Saturday, September 30, 2006
Guess the Plot
Calamity: This is How the World Ends
1. A giant squid wakes from its million year slumber cranky and hungry. Can Stouffer avert disaster and transform this calamity into calamari before its too late? Also: a vampire.
2. The year is 2036 and President Paris Hilton faces a dilemma: deal with pesky North Korea or make an appearance at the MTV Music Video Awards. Also: a CD.
3. A valley girl learns her father isn't rich, and she must get a job. The only job she qualifies for is cosmetic salesgirl at the mall's biggest department store. Her world ends when her friends discover her fall from snobbery. Also: perfume.
4. The noise is deafening, from machines gone haywire to dogs yapping through the night. Vince decides to end it all with a toothbrush and some lamp oil, McGyver-style. Also: a computer game.
5. The large-scale consequences of any potential natural disaster are compared with more localized hazards such as dying in a car wreck, through a single number: the Calamity Quotient. Also: short stories.
6. On Zignoid Elevtwo, a band of runaway emus spark debate that leads to conflagration and galactic catastrophe. Also: Bird flu.
Dear Mr. Evil:
A supervolcano explodes setting off a millennium of severe cold. Soon humanity is starving and dying en masse until only one small band of forty people is left. The fate of our species depends on their survival. [They all said the cockroaches would be the one species that survived; turns out it's the penguins.] [Tell me the 40 people left alive aren't the Oakland Raiders.]
Fiction? No. As CALAMITY: THIS IS HOW THE WORLD ENDS explains, the exceptionally limited genetic diversity of Homo sapiens along with other evidence tells us such a disaster happened in the recent past. [Not to argue a minor point of semantics, but to you, the recent past is a million years ago; to me, it's Thursday.] A single group of individuals did survive, and we are all their descendents. [This confirms what Evil Editor has long suspected: that he's related to Einstein, Springsteen, and Clooney.]
This is just one of the little-known devastations my 75,000-word popular science book recounts. All chapters except the first open with 1000-word short stories depicting real events [Real fictional events, that is.] to more effectively convey important concepts and facts. My book also introduces the Calamity Quotient or CQ, a number derived from a simple equation that allows the large-scale consequences of any potential disaster to be compared with more localized hazards such as dying in a car wreck. [For instance, to determine how many people would die if a tsunami struck North Dakota, multiply the number of people who die in skydiving accidents by the CQ, which in this case would be 417, and there's your answer.] Calamity is the first book about natural disasters in thirty years to combine authoritative scholarship with a captivating easy-to-read style. [Plus, it has the CQ.] Unlike the speculation and hyperbole common in competing titles, [I'm more concerned with the hyperbole common in your previous sentence.] I include only natural calamities known to have occurred in the past. [As the CQ is used to compare "potential disasters" to something, it would seem you also include disasters that could occur in the future.]
In addition to the millions of adults who are increasingly apprehensive about natural disasters according to recent polling, I suggest marketing Calamity to the three million students taking earth science and beginning geology each year through direct mailings to their instructors. [If there are three million students, I'd hate to be the one charged with gathering the mailing addresses of all their instructors.]
I am an internationally known PhD geologist [I found this most impressive, until I realized that I'm an internationally known blogger.] with more than forty published professional articles. I have presented at international conferences and chaired conference sessions. I also enjoy teaching science to non-specialists and have led seminars and workshops for high school teachers, spoken to civic groups and was featured on a statewide TV program discussing geologic catastrophes. Well received, the program was repeated several times. I have long been interested in the numerous world-shaking calamities that have occurred during the Earth’s long history and have gathered a trove of information to use in writing this book. [Not sure "trove" is the best word there. "Oodles" is closer, but probably not the tone you're looking for. "Abundance?"] I also write fiction. The literary magazine Lynx Eye published one of my stories and the electronic magazine Nth Degree another. My first novel is available as an ebook and my second is being revised.
Thank you for your consideration. I have enclosed a mini proposal. A complete proposal including two 9,000-word sample chapters is available upon request.
I'd drop the CQ from the query. You haven't made it clear what good it is.
Declaring as fact that a volcano once left forty humans alive seems awfully specific, and had me thinking, Yeah, right. If there's hard evidence of this, maybe your credits (which were the best part) should come first; people are more likely to think you know what you're talking about. With the forty humans and the CQ up front, they'll think you're a mad scientist.
Choose a "for example" disaster and elaborate on it, while leaving out the hyperbole, the marketing plan, and the CQ, and you might have something. People do like to read about other people dying.