consider the convoluted logic of the xenophobe. They can’t stop the exploration of the galaxy. However, if they let the interdimensional aliens take over, enslave the galaxy and block any exploration with enforced slavery, they’ve achieved the same result. It sounds like a contradiction in terms but the end result is the same – humanity is isolated from the other races in the galaxy. (A true smart-ass would say that they are Existentialists, but not me).
Perhaps xenophobic is a bad word when I mean racial mixing. It’s the old racial purity, purity of essence (hint: movie reference), stuff that we see in the news all the time. Earthlings and Aliens having sex and producing mixed offspring as anathema. Look at the convoluted logic of Hitler, Mao Tse Tung, Osama Bin Laden, and a few others. Hatred is illogical. Hatred of “them” doubly so.

i) To tell the truth, Buck Owen doesn’t appear in the novel. When I was revising the query to send it to you, I accidentally wrote Buck Owen instead of his real name – Cody Buck. Which is, I guess, just as bad. I really, really do like the Buckaroos comment and since two of the marines get into diplomatic and physical peril because of their practical jokes with firecrackers, I might call them the Buckaroo Brothers. I can’t call them Zambelli.

Thanks very much. I appreciate your comments.

Dave Fragments said...

Whitemouse –
You’re right, I am too close to this to properly prepare the query letter.
And as for the climax, I haven’t written it yet, which is why I’m probably too close to the story. It’s like being in the midst of the trees and they are just saplings.

Xiqay –
That tone is something I have on a spontaneous basis and over time, I learned to channel it. IT turned itself on for that paragraph. It’s hard work but it is effective. Good comment.

Theo K –
I may change “Buck” and Lorgons and all that, but the name Spanner Templeton stays. He is the “tool” of a politician and he is responsible for much of the “construction” in the story. (GROAN). He is the one who has to cease being a flesh and blood human to learn the secrets of being metal. And, he does it in blind faith to his patron. He is a true believer with no regrets in what he does.

Gutterball and EE –
Now really, would creatures made from metal evolve into intelligent beings by being stuck together in magnetic fields? I mean, some of us like the taste of bananas but that doesn’t mean we still swing from trees.

Blogless Troll –
Yes, there is more to the xenophobes than just cardboard bad guys. I have in mind a picnic scene comparable to that very idyllic scene in the movie CABARET where the young blond tenor sings about the sun on the meadow… And as the camera pulls back, we see the armband and uniform. We come to realize that this is a political meeting and we don’t much like their politics.
And in another section of the novel, a major character has a big hissie fit and tantrum about the new metal marines and the purity of the human race. Think Major Kong and General Jack D. Ripper.

Thank you. Fear is irrational.
And remember, Boston hearts Mooninites – NOT!

batgirl said...

Author, minor point - you might want to rephrase 'each they race". I'd suggest referring to them as groups or teams, since they're only a small number of representatives of their kind / species / nation / planet.
EE, you were a Metal Men fan? Me too!
word ver: dcfaa - DC Comics?

E.S. Tesla said...

aodny: no, regular people don't need a reason, but in fiction, everything's gotta make sense. Just ask Jack Bickham ;)

Anonymous said...

And, of course, there are the evil cybermen from "Dr. Who", which are sort of a cross between the hybrid marines and the metalloids. As are, come to think of it, the Borgs from the Star Trek universe, of which some are trying to deal with the metal/man conflict, too. Just be sure you're giving us something different here.

P.S.: Sounds like the xenophobes were onto something after all... Maybe don't set them up so negatively in the beginning (although I would NEVER vote the xenophobe ticket myself).

Blogless Troll said...

aodny, you're correct, but my point was the query makes it sound like Earthlings were just discovering aliens, not living across the border from them. I have no doubt the people of Earth could be whipped into an irrational xenophobic frenzy, but I don't think it would be the default response to discovering other life forms for the first time, unless there was some reason, real or otherwise. Maybe the xenophobes claim the aliens have WMD, I dunno. My beef was the xenophobes' faceless, unexplained rise to power. Alien molestation's optional.

Dave Fragments said...

Thanks, I did miss that. I get tied up in language sometimes.

Xenophobes - To all of yuns out there:
I have to think about why you're so zenophobic. This discussion is worth some heavy thinking on my part.

none said...

I think EE would have mentioned the Cybermen if he didn't happen to be a closet xenophobe. Possibly even the Leader of the Closet Xenophobes.

'Fess up, EE!

magz said...

Muwahahaha, somehow Dave.. I just KNEW this was yours!
I'm betting you write tight cohesive detailed and technically correct Sci-Fi I'd enjoy reading. (I also picked it unerringly from the GtP choices as axiomatic hehe)

Work on the query a bit more. Or just skip the querying part and dazzle with your real style,
You're a Writer, Sir: Write!
I remain, your fan, Maggie aka Magz

Bernita said...

Dave, now you know why it's called "a murder of crows"!
Not sure if "cabal, cohort, and faction" could be considered "fancy," but reduction of one of them to "group" might be better.
You're close to a smooth query, I think.

Dave Fragments said...

thanks, Bernita.

Brenda said...

Go Dave! More guts than me, big guy. I think you're very close!

Twill said...

I agree #6 sounds cool.

Anonymous said...

It takes a special kind of person to make the blanket statement "Hate is irrational."

You hate something when it has two characteristics - (1) destructiveness to something you care about, and (2) more power than you.

It is a focusing of energy to solve the problem inherent in those two factors. It may be non-logical, but that doesn't make it irrational.