Thursday, March 24, 2011

Face-Lift 882

Guess the Plot


1. The hot new hybrid car model, the Priorus, features plug-in and solar capabilities... and a thirst for its owner's blood.

2. Akyla is a natural mage, the first born in her family. As such she must enter the Priori, where mages learn to control their power. But Akyla soon realizes that the mages aren't being taught--they're being enslaved.

3. Thomas Smallbutt, the prior of Fancy-Shmancy cathedral, suffers from an overabundance of faith. A failure of imagination leads him to believe that sin doesn’t exist. But then the order gets Internet and all hell breaks loose. Now, heaven help him.

4. Sentient machines called "priori" have been enslaved by a megacorporation, and are being driven insane. Mariah has way too much on her plate to worry about the treatment of machines . . . until she falls for one of them.

5. When a major university eliminates the Philosophy Department in a cost-cutting measure, it seems there's no one who'll voice an objection. After all, it was either that or the baseball team. Can the ghost of Saint Thomas Aquinas show the university president the error of his ways?

6. The supervillain known as Chronos has the ability to go back in time one hour, which is making him impossible to catch. Enter the superhero Priori, whose ability to go back in time two hours may allow him to get the upper hand--if he can figure out how to use his power without destroying the fabric of the universe.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

PRIORI is a science fiction novel complete at 90,000 words and available upon request.

Until June 2429, Mariah Saharil's biggest worry is how to make a living as an interstellar smuggler without carrying cargo that harms people. [She's a criminal with moral principles. Think Hannibal Lecter, except he eats only free-range people who've never taken antibiotics.] Then Mariah kills the daughter of the CEO of megacorporation Ardent Industries in an act of self defense. After that, the ethics of cargo transport are the last thing on her mind. [Analogy: Ethical Hannibal Lecter accidentally eats someone with mad cow disease; thereafter he willingly eats criminals and CEOs of megacorporations.]

Mariah and her crew narrowly escape arrest by hijacking a ship and hiding out on a mining station, [If she's an interstellar smuggler, doesn't she have a ship of her own?] but the Ardent Industries CEO won't be robbed of her revenge so easily. Soon a formidable assassin is on Mariah's trail. In a frantic search for information that Mariah can trade to another megacorporation for protection, she uncovers evidence of an abominable [snowman.] [Trust me, the word "abominable" may be used only to describe a snowman. Or Dr. Phibes. Besides, your book is certain to be better if Mariah uncovers evidence of an abominable snowman.] experiment: Ardent Industries is enslaving sentient machines called priori in order to locate paths to other solar systems. [You know a corporation has become a megacorporation when they decide they've become too big for just one solar system.] [The trouble with creating a computer so powerful it becomes sentient is that it can then refuse to compute anything, and if you try to force it, you get accused of byte slavery.] In the process, the priori are being driven insane. [The other problem with creating sentient machines is that you have to provide them with mental heath coverage.]

Mariah can use the evidence she's found to buy her life back or to free the exploited priori, one of whom she finds tragically charming.

But she has to decide fast, because she can't hide from Ardent Industries forever. The assassin will kill her first. ["First" meaning before forever.]

Thank you for your consideration.


Being an assassin is more difficult and more expensive when your target has access to interstellar transportation. Finding someone who has traveled to another solar system is like trying to find someone when all you know is that they're on planet Earth, only harder.

It's not obvious how evidence that priori are being exploited provides the option of buying her life back or freeing the priori, but not both. If she wants her life back, she gives the evidence to another megacorporation and they protect her? If she wants to free the priori she does what with the evidence? Turn it over to the authorities? Wouldn't that put Ardent out of business, giving Mariah her life back as well?


Joseph said...

I liked fake query number two. I'm thinking about stealing it. I'd change Priori to Priorus though.

That said, I actually kind of enjoy the real idea and would be intrigued. I can see it.

Aika said...

Good job on the stakes type of query! I like all the action and that Mariah's fate is in her own hands.

Constructive crit:

The first line is wordy - could give a bad impression. Why not move it to the end and shorten to more like "PRIORI is science fiction and 90,000 words"?

How does she know an assassin is on her trail? The query makes it sounds as if she spends the whole book hiding on a mining station. Is the evidence there too?

"In the process, the priori are being driven insane" Can you make that an active sentence? "And slavery drives the priori insane?"

none said...

Some agents want genre and word count at the beginning, and some at the end.

Seems to me there could be a good novel behind this query, but it's not coming across as strongly as it might. I think you need to get deeper into Mariah's character, her goal, and the obstacles she faces. Take us inside the story.

Ink and Pixel Club said...

I'd like to see a sentence or two more establishing who Mariah is and what her life is like before she's on the run, just enough to give more of an idea of what kind of person she is and what abilities beyond intergalactic smuggling knowhow she has at her disposal.

Consider giving more specifics on the priori's plight. Were they machines that existed before Ardent Industries came along and put them to work, or did Ardent Industries build them? Were they sentient to begin with or did they develop sentience on their own and come to realize that they were being exploited? And what does an insane priori do? It would be helpful to know if we're looking at a potential army of homicidal robots or just computer that tell us that two plus two equals 674,

batgirl said...

This may be irrelevant to the actual query, but I'm kind of curious how there's a law making it serious crime to drive machines insane, and who has the enforcement powers to invoke against a corporation powerful enough to invade other solar systems.
I'm wondering if our heroine will invoke justice herself or whistleblow - and if so, to whom?

Anonymous said...

Hi all, this query's mine. Thanks so much for all of your helpful suggestions! EE, can I use that robot for the cover art?

Here's some information that didn't make it into the query: There isn't one galactic governing organization. The other megacorporation can blackmail Ardent Industries or release the information to the public when they see fit, which will make people quit doing business with Ardent out of fear of the Derived Consciousness Nexus. The Nexus governs priori affairs, and they'd be very upset if they knew this was going on. Priori and humans are in a delicate power balance. It's not clear when Mariah is making her decision what consequence the Nexus will impose on Ardent Industries. The Nexus could kill everyone associated with the company in about a week. They probably won't, but nobody knows that for sure.

I figured that was too complicated to explain in the query. I'll see what I can squeeze in, though! Thanks again.