Sunday, September 30, 2012
Evil Editor Classics
Guess the Plot
Blue Screen of Death
1. When weather reporters start turning up dead, Detective Pete Paradiso knows that it's not about their botched forecasts. Can Pete find the killer before perky Suzie Snowflake does her last weather report . . . on the Blue Screen of Death?
2. Vince Malkoff wakes from his daydream to find those IT slackers still haven't fixed his computer. But why do his hands hurt, and where did this bloody, torn Star Trek tee-shirt come from?
3. Theresa has had it. She's caught Jake cheating for the last time. She's going to hit him where it hurts -- she's going to fix his ultrafast gaming computer. That'll teach him for chasing after Gillian.
4. Investigating the death of tech wiz Peter Yuen, Veronica discovers he was at the forefront of artificial intelligence research. The only way to unmask the killer is to complete Peter's project--but if she succeeds she'll bring down the Internet, and then how would she get her email?
5. The end of the world starts with a single blue screen. Then another, then another, then another. As PCs worldwide sizzle and die, Mac users find themselves in the ascendant. But unfortunately a bunch of writers, designers and advertising geeks turn out not to be the best-qualified people to run society.
6. Throughout the world, people have stopped dying. No one is succumbing to anything; not lethal injuries, not terminal illnesses, not even simple natural causes. Religious leaders proclaim this a sign of mankind's imminent transcendence of its mortal bonds, but it takes technogeek-cum-shaman Vishnu O'Halloran to find the real explanation: the Grim Reaper's computer system has crashed.
Dear Evil Editor,
I'm seeking representation for my murder mystery, Blue Screen of Death.
Veronica Avalon's personal hero, Peter Yuen, is found electrocuted in his bathtub. His parents believe it was a freak accident. [He was trying to get a bagel out of the toaster while bathing during a thunderstorm.] The police call it suicide. Only tech-savvy Veronica sees the clue that points to murder.
Detective: Toaster in the tub. An obvious suicide.
Veronica: Not so fast. A computer geek committing suicide would never use his toaster; he'd use his terminal. Get it? Terminal?]
When Peter's parents ask Veronica to recover banking information from their son's computer, she discovers that it hosts a pornographic web site--a fact she can't reconcile with her perception of Peter as an idealist. [Hey, what could be more ideal than having your own porn site?] Could his secret site have something to do with his murder? Loyalty and unresolved romantic feelings for Peter drive Veronica past her revulsion to the porn. [I admit some porn is revolting, but if I had a job looking into porn sites I'm pretty sure I could handle it. In fact, I'd be handling it all the time.] She digs into Peter's PC and follows the trail from online vice to the frontier of artificial intelligence research. [When I'm on a porn site, the only trail I follow is from one movie clip to the next. (And if I ever did find myself on a page with AI research, I would hit the "back" button so fast . . .)] [Finding the frontier of artificial intelligence research through a porn site is like running into Stephen Hawking at a cock fight.]
But her sleuthing provokes the murderer to strike again.
Uncertain if she can trust her friends, her boss, or even Peter's parents, [Are they all suspects in the murder?] Veronica tries to single-handedly unmask the killer. Her talent for debugging translates well into investigation, but the only way to draw him out may be [by employing her talent for disrobing, and] to step into Peter's dangerous world [by becoming a porn star]. She moves into his apartment, hijacks his email, and tries to complete his AI project.
If she fails, she may become the next victim.
If she succeeds, her discovery could bring down the Internet and destroy the reputation of the man she loved. [Earlier he was referred to as her personal hero. Did she secretly love him? How did he feel about her? If they were in love, "personal hero" sounds weird.]
This would be my first fiction sale [unless I sell something else first]. I have one professional non-fiction sale for a technical magazine.
Thanks for your consideration.
It's not clear what the porn site has to do with anything. How is it connected to the AI project? Is it impossible to get to the AI site without going through the porn site?
The idea of prudish Veronica having to become a porn star to flesh out the killer's plans appeals to me.
Catchier titles: The Porno Murders; The Good, the Bad and the Geeky; The Case of the Bogus Bagel.
Obviously Veronica's computer savvy, but stepping in and trying to complete a project begun by someone on the frontier of AI research?
Also, I get the impression she was unaware he was on the frontier of AI research until she stumbled on his project. Seems like if he's her personal hero and she loves him she would have a better idea what he's into.
A murder mystery usually has suspects who have motives. Are there several suspects? Does finishing the project reveal which one is the murderer?
What do you mean by "bring down the Internet"? Literally destroy it? Make it obsolete? Make it so all urls are automatically forwarded to Evil Editor's blog? Wait, that would make the Internet better.
blogless_troll said...You had me at porn site.
Getting electrocuted in the bathtub sounds kinda cartoonish, especially since you don't say HOW he got electrocuted. Plus, the Myth Busters proved it was impossible to electrocute yourself in the tub with a hair dryer, unless you were also eating Pop Rocks at the same time.
A little more info on Veronica might help in the beginning. You don't need a bio, but the only qualification you listed is that she's "tech savvy." Then later you say she has a talent for debugging. But we still don't know what she does. If she's some kind of programmer/hacker, you should say that up front.
pacatrue said...I think there's a good novel here, but I had a lot of questions that might keep me from asking to see a partial (if I was a peron who asked to see partials).
1) While the publisher will come up with their own book title anyway, I don't think "Blue Screen of Death" works here. It just sounds like a joke. And yet the query doesn't make the novel sound like a joke.
2) As EE said, I want to know more about our heroine's background and her ability to complete an AI project. You can get away with a little technical mumbo jumbo if she spends all her time chasing people through dark alleys because of an AI McGuffin, but it sounds like one of the crucial components of the story involves her completing Peter's amazing project. Can the heroine talk about autonomous agents, artificial life paradigms, information encoding, categorization algorithms, or whatever else Peter was working on? I don't think you need to talk about them in the book, but we need to believe that Veronica could.
3) I don't know if you really want to get into this in the query but, as they say, there are porn sites and there are porn sites; i.e., Peter's site could run the gambit from sexy stories to people taking off their tops to ... well, I'm sure I don't know. This is only important to know just how seedy a world Peter was involved in. Was his site illegal? Fetish? Manipulative? Racist? Etc.
Anyway, perhaps the key is to develop more fully what it is that Veronica does to solve the crime. Does she perform AI wizardry? Does she follow EE's fantasy of joining the porn world? And why aren't the police of FBI involved at some point?
I'm going to guess that Peter was developing some way to use AI to create fantasy sex partners for customers. It's the best way I can think of to combine AI and porn plots. Is this right? I've thought for a long time that some day someone will eventually pull this off and the world will come crashing to a halt. Or at least crash the internet. (Seriously though, if people think internet addiction is a problem now....)
Dave F. said...I can't imagine an AI firm exploring porn as a subscription service. I did some work with robotics firms in Pittsburgh and I can tell you, porn is not on their minds. War is. But not porn. And AI is what they need to run their machines.
I think that you need to amp your plot up a little bit from being "hump, hump, bump, bump, party girls in action" or "Girls and boys gone completely digitally naked with electronically enhanced genitals" to war machines.
Robot zombies of death and destruction.
Am I farfetched? No. The author of a program for sex in SECOND WORLD is suing someone else for misusing his program to enable sex in SECOND WORLD. Happening as we speak. YAWN!
What you are hinting at is a "killer" application with AI that is going to take over the internet. I think pornography is the wrong way to go. War machines and the overthrow of countries by the internet or sabotage of financial matters will affect more people.
Now if you are writing for Christians and want to point out the evils of porn, then say so. Porn sites that create sex-crazed men and women intent upon seducing the innocents and electrocuting them in their baths? How about porn sites that create devil worshipers and bring on the reign of satan by black magic?
It's like the rapture in the Left Behind series.
I remember that back in 1995 (ancient times), AOL tried to ban certain "naughty" words. One was "breast" and (guess what) the American Breast Cancer society went nuts (for obvious reasons). Porn, while ubiquitous and unwanted, is not the "BIG BAD WOLF" that some want it to be. It requires a second, more evil, agent behind it. A brainwashing program that turns nerds into killers has been done. It's the Manchurian Candidate for virgins (nerds).
Peter Yuen has to be the vanguard of something more evil than porn. A financial program to destroy the world's stock markets, or a giant filter that sifts the world's email for your personal messages and uses them to destroy you, or an application that can take over the military and wipe out mankind. Something really evil and not just a couple making love before a camera.
Ello said...Evil Editor is a dirty boy. And you commenters enjoying the porn! Where's Church Lady to call you all dirty little whores! ;o)
I'm not sure I understand this query that well. I thought it started one way and then went an entirely different direction. I'm going to piggy back on what Dave said cause he's alot smarter than me and I agree with everything he said, even the stuff I didn't understand!
iago said...She moves into his apartment, hijacks his email, and tries to complete his AI project.
Change "AI project" to "scale model of the Marie Celeste" and she sounds exactly like my ex-girlfriend.
Why would Peter's parents need her to dig banking information out of the computer, rater than just go to the bank with the appropriate paperwork?
If the murderer strikes again, he's already been drawn out.
Really not clear how completing a cutting edge AI project is the most practical and efficient way to track down a killer, even if she has the cutting edge AI skills. You may need to explain this a little more.
Sarah said...Being a computer geek, though not dyed-in-the-wool, I read this and thought - ok, maybe. Then I read Dave's post and thought - yep, he knows the ones I work with.
But porn is a good possibility for the ones I work with as well. Very un-PC workplace. Very. I take walks when the talk gets going way overboard. The better to not visit HR.
So, the porn could work, but the query is a bit confusing.
Gotta love those mythbusters!
Posted by Evil Editor at 9:59 AM