Query - God from the Machine

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tjmurray83
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Query - God from the Machine

Post by tjmurray83 » April 9th, 2011, 3:11 pm

Hokay, so, I've run through my manuscript quite a few times, had some beta readers, and I think I'm ready to start querying. But then every time I say the word "query", I start to sweat. I only have on version of my query...here it is:

Dear Agent,

It’s the future and Ray Thomas is a man obsessed with the ideas of the past. Space pirates, zombies, supercomputers, and homicidal robots finally exist, but Ray would rather spend his days scouring books for philosophical truths than interact with the science-crazed society of the 23rd Century. Fortunately, the government is looking for someone to read books and build a database of texts that may quell the murderous rage of their androids.

The programmers that work alongside Ray shun his efforts, considering his work a waste of resources, and Ray doesn’t believe he will actually make a difference. After two years of failure and multiple near deaths at the hands of his android, Ray uploads the Bible into his robot. When the Bible works and the android is the first success since the creation of artificial intelligence, Ray is thrust into a debate over the dangers of Christian beliefs and the theology behind them.

As Ray debates the Bible, a robot apocalypse brews. As the revolting androids garner success, it comes down to Ray and his android to stop them. But Ray must decide if he can release the Bible, his only means of stopping the androids, if it means releasing archaic lies into the world.

God from the Machine is a 55,000 word Christian sci-fi novel. I have a BS in Arts, Philosophy, and Literature from [redacted]. I have never met a robot, but I have watched Battlestar Galactica.
[End query]

So, does this totally put you off? Have I made unintentional offensive comments that could get me banned from literary circles for the rest of my life? Is Christian sci-fi even a thing? Thank you to anyone who reads!

fishfood
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Re: Query - God from the Machine

Post by fishfood » April 9th, 2011, 11:36 pm

tjmurray83 wrote:Hokay, so, I've run through my manuscript quite a few times, had some beta readers, and I think I'm ready to start querying. But then every time I say the word "query", I start to sweat. I only have on version of my query...here it is:

Dear Agent,

It’s the future and Ray Thomas is a man obsessed with the ideas of the past. Space pirates, zombies, supercomputers, and homicidal robots finally exist, (It's almost as if you're saying this is a good thing. I always take the word "finally" to mean something we've all been waiting for. So maybe try replacing it with "really?") but Ray would rather spend his days scouring books for philosophical truths than interact with the science-crazed society of the 23rd Century. Why? Fortunately, the government is looking for someone to read books and build a database of texts that may quell the murderous rage of their androids. Are the homicidal robots the androids? Sorry, I would just make that obvious. It might help to clarify why they're murderous. It's tough in a fantasy or sci-fi query to do a tiny bit of world building. You might have to painfully explain some things like you would to a four-year-old. Plus this doesn't explain why the government thinks a database of philosophy texts would quell homicidal androids.

The programmers that work alongside Ray shun his efforts, considering his work a waste of resources, and Ray doesn’t believe he will actually make a difference. So...why do they keep him employed? I'd cut this entire line and start the second paragraph here--> After two years of failure and multiple near deaths at the hands of his android, Ray uploads the Bible into his robot. When the Bible works and the android is the first success since the creation of artificial intelligence, Ray is thrust into a debate over the dangers of Christian beliefs and the theology behind them.

As Ray debates the Bible, a robot apocalypse brews. As the revolting androids garner success, it comes down to Ray and his android to stop them. But Ray must decide if he can release the Bible, his only means of stopping the androids, if it means releasing archaic lies into the world. Hmm, you might want to preface before he uploads the Bible that it's been long buried and Christian beliefs are now an ancient thing and proven to be false if you want to support the premise that they're archaic lies.

God from the Machine (All caps for your title) is a 55,000 word Christian sci-fi novel. I have a BS in Arts, Philosophy, and Literature from [redacted]. You probably don't need this since they aren't writing credits. I have never met a robot, but I have watched Battlestar Galactica.
[End query]

So, does this totally put you off? Have I made unintentional offensive comments that could get me banned from literary circles for the rest of my life? Is Christian sci-fi even a thing? Thank you to anyone who reads!
Very interesting book, but I wouldn't label it Christian since the message is basically anti-Christian.

glj
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Re: Query - God from the Machine

Post by glj » April 10th, 2011, 12:19 pm

I found this confusing and didn't buy the premise.


It’s the future and Ray Thomas is a man obsessed with the ideas of the past. Space pirates, zombies, supercomputers, and homicidal robots finally exist, I can buy space pirates, but zombies and homicidal robots? Supercomputers already exist. This sounds like a mish-mash of serious sci-fi and non-serious horror creatures. You lost me here. but Ray would rather spend his days scouring books for philosophical truths than interact with the science-crazed society of the 23rd Century. Fortunately, the government is looking for someone to read books and build a database of texts that may quell the murderous rage of their androids. I find it hard to believe that "texts" will quell murderous androids.

The programmers that work alongside Ray shun his efforts, Why are the programmers needed in the query? considering his work a waste of resources, and Ray doesn’t believe he will actually make a difference. So most people in the story consider Ray's efforts to be stupid, including Ray himself? After two years of failure and multiple near deaths at the hands of his android, Ray uploads the Bible into his robot. So the bible is godly computer software? I'm just guessing from the context, but this could be interesting if expanded on. Some authors have argued that the bible contains "hidden codes", but proposing that it is actually a program designed not for humans, but robots, would be a new twist. When the Bible works and the android is the first success "First success"?? Not sure why this is necessary, and seems obviously technically over-stated. since the creation of artificial intelligence, This makes me curious, causing me to wonder how you explain this and whether you pull it off convincingly. You might expand on this part. Ray is thrust into a debate over the dangers of Christian beliefs and the theology behind them. As Fishfood said, you need to give us some grounding in how the people of Ray's time actually view Christianity/religion, as I don't even know if Ray is for or against Christianity. Does Ray think it will work, or does he do it in desperation, as amazed as anyone when his android behaves better?

As Ray debates the Bible, a robot apocalypse brews. Seems to me like you need to set the stage as to how robots/androids could be murderous in the first place, otherwise bringing in religion seems like an afterthought. As the revolting androids garner success, Awkward wording. The "revolting" could imply that the androids are digusting. The phrase "garner success" comes across as inappropriate. Success in what, revolting? Murdering? Winning awards? Why not "As the androids kill humans and drive them out of a growing region of earth, ..."? it comes down to Ray and his android to stop them. But Ray must decide if he can release the Bible, his only means of stopping the androids, if it means releasing archaic lies into the world. I don't understand what you are trying to convey here. So the lies are what cause the androids/robots to become peaceful? How? I am not convinced by this that you pull off the concept. This makes me think that you are using religion to try to be controversial, and I do not see enough detail to feel that it has an internally consistent logic.

God from the Machine is a 55,000 word Christian sci-fi novel. As Fishfood observed, up above it comes across as anti-religious ("archaic lies"), so this confuses me. I have a BS in Arts, Philosophy, and Literature from [redacted]. I have never met a robot, but I have watched Battlestar Galactica. Would advise against trying to be cutesy.

tjmurray83
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Re: Query - God from the Machine

Post by tjmurray83 » April 10th, 2011, 4:57 pm

Wow! Thanks for the great feedback. I took y'all's advice into consideration and almost completely redid the query. One big mistake I made in that first attempt was trying to invoke a sense of mystery by leaving out key events and back story. I realize now that that was making the entire idea too vague. That sounds like such an obviously bad idea for a query letter. Anyway, here is a second try (please be as handily brutal):

Dear Agent,

It’s the future and Ray Thomas is a man obsessed with the ideas of the past. His parents were more interested in space adventures and nano-science than spending time as a family, so Ray retreated into forgotten texts, preferring the search for philosophical truths over interacting with the science-crazed society of the 23rd Century. After thirty years of solitary reading and no absolute ideas, Ray realizes that his degrees in Literature and Philosophy make him an unemployable leech on society.

Meanwhile, the United States government is trying to harness a dangerous artificial intelligence that has overtaken New Zealand and declared war on humanity. America has hired the greatest programmers and scientists in the world, but they are failing miserably. Seeing Ray as a unique perspective, the government offers him the chance to use his knowledge of philosophy in an attempt to quell the dangerous androids containing the artificial intelligence.

After two years of failure and multiple near deaths at the hands of his assigned android, Ray uncovers the Bible – banned and forgotten after a series of religious terrorist attacks in the late 21st Century. Ray uploads the Bible into his android and is shocked that it pacifies the artificial intelligence. However, Ray’s science-minded coworkers refuse to believe that a book of archaic lies could do what they could not. They charge Ray with disproving God to the android in an attempt to salvage its programming.

As Ray debates the Bible, the robot apocalypse expands. But when Ray finds the truths he had yearned for amongst his talks with the android, he realizes that the only way to stop the robot army is weaponizing those absolutes.

GOD FROM THE MACHINE is a 55,000 word Christian sci-fi novel. Thank you for your consideration.
[End query]

Better? Worse? Thank you again. I'd want to repay the favor by critiquing on other queries, but I don't think I'm good enough yet.

AllieS
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Re: Query - God from the Machine

Post by AllieS » April 10th, 2011, 7:41 pm

It’s the future and Ray Thomas is a man obsessed with the ideas of the past. I don't think you need this. You mention the 23rd century below, so we know it's the future, and you also show that Ray is obsessed with the past. His parents were more interested in space adventures Too vague. and nano-science than spending time as a family, so Ray retreated into forgotten texts, preferring the search for philosophical truths over interacting with the science-crazed society of the 23rd Century. I like this part, but I wonder if the part about his parents is even necessary. I know you're trying to include some backstory, but you could just say he's obsessed with this stuff like in the first query. After thirty years of solitary reading and no absolute ideas, Ray realizes that his degrees in Literature and Philosophy make him an unemployable leech on society.

Meanwhile, the United States Does it really matter that it's the US government for a query? government is trying to harness a dangerous artificial intelligence that has overtaken New Zealand and declared war on humanity I have issues with this line. First, an artificial intelligence that is declaring war on the world is very cliched. Second, why is it New Zealand that has been taken over? Of all the places on the earth, this seems extremely random. . America You could just say "the government." has hired the greatest programmers and scientists in the world, To do what? but they are failing miserably. Seeing Ray as a unique perspective, This sounds strange. Rephrase this whole line if you can to make it less wordy. the government offers him the chance to use his knowledge of philosophy in an attempt to quell the dangerous androids containing the artificial intelligence.

After two years of failure and multiple near deaths at the hands of his assigned android, Ray uncovers the Bible – banned and forgotten after a series of religious terrorist attacks in the late 21st Century This line is really good. I hope you can make the rest of your query like this. Ray uploads the Bible into his android and is shocked that it pacifies the artificial intelligence. So it's not intelligent anymore? Or is it just a nicer android? However, Ray’s science-minded coworkers refuse to believe that a book of archaic lies could do what they could not. They charge Ray with disproving God to the android in an attempt to salvage its programming.

As Ray debates the Bible Vague, the robot apocalypse expands. But when Ray finds the truths he had yearned for amongst his talks with the android I thought you said they were lies, not truths?, he realizes that the only way to stop the robot army is weaponizing those absolutes.

GOD FROM THE MACHINE is a 55,000 word Christian sci-fi novel. Thank you for your consideration.
[End query]

Yeah, I agree with fishfood's comment on the Christian sci-fi label. You could just say it's a different view on religion or something. I'm afraid that, although the idea of loading the bible into androids to help make them not violent is really interesting, the whole AI apocalypse is too cliched. Also, I worry when I read that first draft and see that somehow zombies have made the cut in a technologically heavy era. How are zombies something that can be included in that group? I know it's not in the query anymore, but still. However, I think if you can make your idea as clear as possible from the get-go in the query, agents might overlook the cliched aspects for the more unique ones. It might help to combine the second and third paragraphs too, just to get straight to the bible stuff. Hope this helps!

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sarahdee
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Re: Query - God from the Machine

Post by sarahdee » April 11th, 2011, 1:00 am

Dear Agent,

It’s the future andRay Thomas is a man obsessed with the ideas of the past. His parents were more interested in space adventures and nano-science than spending time as a family, so Ray retreated into forgotten texts, preferring the search for philosophical truths over interacting with the science-crazed society of the 23rd Century. After thirty years of solitary reading and no absolute ideas, Ray realizes that his degrees in Literature and Philosophy make him an unemployable leech on society.

Meanwhile, the United States government is trying to harness a dangerous artificial intelligence that has overtaken New Zealand and declared war on humanity. America has hired the greatest programmers and scientists in the world, but they are failing miserably. Seeing Ray as a unique perspective, the government offers him the chance to use his knowledge of philosophy in an attempt to quell the dangerous androids containing the artificial intelligence.

After two years of failure and multiple near deaths at the hands of his assigned android, Ray uncovers the Bible – banned and forgotten after a series of religious terrorist attacks in the late 21st Century. Ray uploads the Bible into his android and is shocked that it pacifies the artificial intelligence. However, Ray’s science-minded coworkers refuse to believe that a book of archaic lies could do what they could not. They charge Charge as in he is on trial in a court or just accuse - if it is the former, maybe mention that Ray with disproving God by uploading the bible or something else? to the android in an attempt to salvage its programming.

As Ray debates the Bible, the robot apocalypse expands. But when Ray finds the truths he had yearned for amongst his talks with the android, he realizes that the only way to stop the robot army is weaponizing those absolutes. Who is he debating with - the android or his colleagues? How does he know it is truth? What do you mean by 'weaponizing these absolutes? I found this last para very confusing and would suggest expanding it to explain who he is debating with and what it is he intends to do.


GOD FROM THE MACHINE is a 55,000 word Christian sci-fi novel about what happens when theology and science collide. Thank you for your consideration.
[End query]
Since Allie S gave such an indepth comment I keep mine simple. I think the second attempt is much better. It is just the penultimate para which was very ambiguous as to who he is debating with etc. I'd also agree with Fishhead that it doesn't seem like a Christian book from your query, so I tried to rewrite that part (am sure you can do better).

Edited to add - Is 55,000 words a novel or is that counted as a novella?

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