Alternate history - science fiction: THE PRINCE OF TROUBLE

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retrorocket
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Alternate history - science fiction: THE PRINCE OF TROUBLE

Post by retrorocket » June 28th, 2011, 7:50 am

I have been toying with the main part of this query section for a while. I am not including the introductory paragraph because I would like to craft that for each submission. I would certainly appreciate any thoughts, concerns, hints, moans, groans, etc.

It is the year 1949. Sidney Dexter plies his trade as a private detective in New Futura, a wondrous city of tomorrow with the fantastic 1939 World’s Fair at its center. He takes on the supposedly easy (and well-paying) task of babysitting an important alien for a weekend of sightseeing and musical theater. Umfra is a prince on his world, a rare male drone from a society of insect-like workers who live on distant Stygia.

But there’s no such thing as an easy job in New Futura, even when bugsitting, and someone wants the prince dead. With the help of close friend and sky taxi pilot, Miranda Baron, Dexter keeps Umfra one step away from a merciless queen-in-waiting. There is a whirlwind chase through New Futura’s back alleys, beer halls and rocket port, with a Slovakian mobster thrown in for good measure. When the pursuit takes them to the stars, Dexter, Miranda and their alien charge turn to a legendary, semi-retired space hero who is more trouble than help. The finale takes place on Stygia, where a hive city is the backdrop for a confrontation between the detective, the naïve drone he swore to protect and the deadly usurper who wants them both dead.

THE PRINCE OF TROUBLE is a 65,000 word novel of alternative history and science fiction that stands alone, but I hope to continue Sid’s adventures in this exciting retro-futuristic universe. Sidney Dexter has previously appeared in print as a short story in Aboriginal Science Fiction magazine. My other publishing credits include articles and short fiction for The Star Wars Adventure Journal and The Star Wars Roleplaying Game published by West End Games, and a short fiction entry in TALES FROM THE EMPIRE, an anthology published by Bantam Books.


Much appreciation. Please include links to your own queries and I'll be glad to throw in some feedback as well.

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ryanznock
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Re: Alternate history - science fiction: THE PRINCE OF TROUBLE

Post by ryanznock » June 28th, 2011, 9:55 pm

I dig the retro future concept.

First things that jumped out at me:

I've seen Stygia used too many other places, and it's the only vaguely mythological name in the query, so it feels out of place.

'No such thing as an easy job in New Futura.' I'm guessing you were going for the noir-esque tone, implying being a 'private detective' is tough, but the phrasing doesn't _quite_ work for me. It sounds like a fluff statement. Obviously there would be _some_ sort of easy job in the City of Tomorrow.

You say someone wants the bug dead. I want you to immediately follow up with an example of how this occurs in the story. Does a mook try to shoot him during musical theater time? Is he poisoned? Already on the run? Instead of explaining the action in two sentences, grab our attention us now.

I don't think it's important to state that Miranda is Dexter's close friend. Skytaxi pilot is much more interesting of a hook.

Avoid simple to-be verbs like "There is" in a query. They're bland and don't convey the action you want in a sentence that talks about chases. I'd consider squeezing sentences together a bit. Something like "...someone wants the prince dead. After a bomb blows up Umfra's flying saucer, Dexter hails skytaxi driver Miranda Baron to fly them to New Futura's rocket port and shake the pursuit of a merciless hive queen-in-waiting. When the alien usurper threatens to destroy New Futura unless they hand the prince over, Dexter and Miranda lure her into a chase through the stars, but the washed-up space hero they hire as a captain ends up crashing them on Stygia. To defeat their alien foe, Dexter needs more than just guts and a laser pistol; he needs Umfra to become the prince he was born to be."

I dunno, something with a bit more vigor would help.


Then I see: 65,000 words? Oh, that's kinda short. And who's Sid? I had to read back to the beginning to see that Dexter was Sidney's last name. Pick one and stick with it. And as much of a fan as I was of West End's Star Wars stuff, a 15-year old gaming journal publication probably isn't worth mentioning. I'd keep the TALES OF EMPIRE mention, though.

Good luck.

retrorocket
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Re: Alternate history - science fiction: THE PRINCE OF TROUBLE

Post by retrorocket » June 29th, 2011, 11:02 am

excellent comments. Thanks for the input!

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Re: Alternate history - science fiction: THE PRINCE OF TROUBLE

Post by glj » June 29th, 2011, 11:43 am

It is the year 1949. Sidney Dexter plies his trade as a private detective in New Futura, a wondrous city of tomorrow with the fantastic 1939 World’s Fair at its center. Consider adding a modifier such as "the old 1939 World's Fair" or some such, as the two dates in the first line caused me to have to stop and re-read. Is it important to have the 1939? He takes on the supposedly easy (and well-paying) task of babysitting an important alien for a weekend of sightseeing and musical theater. Umfra is a prince on his world, a rare male drone from a society of insect-like workers who live on distant Stygia. I wouldn't say "supposedly easy", as the easy appears to be Sidney's assumption and we learn below that it does not turn out to be easy.

But there’s no such thing as an easy job in New Futura, even when bugsitting, good word and someone wants the bug prince dead. With the help of close friend and sky taxi pilot, Miranda Baron, Dexter keeps Umfra one step away from a merciless queen-in-waiting. There is a whirlwind chase through New Futura’s back alleys, beer halls and rocket port, with a Slovakian mobster thrown in for good measure. Good content, but this is written from the perspective of author describing the story very abstractly ("then I added some chase scenes"). This really pulls me out of the story. Pull me IN instead. When the pursuit takes them to the stars, Dexter, Miranda and their alien charge turn to a legendary, semi-retired space hero who is more trouble than help. The finale takes place on Stygia, Again you are coming in as the author ("please note my setting"). Keep the wording as a story ("They travel to Stygia...") where a hive city is the backdrop same comment here for a confrontation between the detective, the naïve drone he swore to protect and the deadly usurper who wants them both dead.

THE PRINCE OF TROUBLE is a 65,000 word novel of alternative history and science fiction that stands alone, but I hope to continue Sid’s adventures in this exciting retro-futuristic universe. Sidney Dexter has previously appeared in print as a short story in Aboriginal Science Fiction magazine. My other publishing credits include articles and short fiction for The Star Wars Adventure Journal and The Star Wars Roleplaying Game published by West End Games, and a short fiction entry in TALES FROM THE EMPIRE, an anthology published by Bantam Books.

I will repeat the comment that 65k words seems quite small for a science fiction novel

Good story and fairly compelling, but a hint of the big conflict would provide more interest to the reader. What impossible dilemma does Sidney have to face? Does protecting the drone require that he place himself in an impossible position?

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Re: Alternate history - science fiction: THE PRINCE OF TROUBLE

Post by retrorocket » July 3rd, 2011, 1:06 pm

Much appreciation to those who replied. I considered those comments and am posting an updated version:

It is the year 1949. Sidney Dexter plies his trade as a private detective in New Futura, a wondrous city of tomorrow with the fantastic old New York World’s Fair at its center. He takes on the easy (and well-paying) task of babysitting an important alien for a weekend of sightseeing and musical theater. Umfra is a prince on his world, a rare male drone from a society of insect-like workers who live on distant Stygia.

But there’s no such thing as an easy job in New Futura, even when bugsitting, and someone wants the prince dead. With the help of sky taxi pilot, Miranda Baron, Dexter keeps Umfra one step away from a merciless queen-in-waiting. Chased though the city’s back alleys, beer halls and rocket port, they avoid the clutches of a local mobster, a repo robot and the usurper’s own soldiers. They turn to a washed-up space hero to fly them back to the prince’s home world, where Umfra and Dexter must finally confront the deadly assassin to save his queen and his world.

THE PRINCE OF TROUBLE is a 75,000 word novel of alternative history and science fiction that stands alone, but I hope to continue Dexter’s adventures in this exciting retro-futuristic universe. Sidney Dexter has previously appeared in print as a short story in Aboriginal Science Fiction magazine. My other publishing credits include a short fiction entry in TALES FROM THE EMPIRE, a Star Wars anthology published by Bantam Books.

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Re: Alternate history - science fiction: THE PRINCE OF TROUBLE

Post by longknife » July 4th, 2011, 11:26 am

I don't like the start of - In 1949 .....

Sidney Dexter roams the backstreets and alleys of 1949 New Futura, searching for clues to the cases he takes on as a private detective.

It's only a suggestion but sets up your MC right away. You can then take him to the 1939 thing BUT you must set up the challenge he faces right away.

The Stygian embassy approached him for a seemingly easy babysitting job of watching over Prince Umfra, a rare male drone from a planet of insectoids.

I hope you see where I'm going with this.

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Re: Alternate history - science fiction: THE PRINCE OF TROUBLE

Post by Matt_X » July 4th, 2011, 3:02 pm

I think you've got an excellent query here and I would want to read this book.

My comments are mostly minor. Like the previous poster I take some issue with the name of Stygia, not because it's overused, but because I generally dislike it when planets with intelligent aliens have names that come from Earth languages or culture. If they're not sentient, fine, the planet should have a human name--but if they are, it should have a name from their language, which (especially if they're insectoid) wouldn't resemble ours. I know a decision like naming your planet is a huge one and changing it might be traumatic, but that's my two cents.

A question on naming your genre: my understanding is that stories that use older technology to create futuristic devices fall under steampunk. You may not have Victorian space-dirigibles, but because steampunk is hot right now, using that label might help catch the eye of an agent.

The sentence "He takes on the easy (and well-paying) task of babysitting an important alien for a weekend of sightseeing and musical theater." is gold. Intriguing and concise.

Consider striking "fantastic old" and just having "New York World's Fair." It's important to you that the fair happened ten years before, but it really isn't that important to the agent, and those descriptors are a bit clunky.

I know a previous poster said to remove the relationship of Miranda to the protag, but I disagree. Relationships are more interesting to me as a reader than occupations. Noting that she is female and the protag male, I immediately wonder if the possibility of romance is there, and if there is, you should definitely mention it. Failing that, I'd put an adjective at least--is she morose? Wacky? Undermedicated? For that matter, I'd like to know something about the characters of Sidney and Umfra--again, just an adjective or two.

Once again, well done. Sounds like an intriguing novel.

retrorocket
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Re: Alternate history - science fiction: THE PRINCE OF TROUBLE

Post by retrorocket » July 5th, 2011, 9:13 am

Thanks again to all who comment. It's good to hear from people outside my circle. I am having a problem classifying my novel's genre. Steampunk is certainly a hot button word these days, but I'm afraid my novel is past World War II in terms of its timeline. Dieselpunk is a term I have heard used to describe 'Mad Max' type settings. Is Retrofuturistic just too unknown? Again, great comments.

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wilderness
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Re: Alternate history - science fiction: THE PRINCE OF TROUBLE

Post by wilderness » July 5th, 2011, 5:30 pm

Alternative history is hot right now too; it doesn't have to be strictly steampunk. I think you've described the setting well enough that agents will understand and be able to classify it. I like the part about the World's Fair at the city's center.

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