Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Face-Lift 150


Guess the Plot


Squirrels in Space!

1. A genetically engineered race of sentient squirrels retreats to their own star system in the face of human intolerance.

2. Rocky was lonely when he signed up for MySpace, looking for companionship. He never guessed how many nuts were out there.

3. Still smarting from the last shuttle disaster, defense contractor Willard Butz devises a cunning plan to test rocket components on a smaller scale.

4. NASA's mistranslation of an extraterrestrial message, "We'll kill ten thousand marigolds each week until you surrender your nuts," sends global panic through the jock-strap market.

5. When a powerful drug company rounds up all the squirrels in the country to use for animal testing, the squirrels know their only hope of survival is to steal a space shuttle.

6. Marcia's comic book series, Squirrels in Space, becomes a cult hit, but her new celebrity status threatens her marriage.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I have completed an 85,000 word young adult science fiction novel entitled SQUIRRELS IN SPACE. Set in a universe where humankind has spread out amongst the stars, a genetically engineered race of sentient squirrels has retreated into their own star system in the face of human intolerance. [Just because we keep trying to figure out ways to keep them out of our bird feeders doesn't mean we're intolerant.]

When a bomb rips apart the squirrel's space station, the survivors are rescued by a military human spaceship [This makes it sound like the spaceship is human. And in uniform.] from an allied system, the Barossa. [This makes it sound like the Barossa is the allied system, when in fact it's the human spaceship (I looked ahead).] Among the survivors is Amily, a young squirrel on the brink of adulthood. [Squirrel-wise, that's about five months old.] By chance he caught sight of a mysterious ship which is the only lead on tracking down the squirrels' attackers. Amily welcomes the chance to hunt them down and becomes a member of the Barossa's crew. He finds out that even on board the Barossa there is danger when he overhears a plot to kill him and maybe even blow up the ship.

[Villainous conspirator: There's a 5-month-old squirrel on our ship.
Villainous co-conspirator: So I've heard. It's a delicate situation.
Villainous conspirator: We need a plan. We may not get a second chance.
Villainous co-conspirator: Bird feeders with poisoned seed?
Villainous conspirator: No good, there's no birdseed on board.
Villainous co-conspirator: We could blow up the ship.
Villainous conspirator: Not bad. Fast. Effective. No downside that I can see.]

When the Barossa finally tracks down the black ship, [Black? I don't remember anything about it being black.] Amily accompanies the team sent in to capture the terrorists, who are hiding in an abandoned mining base dug into an asteroid. Despite being shot, he manages to help save his team, and the terrorists are brought aboard the Barossa. [If you want to kill a squirrel, you don't shoot it; you run it over with a car. That's where the terrorists went wrong.] Disturbingly, the terrorists hint that their conspiracy reaches into heart of the Barossa and may even extend to the governments of the allied systems. [They hint? Usually prisoners either clam up or talk, they don't drop hints.

Interrogator: Tell us who's behind this, or lose an eye.
Terrorist: Tell you what, take a toe, and I'll give you his initials.]

Threatened with exposure, Lieutenant-Commander Jacoby, the senior conspirator on board the Barossa and one of the senior Bridge crew, takes the Captain hostage. Increasingly desparate to gain control of the ship, he hides her in a spacesuit tethered to the outside of the ship. Amily and members of the crew still loyal must find the Captain, the conspirators and the bomb before tragedy strikes again. [Jacoby's prepared to set off a bomb that'll kill everyone aboard, but when he puts the captain outside, he makes sure she has a spacesuit and a tether line?] At the same time, Amily has to deal with growing up and establishing a new life among humans. [At the same time? Can't that wait till after they prevent the tragedy?]

If you would like to read more of Amily's story, I will be very happy to send the complete manuscript or sample chapters. This is my first novel. I have one short fiction credit to date, with a science fantasy short story being published in Hub Magazine this winter. Thank you for your consideration.


Revised Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I have completed an 85,000-word young adult science fiction novel entitled SQUIRRELS IN SPACE. Set in a universe where humankind has reached the stars, a genetically engineered race of sentient squirrels has retreated into their own star system in the face of human intolerance.

When a bomb rips apart a squirrel space station, the survivors are rescued by a military spaceship, the Barossa. Among the survivors is Amily, a young squirrel who caught sight of a mysterious black ship, the only lead in tracking down the squirrels' attackers. Amily welcomes the chance to hunt them down and becomes a member of the Barossa's crew.

When the black ship is located, the terrorists are brought aboard the Barossa. They reveal that their conspiracy reaches into the heart of the Barossa itself, and may even extend to the governments of the allied systems. Threatened with exposure, Lieutenant-Commander Jacoby, the senior conspirator on board the Barossa and one of the senior Bridge crew, takes the captain hostage and hides her in a spacesuit tethered to the outside of the ship.

Amily and still-loyal members of the crew now must find the captain, the conspirators and the bomb before tragedy strikes again. There's more at stake than their lives; Amily's heroics during the mission could help create better understanding between humankind and squirreldom.

If you would like to read more of Amily's story, I will be very happy to send the complete manuscript or sample chapters. This is my first novel. I have one short fiction credit to date, with a science fantasy short story being published in Hub Magazine this winter. Thank you for your consideration.


Notes


The title is funny, but in order for this to work the book needs to be funny. If the only joke is that there are squirrels instead of some alien race, the joke will get old. In short, why squirrels? Because they're amusing animals, or because of the numerous hilarious situations that are made all the more hilarious by the presence of squirrels? If the book is funny, show this in the query. Or at least declare that it's amusing.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Threatened with exposure, Lieutenant-Commander Jacoby, . . ."

So, they threaten to drop him off in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a raft and let him die of exposure?

I don't think this story line will work unless you make it a spoof like "Spaceballs" or something.
-JTC

mark said...

Anybody else remember the Muppet Show segments entitled "Pigs in Space"? (PIGS! IN! SPAAAAACE!)Anybody else having trouble un-remembering it, thanks to this submission?

I love the neat font for the title, EE.

Zombie Deathfish said...

Wait... You mean this wasn't a joke?

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone need to genetically-engineer squirrels? Is there a planet out there where their nut-finding abilities are needed desperately?

That would make for a funny story. "Our food supplies are scattered all over the planet and covered by mountains of slime! What do we do?"

"I know! Get me the SQUIRRELS IN SPACE!"

Anonymous said...

I smell furries.

nitpicker said...

sentient:
1) Having sense perception; conscious.


In other words, all (living) squirrels are sentient. A better term for your characters might be "hyper-intelligent".

Also, have you read the Mistmantle Chronicles? It's children's lit, not YA, but it features heroic (and non-comedic) squirrels.

http://www.mistmantle.co.uk/

Daisy said...

I think this is the first time that the query itself made me laugh as hard as EE's comments. I really hope that was intentional.

kovirgw said...

[If you want to kill a squirrel, you don't shoot it; you run it over with a car. That's where the terrorists went wrong.]

Once again, EE shows a knack for pointing out the major plot holes in a story. Couldn't the terrorists acquire a car? Not even an old minibus? Maybe a DeLorean?

Anonymous said...

Um, folks, think the author was being serious. I'm not a big fan of animals dressed up in cloaks, tights or space suits but it does work. As Nitpicker said: see Mistmantle.

Chumplet said...

Oh, yeah, I remember Pigs In SPAAAACE, too. And Spaceballs. Remember Krull? That was supposed to be serious, too.

Kanani said...

I think if you include a giant orbiting acorn that would serve as some sort of speeding mothership, and also write a part named Bar for the actor Tim Allen, that you could pitch this to Disney. He, of course, would play Bar-Barossa, and the five month old squirrel would be played by either of the Wayans brothers.

nutkin said...

Nuttin wrong wit squirrels...

Nut said...

Being a nut myself, I do have certain isues with squirrels... Wait a minute... The squirrels fight the humans? Yay, little guys! Down with THE MAN!!!!!!!

Just sprinkle in some humour in the query, and try not to bite any of my kin, and we're cool.

EE: You're killin' me, dude. Beware! If I ever find out who you are, there'll be queries on banana leafs. Dayly!

Nutkin: are we related, by any chance? I live on a banana tree, accross the river from a public school. With an Ogre.

illiterate said...

I hate to tell an author what to do, but... you REALLY should put in that "Villainous conspirator" dialogue. With EE's permission of course. Its the bomb!

noir said...

I just wanted to point out that this doesn't sound like a Young Adult novel - it sounds like very young middle grade fiction. YA novels are for teenagers.

Nikki said...

Red or grey? Or flying, of course.

Ellen said...

Hi, evil minions - thank you so much for the feedback. And thank you, Evil Editor, for the groovy purple title. *beam*

Please excuse the whole bunch of replies in one post...

They're red squirrels, of course.

It's not entirely serious, but it's certainly no spoof. And having thought up the muppetesque working title, I'm incapable of dreaming up anything else.

Why were the squirrels genetically engineered? Why not? There's not much that isn't being tinkered with right now.

Thank you for the link to Mistmantle: it looks good. I'll search the chronicles out next time I'm in the bookshop, which shouldn't be long.

Cathy said...

Dear Ellen,

My daughter is an avid reader of Young Adult fantasy novels. She has read Mistmantle. Aside from having my mother tring to hide the book from her (my mother is intolerant of squirrels), she thoroughly enjoyed it. My daughter is FAR more fond of animals than humans, and wants to know about their unlikely adventures. Carry on!

You are brave to expose you work here.

Ellen said...

Thank you, Cathy! I'm sure squirrels have far more adventures than we're ever privileged to find out about. There should be more squirrel adventures!