Thursday, September 18, 2008

Face-Lift 567

Guess the Plot

Planet Fall

1. Trying to find a place where she fits in, Autumn leaves Planet Sun and ends up on Planet Fall. She loves the remarkable beauty of leaves forever in oranges and reds, and is at peace. But when the frosts come unanounced and unwelcome, she must confront the witches of winter if she is going to protect her perfect world.

2. Emma is enjoying her time on the planet Jellybean, because it gets her away from men. Men. They're such bastards. Then she learns that the Jellies plan to castrate every man on Earth. Emma thinks that wouldn't be so bad. Should she warn Earth that sex is in danger of becoming a distant memory?

3. Goldie tries Planet Winter but it's too cold. She tries Planet Summer but it's too hot. Planet Spring reminds her too much of California because it attracts the preternaturally young and beautifully superficial from throughout the Cosmos. But Goldie strikes, well, gold on Planet Fall. Also strange EZF’s (Evil Zombie Females).

4. When his interstellar space car breaks down, Thor Jones drinks tea with mystic wise guy Obi Chobi Gobi, until an army of giant ants swarms over the horizon and carries Screaming Mimi away. Can Thor and his new sidekick, the barking space rat Whiskers, follow the trail of frayed bikini scraps and find the anthill in time to save her from certain doom at the mandibles of these diabolical insects?

5. Jillian is hoping her new boutique, Planet Fall, will be a showcase for her classic designs. Honore is a gay jewelry designer whose elegant creations have become a hallmark for Jillian. Ned is their bisexual lover--and landlord. Can they all find happiness?

6. High above an Earth ravaged by pollution and disease, refugees of the human race live in clusters of space stations. Julia Sky has lived all her life looking down at the once blue planet. But while playing hooky from her astronomy class, she tumbles to a secret that may allow this tiny community to survive the trip back down the gravity well to the planet's surface. Also, a robot dog.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

All Emma wants is to be alone and far from men but when she finds out that aliens plan to castrate every man on Earth [Bells and whistles and red flags fill the air as Evil Editor starts to consider whether this might be a hoax query letter.] she has to choose between preserving her precious solitude and saving mankind. [Is this really that tough a decision? Ice cream or cake is a tough decision. Save mankind or don't seems pretty easy.] My science-fiction novel Planet Fall is 75,000 words long.

Emma is on Jellybean [We've just shot up from fifty percent possibility it's a hoax to ninety percent.] studying the colour/gesture language of the friendly natives and enjoying the distance between her and the rest of the human race, especially the male part of it. That is, until David is sent to assist her. [When you send someone to Jellybean, how long is it before he actually gets there?] Through him the Jellies find out about the Earth's war-torn history [Blabbermouth.] and they decide to help out. Their solution is to engineer a virus that will interfere with the production of testosterone in humans; then they will release it into Earth's atmosphere. [What? What about the Prime Directive? True, we never obey it, but that's because our bodies are coursing with testosterone.]

David is horrified. If the virus is released then sex will cease; the human drive to explore will vanish; [the porn industry will be in ruins, destroying the world economy;] and human societies based on the subjugation of women will be turned upside down. [Horrors.] Emma thinks that's not all bad until she discovers that the Jellies have already infected her and David without their knowledge. [Apparently it took them twenty minutes to engineer the virus.] Now it's not just men that she doesn't trust. [It's also Jelly.] Communications with Earth have gone down so it is up to her and David to find a way to stop the Jellies from releasing the plague onto the Earth.

The problem is that if they succeed then the Jellies will send them back home. And they are infected. [A minor problem compared to if they fail.]

Please let me know if you would like to see [whatever I'm not enclosing, depending on the publisher's guidelines]. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours sincerely,


I was hoping it was a hoax so I wouldn't have to do any work, but no such luck.

"Jellybean" sounds like a planet in a book for people who wouldn't normally be reading about castration, because they're six years old. Once we've learned to communicate with the Jellies, wouldn't we ask them what they call their planet?

What do Jellies look like? The blob?

So, Emma thinks it might not be so bad to infect the entire Earth without telling anyone, but when they infect her without telling her, she's ready to go to war. Or she would be, if she had any testosterone in her.

Being infected doesn't destroy her drive to save humanity by thwarting the Jellies' plan?

I note that you withhold the reason Emma is down on men. We might be more sympathetic if we knew what happened.

The communication/transportation between Jellybean and Earth suggests they aren't far apart. Just where is Jellybean?


Anonymous said...

What? WHAT???

Anonymous said...

So, Emma thinks it might not be so bad to infect the entire Earth without telling anyone, but when they infect her without telling her, she's ready to go to war.

I just read a Salon piece on the hacking of Sarah Palin's Yahoo! account, which noted that the current administration considers it entirely legitimate to tap phone calls, demand lists of the books checked out of the library, pore over credit card statements, and put all of this information into databases, but feel righteously indignant over the violation of Palin's privacy. {Disclaimer: hacking is bad and wrong.}

Clearly Emma is an adviser to the Bush administration. This also explains her distrust of men.

Anonymous said...

You're sure it's not a hoax? How sure?

Evil Editor said...

A sure as I am that my name is Evil Editor.

Dave Fragments said...

But we both know your name is Matilda Burkhardt.

But seriously,
IF this is a comedy or satire, then the tone that seems to come across in your query is OK. However, if this is a mystery or action type SciFi story, then the humorous tone is out of place.

For a race of aliens to have space travel and advanced science and not understand reproduction and the role of hormones such as testosterone, baffles me. Now that being said, let me assume the best. You've really not written a flattering query letter because this is a first attempt. (As a scientist I learned that to imagine the worst case scenario is usually the wrong approach to any subject.)

Please. This doesn't work.

EB said...

All Paul wants is to be left alone and far from women, but when he finds out that aliens plan to eliminate all the estrogen on earth, he has to choose between preserving his precious solitude and saving mankind.

Paul is an intergalactic plumber on a repair call to planet PorkRind, and while there he finds himself enjoying the native’s version of football, their free wide screen televisions that stretch across city blocks, and, most of all, the fact that nobody’s nagging him to put the toilet seat down. He’s blissful until he has to call the home office for a U-joint…and the part arrives with Betsy, an apprentice plumber. From her the PorkRindians learn of Earth’s “war of the sexes.” Their solution is to engineer a virus that will interfere with the production of estrogen in humans.

Betsy is horrified. If the virus is released, shoe sales will plummet, hugs will only take place after teams win championships, and Earth may very well drown in a pissing contest. Paul doesn’t think that’s all bad until he learns that he and Betsy have already been infected -- her 5 o’clock shadow is thicker than his. Paul ponders his options. But then he remembers the copy of Maxim stuffed in the glove box of his space-van, scratches himself, and goes off to see what’s on TV.

Pages available upon request. (Please forgive the smears of pepperoni grease and motor oil.)

Sarah Laurenson said...


ril's got the sequel ready!

Can I just say that not all sex will stop? Consider the lesbians.

The tone here is a bit hard to pin down. If this is meant to be wacky and over the top, try not to inject notes of seriousness here and there. If it's not, start over.

talpianna said...

Benwah, if I hadn't already propositioned Bill H., I'd be sending you a copy of the application to become a suitor of La Belle Taupe sans Merci.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Oops. My mistake. It's benwah who has the sequel.

EB said...

Sarah - Sad to say, if there were no testosterone, all sex would likely cease. It's an important component of libido for both men and women.

Tal - If Bill H spurns your advances, let me know. I'll put some 3-in-1 oil in the joints of my suit of armor.

writtenwyrdd said...

This feels like a poorly constructed story based on the letter. We have no idea why the girl is down on men. We do not know why jelly aliens with obviously superior scientific ability use a simplistic approach that will create a genocidal result upon another species based on one member of that species' information. We have no idea why the jellies would care about mankind's issues and feel the need to fix them.

The bits you tell us are not enough for me to be able to really follow what's going on, where the story is headed. My inference is that the story is more character driven in that the girl makes choices and those affect the outcome. So I'd expect her to grow in some fashion and to have a sense of how that would occur in reading the query. (For all I know you could be spoofing some of that We Don't Need Men To Breed feminist sf from the 60s and 70s. That stuff littered the landscape and a spoof of it might be a hoot.)

I do not mean to sound 100% negative but I really can't praise anything shown here--yet. Do post a revision, though.

Sarah Laurenson said...

You need libido to have sex? Must be a guy thing.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Procreation these days does not depend on sex. IVF is too entrenched to say that lack of sex will lead to genocide.

talpianna said...

One must never, however, underestimate the menace of jellied aliens:

If you find the dialogue too incomprehensible, let me know and I'll post links to the transcripts.

Julie Weathers said...

Clearly Emma is an adviser to the Bush administration. This also explains her distrust of men.

And one of my last refuges from the political bull crap has fallen also.

Seriously, if I want to listen to the rhetoric, I will go to a political blog. I try to escape from it in my writing blogs.

fairyhedgehog said...

So, apart from the plot, motivation, characters, setting, writing, tone, and level of detail it's all right then? Oh, no, ww found nothing to praise. Not even "thank you for your time"? Damn. Maybe I'd be better writing GTP #4.

No, this isn't a spoof but luckily it is a WIP so I can address the problems within the story not just in the query. (I checked with EE that this would be OK before I went off on my holidays.)

In case anyone is interested: the planet is named Jellybean by Earthers because the aliens have no spoken language and their colour/gesture is untranslatable. I can sort that one out, maybe call it Aldus 1 or something.

Emma distrusts men because of the way she was treated when her only child died.

The aliens: a four foot blob of translucent jelly, resting on three thick limbs. "Her eyes were on stalks and all five were in constant movement. She held a book in two tentacles and the other five were empty. Her body was topped by a fringe surrounding a mouth-like hole." Aliens have a reproductive system that is different from any Earth life forms that I know of.

I won't be posting a revision any time soon as I need to go away and think about plot holes and what tone I intend the actual story to have. Maybe a full-blown spoof will be the answer. Or maybe this is another one to add to the growing pile under the bed.

Sorry it wasn't a hoax, EE. Your comments were hilarious as usual.

fairyhedgehog said...

I've just realised that I didn't say "thank you" to everyone who commented on this, from anon's "What? WHAT???" to ww's thoughtful explanation of some of the main problems. I am grateful for all the comments. They help me to get a sense of how this looks to someone who isn't me.

Thank you.

none said...

The "aliens make major decisions based on encounter with a single human" device was common in Golden Age SF, and often used to humorous effect.

The feminist SF referred to predicted correctly that procreation without men would be available in the future. Where perhaps they went wrong was in believing it would be more popular than it has been so far.

writtenwyrdd said...

Regarding the genocide issue, I stand by the term because of human nature. Yes, we can reproduce without sex. But obviously it is expensive--both in resources and in cash. This would probably create extreme difficulties and social upheaval as the haves get kids and the have nots would not. I picture Africa and other third world countries that we commonly ignore remaining ignored until they rise up and attack or something.

Then there's the physiological aspects of a sudden inability to produce a vital hormone. I am sure (although I'm not a doctor and I haven't researched the issue either) that testosterone is tied in with other functions. The interdependencies of the various systems in the body of a complex organism are well known; so the absence of something like testosterone would no doubt affect the body as a whole in other ways besides sexual.

Then there is the fact that testosterone is not just in humans! What about the animals who we will not be artificially breeding? They *will* die off, I should think.

We currently have a number of studies showing how the pollution from various plastics are mimicking estrogen with the result that some species are affected. You can extrapolate from that the side-effect of the testosterone erasure and see it's a very complicated issue.

As far as the story goes, FHH, I now understand why the letter read as impenetrable. I should have said that there could be a story there (and 'thank you for your time', lol)but it's not apparent in the letter. There's plenty of precedent for the goofy name of Jellybean given how people often name their towns and such. I think you can even keep Jellybean if you want. It does imply comedy, however.

Best of luck with the project!

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I'd definitely scrap the "Jellybean" name. Give it a name that its discoverers, professional astronomers, would be more likely to use: an ancient deity or a Greek letter/number combination. If you really want a shorthand for that, think of a better nickname like "Blobville" or "Planet Octopus." When I need slang like that, I always ask myself, "What would the Internets call it?"

EB said...

ww, your use of "genocide" may not be far off. if there were no testosterone, the human race would be radically altered and possibly die out. IVF, cloning, even injecting an egg with DNA might start a zygote on its way toward development, but without ANY testosterone, the result would likely not be viable. Testosterone plays a role in both men and women. Therefore, author, you may want to either a) point this more towards spoof or b) make sure you've somewhat refined the way this virus works.

Sarah Laurenson said...

There are examples in SF where the name given the aliens shows a distinct lack of respect.

Perhaps pointing that out in the query will change the tone.

WW is really on to something about the far reaching effects to the earth. Losing animal populations will change the ecosystem and the potential for war over who gets to procreate is huge.

Check out Alph for a time when parthenogenesis is used as all men have died off and the effects of having a frozen man found and brought back to life.

Dave Fragments said...

Then there's the physiological aspects of a sudden inability to produce a vital hormone. I am sure that testosterone is tied in with other functions.

I have a cousin who has prostate cancer and to stop the advance of the cancer, he takes a testosterone suppressor and maybe estrogen. He functions quite well but he has no sex drive. It's not that he's not producing sperm. That still occurs. However the aggressiveness of testosterone is not there - anger is gone, so is strong emotional responses.

That doesn't come across in the query, but the effect of the alien virus would be the end of war and violence. Or most of it. It would not be the end of procreation. It might end sexual intercourse.

Julie Weathers said...

"and human societies based on the subjugation of women will be turned upside down."

I'm sorry, author, but this is so stereotypical I want to throw it against a wall.

I'm still not sure this isn't a hoax query.

Seriously, have you ever looked at astronomy? Are there any food names of planets or stars? Let alone silly food like jellybeans?

Sorry, usually I will try to help out since I received so much help here, but this is just beyond me.

Of course, I am not a feminist so that might skew my perception.

writtenwyrdd said...

From a web search:
Testosterone deficiency in men leads to symptoms that can often be treated when tested and diagnosed by their doctors. Typical symptoms of Low T include:

- Increased irritability or depression
- Fatigue
- Inability to concentrate
- Reduced muscle mass and strength
- Low sex drive and erectile dysfunction
- Decreased bone density and osteoporosis
- Increased body fat

Okay, so perhaps no T won't kill you; but it does have repercussions.

none said...

Yeah, I thought the whole inverse society thing was so ridiculous that I blanked it out.

However, julie, as you don't have mr julie speaking for you, you are a feminist, of sorts!

Anonymous said...

I think what is missing is WHY Emma hates men so much. I mean if she were a refugee who had survived a rape camp, for example, then it might be a harder choice (you know, like cake or ice cream)to decide whether her own solitude is worth more than saving men from castration. But THAT would be a much more serious book than this appears to be right now. The average feminist just wants equality, not to rid the world of men. Assuming we are to treat that impulse in Emma as legit, I would assume there is something so horrible that it would make sense to paint ALL men with that brush. If she just got dumped, it all gets a little nutty.

If this is a spoof, nevermind.

writtenwyrdd said...

I can see the angle of the aliens coming to the conclusion that men need help to be less violent or something, to 'make them more like women' or whatnot. Then Emma sees how flawed this is when it occurs to the guy who's actually with her. Now this thing that seems a good idea is a totally bad one (especially if she's starting to look at David with a gleam in her eye and he's chemically castrated!) If that's the crux of the story, it could work as comedy while she tries to convince the aliens not to go through with the plot to 'help' humanity.

Octavia Butler actually used something similar in her Lilith series, where aliens determine that people are going to blow themselves up because they are both hierarchical and intelligent. But where Lilith doesn't convince her aliens to leave humanity alone entirely, it is part of the storyline.

Julie Weathers said...

"However, julie, as you don't have mr julie speaking for you, you are a feminist, of sorts!"

You take that back, right now!

none said...

See, assertiveness! More feminism!

Julie Weathers said...

No, there is a difference between being competent and a feminist.

On the ranch, my stepdad informed us our summer project was to build five miles of new fence. These were not rolling prairies, this ranch is is the middle of the North Dakota badlands.

I told him I couldn't dig post holes, I was a girl.

He handed me the post hole diggers. "You've been liberated. You're digging post holes."

Bah! Women's liberation my Aunt Fanny.

none said...

In a society that (still) only equates competence with masculinity, defying those expectations by being competent is feminist. I don't understand why you find it so objectionable!

fairyhedgehog said...

I wish I knew where I first saw this: A feminist is someone who believes women are human beings. It's attributed to Margaret Attwood here: (first quote under the subhead "Defining Feminism").

Julie Weathers said...

I think most feminists are radicals. The ones I have had the displeasure to deal with were obnoxious, foul-mouthed, over-bearing witches who thought being equal means you have to be as crude as some jerk man who needs his teeth knocked down his throat. I don't need a sign-toting, mouth to tell me about equality or explaining to me staying home to raise children makes me inferior.

I fought my own battles before the bra-burners decided I needed an advocate.

I enjoy a man holding a door open for me and treating my like a lady. It doesn't mean he is being condescending, it means he's being polite. My boys have told me many times about women getting offended if they opened doors for them or did something else they were raised to do.

Sorry, I don't think this is progress and I don't need or want Gloria speaking for me.

enya. said...

And you called out the author for being stereotypical? Go find a dictionary and read up on the word "hypocrite." I'd say more but I want EE to post this comment.