Thursday, April 28, 2011

Query Revision 80

Face-Lift 444: Absorption

Dear Evil Editor:

Brett Johnson healed a child mutilated by the hive mind Alexander, and held her as she cried. Then he joined a task force targeting the oldest hive mind, creator of all the others.

They cannot prove direct responsibility, and a bloody war will split the Federalist Worlds. The expedition must do everything possible to convince the hosts to surrender the technology on which the hive mind is based.

During negotiations, Brett meets a beautiful woman named Ariel Lilac who believes he would not fear the hive mind if he understood it. He disagrees, but desires her greatly. Brett doesn’t discuss his feelings since they may soon be on opposite sides of a war, but cannot resist spending time with her learning about the hive mind Oceania, named after the world on which it resides. He sees her on the verge of joining the hive mind herself. Resolved to distract her however he can, he seduces her.

Diplomacy is not working, but they find joy together in the face of impending calamity. Ariel shows Brett how the brain computer interface that powers the hive mind can also be used for other things, such as simulating body exchanges while making love.

Brett falls more deeply for Ariel, and comes to suspect his people have really misunderstood this technology. Yet he also fears passion has prejudiced him, and he may postpone action against a danger to humanity until too late.

Absorption is an eighty thousand word science fiction manuscript.

Comments

After I read this version, I took a peek back at the others. I was hoping they would provide a clue to the conflict that's missing from this query. They didn't. Overall, this feels like a story long on concept and short on plot and action. Very diplomatic and talking heads-ish. Is there something in the novel that elevates this out of theory besides the sex games?

Bluntly, here's my take-away as to what the story is as presented in this query:

Some medical doctor volunteers to negotiate with a group of people who have some sort of connection to a hive mind in order to convince said group of people to peacefully turn over some technology that could somehow prevent a war.

One of the group is a hottie who's about to wed herself to the hive mind. The doctor distracts her from doing so with sex. Only she shows him that sex inside the hive is way better.

Aha, the doctor thinks. Maybe my guys are wrong to fear this hive mind sex toy. Or is that just my dick talking? Wonder which of them I should trust. Oops. Guess I shouldn't have listened to my dick after all. Bye-bye human kind.

I don't think that's the story you've written, but there really isn't much else in this query for me to hang my hat on. Why have I concentrated on the love play aspect? Because that's the only concrete detail you've given us here. I don't know how or why the kid was mutilated. Was it a 1 in a billion accident? Was it deliberate? I have no idea who might be involved in the possible war. I don't know what the goal of the hive mind is or what Brett's people really want. If the girl was deliberately tortured and she was only the latest in dozens of cases, then maybe hive mind equals bad. And if Brett is swayed into thinking it's just a misunderstood monster after a little taste of gender swapping, then maybe he's not a very sympathetic character or someone we want debating our ethics questions.

I think part of the problem is that you've been working on this story awhile and you're way too close to it. You think there's enough detail here, but you don't have the objectivity to see what someone reading it cold isn't seeing.

Brett Johnson healed a child mutilated by the hive mind Alexander, and held her as she cried.

I had to re-read this a couple of times to understand the hive mind has a name and it is Alexander. I think the name is one of the details we don't need.

Then he joined a task force targeting the oldest hive mind, creator of all the others.

What is the task force's mission? "Targeting" is pretty vague. Do they just want to gather intelligence?

They cannot prove direct responsibility,

"They" grammatically refers back to the other hive minds not the task force.

and a bloody war will split the Federalist Worlds. The expedition must do everything possible to convince the hosts to surrender the technology on which the hive mind is based.

What expedition? To where? Who or what are the hosts? What will surrendering the technology accomplish? You understand this sentence, but I don't think most readers will on a first read. I can eventually deduce it's the task force in Oceania trying to convince the people joined to the hive mind to turn over some technology. But I'm still in the dark about what exactly the tech stuff does or how one goes about gathering up countless nanobots inhabiting countless bodies.

During negotiations, Brett meets a beautiful woman named Ariel Lilac who believes he would not fear the hive mind if he understood it.

Is describing Ariel as "beautiful" shorthand for telling the reader Brett is shallow?

He disagrees, but desires her greatly.

I'm seeing this a lot lately: "but" isn't the right conjunction here. His desire doesn't refute the fact that he disagrees with her assessment.

Brett doesn’t discuss his feelings since they may soon be on opposite sides of a war, but cannot resist spending time with her learning about the hive mind Oceania, named after the world on which it resides.

This is a pretty convoluted sentence that's packed with several thoughts that ultimately doesn't really say what I think you mean it to. As written, the ultimate goal of Brett spending time with Ariel is to learn about the hive mind, and Brett can't resist learning about it.

Also, if the hive mind we were first intro'd to was named Alexander, was it also named after a world? Consistency in world-building is important.

He sees her on the verge of joining the hive mind herself. Resolved to distract her however he can, he seduces her.

Diplomacy is not working, but they find joy together in the face of impending calamity.

Again, "but" isn't your friend here. Is Ariel such an airhead and Brett so hot that she forgets about the hive mind? Seems she could be a part of it and still make out with Brett. And is the diplomacy not working because Brett can't do two things at once? Is he neglecting his diplomatic duties in favor of the seduction and that's why talks are falling apart?

Ariel shows Brett how the brain computer interface that powers the hive mind can also be used for other things, such as simulating body exchanges while making love.

What are the primary powers of the hive/technology being used for? Without knowing that, the reader is hard pressed to make any decision about the hive at all when the only useful/benevolent thing we see derived from the technology is this.

Brett falls more deeply for Ariel, and comes to suspect his people have really misunderstood this technology.

Pairing these two thoughts makes them seem like cause and effect. Is Brett so shallow that falling for a woman makes him forget the malevolent things the technology can do? Not that the reader knows what those malevolent things are, of course. They've just been very vaguely, possibly hinted at.

Yet he also fears passion has prejudiced him, and he may postpone action against a danger to humanity until too late.

Well, at least he recognizes that passion may be blinding him. However, as far as rising tension and story stakes, postponing action is pretty passive.

At this point, the query has painted the MCs as shallow and given us no promise of a proper plot arc. I'm just not invested in the characters or the story.

By showing us character growth and helping us better see what the consequences of inaction could be and then at least hinting at a proactive resolution, you could get me vested. As it is, it doesn't feel like it has all the beats of a complete story. Nor could I figure out from the previous versions where to pick up those missing beats.

Absorption is an eighty thousand word science fiction manuscript.

All-Cap the title and use numerals for the word count.

5 comments:

Jo-Ann said...

Author, this is Phoenix's site, Evil Editor's is just down the road...

I read the post, then again with Phoenix's comments, and was really none the wiser about what the story was about.

The word "hive" suggests bees, and some theorise each hive (or a colony of ants)as an organism in itself, with each bee being an individual cell. So if I'm reading it right, each hive-mind is like a bee, and Oceania seems to be queen. Now, that's a lot of assumptions and surmising. Not a good thing for a query.

here appears t be a contradiction between para 1 "...healed a child mutilated by hive mind Alex..." and para 2 "They cannot prove direct responsibility...". Well, if there was doubt about who mutilated the kid, say so! Either that or "direct responsibility" refers to something else.

I suspect so, because, no matter how heinous a crime mutilating a child is, it cannot be the catalyst for a bloody war. So what's the deal?

The I started on the para beginning "during negotiations" and this came from left-field. But as Phoenix already commented on that, I'll skip it. Then my eyes slid off the screen as you introduced a beautiful woman and stopped reading after the seduction and body swapping part.

Too much detail/ not enough detail. Focus on what the story is about. And while you're flinging the query around different sites, stop by the Query Shark's blog and memorise every bit of advice about structuring a query.

Then try again.
Good luck.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

My fault for the name confusion, Jo. This is a revision of a query that EE originally had on his site. The author sent the revision to EE, along with the new opening for the book, and EE forwarded it to me. I just posted it straight over with the salutation. The "Face-Lift 444" link at the top of the post is to the original over on EE's site.

Xenith said...

This reads more like a mini-synopsis than a query letter. the difference? I know it when I see it.

What does the main character want? (In 25 words or less.)

batgirl said...

The part I don't get (as a fairly long-time sf reader) is why there are many hive-minds if they all derive from one? Why would they need to separate?
Naming them adds confusion in the query, as mentioned. I'd rather know why a hive-mind is the enemy, since it seems willing to seduce Ariel rather than forcibly integrate her - or kill her as it did with the settler families.

Can we apply Miss Snark's formula?
What does Brett want? - to defeat the hive-mind.
What's stopping him? - his desire to get into Ariel's pants.
Wait! What does the hive-mind want? - to get into Ariel's brain?

I'm all for moralities being cast into doubt and confusion, but you might want to start with black and white and move into shades of grey, rather than starting with grey confusion.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Clarity, purpose/intent hazy.

The premise was refreshing but the query didn't give me the steps I need to follow where the story is going and why. I got lost more than once and after re-reading still haven't got it.

Like the concept,a hive/cell brainiac thing intrigues me.

Simulate a body exchange while making love? That's the time I'd think you'd want to remain in your own skin.

The child is mentioned once. I question its importance in the opening line of the query.

Love Phoenix's short version.

If you review your main plot points you may get out of the log jam.

Good luck.