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  1. #1
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    SF query - PANDORA'S BOX

    I'm looking for advice and will welcome even the most brutal criticism.


    Dear Agent,

    William Prescott Smith is an innovative genius whose most recent invention is a time-bridge. While testing the invention, he learns it can be employed in ways that would result in utter chaos, and in a fit of moral conscience he decides that the world is not ready for it. Then the Keepers arrive and he is forced to rethink that conclusion.

    Summoned by a mysterious artifact on the moon, extraterrestrials come to Earth. Their self-proclaimed mission: isolate and protect developing worlds by preventing the spread of dangerous technologies. But Earthlings soon recognize the Keepers for the oppressors they are, not the benevolent guides they claim to be. Earth is becoming a kind of zoological garden, with humans as helpless specimens and aliens as condescending zookeepers.

    The Keepers’ technology is overwhelmingly superior – stone axes are no match for nuclear weapons. In light of this disparity, William weighs the alternatives, possible calamity if his time-bridge becomes public, versus assured subjugation if the Keepers persist. He opts for a shot at freedom. Seeking to enlist the help of a most unlikely partner, his earlier self, our hero sets out to save the world by undoing the past.

    PANDORA’S BOX is a 73,000-word science fiction novel. Thank you for your consideration.

    Sincerely,



  2. #2
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    n.p., you received a couple of good critiques from Susan and Emily, but about all you did was cut the first sentence. This has problems that can't be solved by a cosmetic nip and tuck. Let's step through it (your original text in bold):

    William Prescott Smith is an innovative genius whose most recent invention is a time-bridge.

    As hooks go, this is a yawner. Sci-fi agents see time machine stuff all the time. It's especially snooze-worthy when you follow it with this:

    While testing the invention, he learns it can be employed in ways that would result in utter chaos, and in a fit of moral conscience he decides that the world is not ready for it.

    Why waste space telling us about an invention that he's not going to use? The next sentence—at last—piques our attention before it sputters out:

    Then the Keepers arrive sputter, sputter and he is forced to rethink that conclusion.

    Okay, so aliens have landed and we're primed for action!... Right? Wrong. What we get is exposition.

    Summoned by a mysterious artifact on the moon, extraterrestrials come to Earth. [In a query, we don't care why or how they got here (unless either fact is germane to the story, which apparently they're not, because you don't mention them again); you can get into that detail in your novel, but in a query it.does.not.matter. But I digress. Here comes more exposition. Wake me when it's over.] Their self-proclaimed mission: isolate and protect developing worlds by preventing the spread of dangerous technologies. But Earthlings soon recognize the Keepers for the oppressors they are, not the benevolent guides they claim to be. Earth is becoming a kind of zoological garden, with humans as helpless specimens and aliens as condescending zookeepers.

    That's it?... The Keepers are condescending? Earth becomes a garden? (yawn)

    Let's move on:

    The Keepers’ technology is overwhelmingly superior – stone axes are no match for nuclear weapons. (I have to interrupt here, because this metaphor, while it may work as a line of dialog in the novel, in this context makes me wonder if the setting is in Neolithic times. That's called a stumble. You don't want to make the agent stumble.) In light of this disparity, William weighs the alternatives, possible calamity if his time-bridge becomes public, versus assured subjugation if the Keepers persist.

    Okay, here you're being wordy and vague at the same time, i.e., "...possible calamity..." and "...assured subjugation..." What does that mean? The oceans will boil? The moon will plummet to earth? The Keepers will become more condescending? This isn't a physics paper, it's a yarn! Treat it as such!

    Sorry, where were we... oh, yeah, we're toward the end, and finally you roll out a pair of big guns!

    He opts for a shot at freedom. (Good line!) Seeking to enlist the help of a most unlikely partner, his earlier self, our hero sets out to save the world by undoing the past.

    That's a twist I haven't heard of (but I'm not a sci-fi freak, so it could be old hat): The hero joins up with his past self to defeat the bad guys! Yowza! Only problem is, it's too little, too late.

    PANDORA’S BOX is a 73,000-word science fiction novel. Thank you for your consideration.

    Neat and tidy finish; this is the recommended line for closing a query.

    You're a physics guy, here's a formula: Tell us, who is your protagonist? what does he desire? who or what stands in his way? what fate does he suffer if he fails? Express that in a few sentences and build on it. There's tons of query writing sites on the net. Check out <http://www.AgentQuery.com>. Also, this blog—by a bona fide agent—dissects queries for the benefit of noobie writers everywhere: <http://www.QueryShark.com>

    Hope this helps. Good luck.
    Last edited by jayce; 03-14-2012 at 05:29 PM.

  3. #3
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    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. This is the kind of help I can really use, and as you can see, I can use a lot of help. This ought to keep me busy for a while.

  4. #4
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    n.p.,

    I agree with everything jayce said.

    Adding to his comments, without trying to pile on, this reads as if it was written by a physics professor. The language is stilted, lofty.

    There's no sense of drama, humor, or anything else. Take off your physics hat. Put on your writer's cap. Dig down and look for ways to inject immediacy in your Q. Get your dream agent interested in your protag. A dry recital of "stuff" is unlikely to do that.

    If you think it would be helpful, post the first page of your tale in the Writing Craft forum.

    Cur

  5. #5
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    Thanks, Cur.

    I'll post the start.

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