Saturday, January 15, 2022

Face-Lift 1421

Guess the Plot

The Township

1. When Earth's atmosphere becomes toxic, only one settlement remains: the Township. Can the last humans work together to avoid extinction, or will they split into warring factions leading to civil war? They're humans, so that question was rhetorical.

2. When a Venus-sized ice meteor combines with global warming to raise the sea levels higher than they've ever been in history, Mac "Noah" Knicker and his neighbors decide to build a boat under their entire town. It's home flipping at it's finest ... and worst.

3Susan has been living on the Sweet Delilah all her life. The township was sailing the seas even before her grandmother was born. But now there is a new smell in the air, mixed in with the sea salt breeze: Blood.

4. When the good folks of Midsomeplace Kansas sail free into the climate changed canals of New USA, nothing can prepare them for redneck cries of WHERE'S MY FRICKIN' PANTS? and THIS THURSDAY YET? resounding from the underhollow of their discomfort. This too-close-to-the-knuckle apocalyptic abomination of a book may slay every family pet you hold dear. EVEN BEFORE THEY READ IT!

5. How three women living in a township outside Johannesburg sparked a movement to end apartheid. And how two decades later their dreams were finally realized . . . with all the credit going to men. 

6. On its surface, Barton Township is Small Town, America. Mayberry, incarnate. Until you look under the covers, behind closed doors at the seedy underbelly of this seemingly idyllic community. This book blows the lid off the shrouded secret lives of the sleazy residents of one squalid township.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

The Township is the last surviving human settlement, and it is falling to pieces. The airtight structures are crumbling, the machinery used for repairs is wearing out, and the economy is dependent on technology that it cannot reproduce. [Barcode scanners. I don't see how this place even has an economy if the barcode scanners aren't working.] Worst of all, the population is divided into two radicalized factions [The faction that still has working barcode scanners, and the faction that doesn't.] on the brink of civil war. [Civil war? Everyone still alive lives in this one township, and because there's no other settlement to go to war with, they're going to war with each other? Why am I surprised? They're humans.]

As a young engineering technician, Jacob Watz volunteers to work outside in an inhospitably hot atmosphere filled with toxic hydrogen sulfide. [Doing what? I hope this isn't your main character, because he's kind of a moron.] After a run of terrible luck, he [I'm not sure I'd blame his heat stroke and chemical pneumonia on bad luck.] is blamed for a welding accident and forced to choose between a decade of forced labor or join[ing] a nearly suicidal expedition into the surrounding ruins to scavenge fabrication equipment. [That's a pretty stiff punishment for a welding accident. What did he accidentally weld?] The expedition is undermanned and under-resourced, but Jacob becomes [is] determined to return alive with enough equipment to give the engineers a fighting chance to save the decaying Township. [Basically, he's hoping to find one of those 3D printers which they can use to make a barcode scanner.]

Sandra Evans, Chair of the Council and the highest-ranking authority in the Township, tries desperately to keep the peace. She conceives of the expedition as a way to unite the population behind their shared cause of survival, but the project sparks the very civil war that she had been trying to avoid. [Obviously the first faction to find a 3D printer used it to fabricate assault rifles instead of barcode scanners. Humans are so predictable.] With the violence spiraling out of control, she attempts to assert what authority she has left to prevent the final extinction of humanity. [Do both factions consider her an authority figure?]

The Township is my 105,000 word climate fiction novel. [Is climate fiction a genre now? "Dystopian" might be a better descriptor.] The setting is based on the Permian Extinction, which was the largest of Earth’s 5 mass extinctions and is believed to be the result of rapid global warming. [
The Permian global warming, I believe, was caused by volcanoes. Yours, I assume, was caused by humans, who, typically, are now blaming it on the climate, hence "climate fiction."]  My readers have compared it to [Fans of] Wool by Hugh Howey and Colony Mars by Gerald Kilby [will enjoy this book].

Thank you for [taking] the time to consider my novel. The first X pages are below. I hope you enjoy them.


How does the last settlement on the planet have an economy dependent on technology? I'd expect the economy to consist of people trading the zucchini they grew for repairs to their thatched roofs. Do they have an electrical grid, delivery trucks, cell phones, remote controls for their televisions?

Is the main plot of this book the mission to find 3D printers, or the civil war involving the last of humanity? If it's the latter, I'd drop the paragraph about Jacob. His mission seems like small potatoes in the big picture. If the book is mostly about this one mission, I'd rather hear about the plan, the obstacles, what goes wrong, and what's at stake than about Sandra. In other words, I would focus the query on one main character, even if the book has two.



evil_iggy said...

Thanks a lot for the comments. I appreciate having someone with experience look over my query letter - it's probably been more difficult to write than any part of the novel!
An issue that you point out is that there appear to be two plots in the letter and ask which is the subject of the story. I find this a bit hard to pitch - but the answer is both. More generally the story is about the unraveling of the Township, the reasons behind it, and the efforts of a few characters to stave off disaster. I could try to just include one of the paragraphs, but it would feel like not a very accurate reflection of the novel. There are two other perspective characters in it as well that I did not mention. Any advice on how to pitch that?
Also, climate fiction is a thing (google it.) You might call it a sub-genere of science fiction, and like any good SF, it's the product of thinking about the present. I think it serves the same purpose as the books set in the aftermath of nuclear war written about 40-50 years ago such as A Canticle for Leibowitz.
You are correct that the Permian Extinction was caused by volcanos, or at least triggered by them, and the scenario in the novel was triggered by humans. However, in both cases the worst part of the problem is caused by methane clathrates (google the clathrate gun hypothesis - but you might lose some sleep) and sulfate reducing bacteria became the dominant life form on earth. At risk of being info-dumpy, I think I'll add a sentence about that to the query letter.

evil_iggy said...

Ah, and answers to your questions in case you are interested.
Economy? Its more of a command economy than a market economy. Imagine Russia in 1942. Also, it's not possible to breathe the air outside and plant life is nearly extinct except for the sealed greenhouses, so thatched roofs and zucchini farming are out.
Do they have an electrical grid? Yes, and it needs to be online at all times to keep the air inside cool and non-toxic.
Televisions? No, but computers, yes.
Trucks? Yes, but they do not deliver Amazon packages.
Cell phones? No, but shortwave radio, yes.
The welding accident leads to a structure being breached which lets in the outside air and renders the structure uninhabitable. That's an important detail and I'll add it.

There is an ideological group in the story called 'misanthropes' - I think you get along well with them.

Anonymous said...

Hi query writer. Does the story take place on earth? You might want to mention that up front since the setting described is fairly common for lost colony/alternate planet stories, so that was my first assumption.

If the plot deals with the climate itself in some way you might want to specify how in the query. Otherwise, you might want to consider labeling this as post-apocalyptic (or dystopian) since that's more what the plot you do have sounds like.

evil_iggy said...

Thanks - it is on earth and the setting represents a worst case scenario for climate change (caused by us). I'll try to make that clearer.