Sunday, September 26, 2010

#180

Dear QueryShark,

18 year old Keri McCallen is the youngest ever to serve as commander of a space ship, let alone the brand new Elpis. She is on a mission to explore the stars.

That she's the youngest, and the ship is brand new don't seem to matter for the story you're describing below. It's also description, thus unnecessary description. Always open a query with action, or a choice the hero needs to make, or what's at stake. In other words something dynamic, not static.

She met a guy on Earth named Chance, but who suddenly Chance appears on The Elpis wanting her help. Turned out Chance is from another planet called Erra. His people are involved in an interstellar war. He was has been sent to ask for Keri's help in particular. What's so special about why her? Even Chance wasn't told why; it just had to be her.

This is unfocused. Does it matter she met him on earth? No. What matters is the forward action: he needs her help and doesn't know why.

Unbeknown to them Keri's mother is involved.

Keri thought her parents died in a horrific aircraft accident on Earth. Now her mother comes back working the puppet strings to bring Keri to their home world Erra, to triumph against the Teagun Empire who's set out to destroy both Erra and Earth for revenge.

This passes unfocused and is now chaotic. Focus ONLY on what is going to happen. Leave out the background (her parents died etc)

Seems there is something special about Keri, her mother is Erron and her father was Teagun. The power of those two races comes together. Now it's Keri's unique existence that can save them all.

You'll want to rethink naming any race "teagun."


Last Chance is a sci-fi mystery containing 52,000 words. This is my debut.

There's not a chance in the world this book is long enough. VERY fast paced high octane crime novels clock in at 55,000 words. Science fiction, and the requisite world building usually start at double that.

I enjoy that this book opens your mind to more possibilities in outer space. If there is intelligent life could some of it have come from Earth millions of years ago? I'd like to think it's a possibility. If they did, what would they be like? I answer those questions and more.

All that may be true, and may be why you wrote the book, but none of it belongs in a query letter. The only thing that belongs in a query is the story.

Thank you for your consideration,


I have a feeling you shouldn't be querying yet. Many writers query too soon, and I have the feeling this is the case here. A good writers group, and critique partners can often help you see places the book needs development. Rather than revise this query, spend some time on the book.


This is a form rejection.

47 comments:

arhooley said...

Since you've been advised to rewrite the novel, not the query, I'd like to focus on your writing itself.

It looks a bit amateurish. "Turned out Chance is from another planet called Erra." "Seems there is something special about Keri, her mother is Erron and her father was Teagun." Forget for a moment the inappropriate change of tense and the comma splice -- Whose voice is this, dropping pronouns in that folksy way? It doesn't match with your opening line, in which you sound a bit awestruck at Keri -- "the youngest ever." And it's way out of sync with that paragraph that begins, "I enjoy that this book opens your mind to more possibilities in outer space."

(By the way, sci-fi fans here will probably name a dozen writers who have already explored the very possibilities you claim to be opening our minds to. A little less awe at your own work, please!)

Irene Troy said...

If this sounds nasty, please stay tuned to the end. The novel, as described, sounds very similar to something I wrote my freshman year in college for a class in creative fiction. I remember the professor’s comments: “you have a nice skeleton for a story here, but as written, it lacks the vital organs and flesh” At the time I felt hurt and misunderstood, today I think these might have been some of the most important words any writing teacher has offered.

As presented in the query, I find no plot, no characterization and no passion, all essential ingredients for creating a sellable novel of any genre.

Janet wrote that you should eliminate this entire paragraph and focus on the action within your novel.

I enjoy that this book opens your mind to more possibilities in outer space. If there is intelligent life could some of it have come from Earth millions of years ago? I'd like to think it's a possibility. If they did, what would they be like? I answer those questions and more.

While I agree that this doesn’t belong in the query, I wonder if these commonly asked questions could serve as the focus for your novel for your novel. The question of intelligent life on other planets, in other unknown universes or in places no one has yet discovered, is one that many, many people seek to answer. It is also a base upon which much of science fiction is developed. I can see how effective fiction might be based on these ideas, but if this is your choice, remember: you don’t want to pose the question. Instead you want your characters to show readers both the question and the answer as found in their action.

I think you have developed a solid frame for your story (the skeleton), but you are far from done building the rest of the body, the flesh, sinew and heart. Don’t be discouraged, instead, go back to your writing and think of what you want your characters to show your readers.

College Boy said...

I like to workshop the first third or so of my novel at Gotham Writer's Workshop in Manhattan. If you like too far away from New York City to go in person, they have online workshops. From these you can both get an idea of what reaction you will get from your readers and lots of tips on how to improve your manuscript. I have an agent reading my full manuscript. I workshopped the first fifty pages before submitting it and am workshopping the second fifty pages this fall.

Nianne said...

I have a question about what the shark is looking for in the way of characterization.

In an earlier post (#160), she defended her assessment that the description "bug collector" was a great way to reveal character, because only a certain type of person would be a bug collector.

Here, though, she doesn't think the description "youngest captain ever" is an interesting piece of characterization? Only a certain type of person could be the youngest captain ever, and it's got to be a pretty interesting person.

Portraying character is part of what I'm struggling with in my own query, but I don't feel like I'm learning what I ought to be because I don't see why one of these things is good and the other is not.

alaskaravenclaw said...

Nianne, to me "youngest captain ever" just raised questions (the principle one being: "Why?") which weren't answered in the query. Nothing that was presented about the character made her sound like the kind of person I would expect to have achieved that.

I agree with what arhooley said: I'm sure most the SF fans I know could name a string of books in which life forms from earth colonized other planets millions of years ago. That's actually why I gave up writing SF: the cutting edge was probably easier to find and fictionalize half a century ago than now. And for SF, you need to be on the cutting edge.

I also wondered, given the character's age and the length of the book, whether this was meant to be YA.

Stephanie Barr said...

I love science fiction. I've been reading it all my life. This should be a book that calls out to me.

It doesn't. I have no sense of Keri, no sense of the story, no stake in the situation. That's what I need. Being science fiction doesn't change that, doesn't negate that.

Science fiction needs a compelling story and compelling characters. SF is just a setting, showcase for them.

glad walla said...

Nianne, to repurpose the old Fitzgerald quote, "bug collector" to me sounds like beginning from a person and finding you've created a type. "Youngest captain ever" is beginning from a type, and finding you've created—nothing.

Of course, I don't even play a shark on the internet.

Marissa Doyle said...

I'm wondering if this might be a first effort of a relatively young writer...in which case, listen to Madame Shark. Heck, listen to her in any case. But rather than going back and revising this story, I'd suggest you start another one instead--you'll learn a lot more.

Word ver is, I kid you not, SCIFYI

Joseph said...

I don't think it's a pointless detail but I understand what the Shark is saying. Science fiction and fantasy novels often center around characters who are too young to do what they do, or the wrong gender, etc. Protagonists are typically unconventional. The detail immediately turns the protagonist into a certain type of character.

Bug collector, on the other hand, is kind of funny and cute and revealing--of the character AND author. It says, "here is a mind that is, perhaps, not governed by cliches". Besides exciting plots and compelling conflicts, probably you want to turn potential agents on by showing them you have an eye for quirky and compelling detail.

Unfortunately, the prose style and story in query 180 both sound a little expected and cliche to me. Kudos on the accomplishment but do more reading in the genre (and others!). You need to be more careful (and economical) with your writing--the way you phrase sentences, etc. Pay attention to the way that other writers express themselves and emulate.

Margaret Yang said...

"Many writers query too soon..."

I think we ALL query too soon. It's part of the job description.

So, no worries, chum. Happens to us all. Dust yourself, off, revise this novel or start a new one, and try again.

Adam Heine said...

"...the youngest ever to serve as commander of a space ship..."

This reminded me immediately of the original Mary Sue story, the youngest and most-loved lieutenant in Star Fleet history.

I'm reminded of Mary Sue because, as others have mentioned, this opening sentence is left completely unsupported. Why is she qualified for this? Why is she chosen for a brand new space ship when there are other equally- or more-qualified adults who have waited years for their own command?

The solution in the query is drop the phrase. Like the shark says, it doesn't matter to the rest of the letter.

But it's something to think about for the story too. You might want to read up on Mary Sue (if you're not already familiar with the term) and think about Keri's characterization.

Theresa Milstein said...

Being the youngest on the ship could be interesting if that fact creates tension. I feel like I can't comment on the story because the query is just so unclear. If you could get to who Keri is, what she wants, and who or what is standing in her way.

Good luck on the rewrite!

AA said...

I noticed that the writer's voice doesn't seem very mature. One of the best ways to combat this is to read Asimov, Bradbury, Wells, etc. Even though the technology referred to in those books will seem laughable compared to now, what we're looking for here is voice. You'll also get a better idea of which cliches have been done to death.

The writing style here is all over the place. It seems more like an amalgam of different styles than any one in particular.

L. Bowser said...

I would have stopped reading after the first sentence. The age of the youngest commander in history is 18? To me this screams "I have not spent time building my world". This is an Earth based society, so it has to be a realistic age. For Earth.

To start off, ask yourself several questions. How old would she have to be to join a military organization? What type of training would be required? What's the fastest she would be able to complete this? How did she get promoted so quickly? If you start exploring these questions you'll quickly see that eigheen is problematic.

Do a little research. Use some classic science fiction as well as real life to find examples of the "youngest evers" for flagship commanders -- based on how you refer to the Elpis I assume it is a flagship. Mid to late twenties is about the youngest you'll find in modern times. And typically, such a person has been seriously battle tested and field promoted (as in the person above them was killed in battle.) Even Wesley Crusher of Star Trek was an "acting ensign" until such time as he could join the academy and become a real one.

Since this takes place in the future, there are other things you should know about Earth before you put Keri on another world. Why? Because this is the world that has shaped her. And part of what will provide conflict for her down the road. So here are additional items to think about. What does religion look like? Describe global politics. What do kids learn in school? What is the structure of the military? You don't have to share these answers in your story, but you do need to know them. The following link adresses fantasy world-building, but much of it applies to science fiction as well http://www.sfwa.org/2009/08/fantasy-worldbuilding-questions/. I recommend you run through the questions twice, once for earth and once for Erra.

The advice about joining a critique group is very good. You should check out www.critters.org. It focuses on speculative fiction (sci-fi, horror and fantasy), an excellent resource, free to join and only costs your time. Many of its members have published short stories or novels.

arhooley said...

L. Bowser, I heartily agree. I'd also wonder about the psychological maturity of an 18-year-old commander. If she's wise, tough, and commanding along with smart, quick, and perfectly trained, why even make her 18? She's a 35-year-old in a teenager's body. It's almost like she has mental progeria.

Kyla said...

Ender from sci-fi classic Ender's Game became a commander when he was nine. Yeah, he was a genius, I'm just sayin'.

Stephanie Barr said...

I don't think 18 is out of the realm of possibility in a leadership position. Although we have a tendency to think all children mature at the same rate or that teenagers can't do anything clever, there are plenty of counter examples. Alexander the Great was kicking major butt at that age. Ditto for Henry V.

Mozart wrote operas and symphonies at his youth. A number of youthful geniuses have been put to work at youthful ages. A little over a century ago, teenagers frequently were responsible for themselves, even started families or businesses. There was no one to do it for them. In many cultures, adulthood responsibilities and privileges came with puberty.

If one extrapolates a society (as is frequently done in science fiction) where advancement and reward are based on merit as opposed to birth or seniority, this is not outside the realm of possibility. A mature sixteen-year-old is not any more implausible than a childish thirty-year-old and both can be found in reality.

Stephanie Barr said...

When we talk about "earth" ages, it's also important to remember that "earth" is more than "the Western world." There are many cultures where a great deal is expected (and received) from teenagers, even today.

Orlando said...

I was confused by the following: was Keri from earth or Erron. Why does Teagun want revenge on earth? What kind of power does Keri have from being half Erron and half Teagun? And did she end up on earth? How can Keri's unique existence save earth? Last Chance, does this refer to Keri's friend Chance or something else?

Adam Heine said...

But in Ender's Game (1) there are supporting reasons (e.g. they were selecting, and possibly breeding, child geniuses) and (2) Ender is still very much a child (bullied by his brother and others, misses his sister to the point of mental shutdown, etc).

Those may be true of this story, but it's not evident in the query.

wizardonskis22 said...

Kyla, you hit my hammer on the nail mentioning Ender's Game. When I read this query, that's what I immediately thought. This could be a good sign because I love Ender's Game! However, the length and voice are both slightly concerning. I assume the author has read Ender's Game, if not, I recommend it. It has a great voice and is extremely difficult to put down.
The length is also worrying, for the reasons everyone esle has mentioned.
The content of the query is the one other problem. I am an avid Scifi reader, especially Ender's Game. The basic premise sounds like something I'd pick up in a heartbeat. The rest is a bit problematic. The writing is a bit confusing, which is immediately distracting. "She met a guy on Earth named Chance, but suddenly Chance appears on the Elpis..." is one such example. I'm sitting there reading along, and I can't help but wonder what you mean by suddenly appearing. My wondering about details is good, but wondering in a confused way is not.
On the brighter side, there is definitely promise here! Keep it up! You're doing great, and I can't wait to see your revision, once you've tweaked you manuscript and query! Good luck!

Jo-Ann said...

Stephanie - the teenagers (henry V Alex the Great) inherited leadership positions. If Keri is not of noble lineage, there has to be a good reason for her to be given such responsibility at such a young age.

One example - Joan of Arc was a peasant teenager when she persuaded the king that God had chosen her to lead an army. But she's a rare example (!).

I believe that a little more detail about how an 18 year old became a commander would be helpful - otherwise it suggests that nepotism or blackmail have played a part in her remarkable ascent. Both options make for interesting tensions in the plot, but neither make you love the heroine.

So, #180, if you can carry this out in a snappy, shark-approved line, I would be v. impressed!

Katrina S. Forest said...

I'm joining in with the people who thought of the original Mark Sue fanfiction, "A Trekkie's Tale" upon reading this query - not only because of the "youngest commander ever" line, but also because the mix of her two races makes her extra special. (The original Mary Sue reveals herself to be part Vulcan.)

Ender's Game had quite a different world - the government was purposefully seeking out children and Ender was bred to be a genius. He's got a whole host of problems, not the least of which is that he can get insanely violent. He also spends a decent chunk of the book wanting nothing to do with the games at all.

Contrast that to a young commander who gains authority in an adult world simply because she is just that good. Who, as far as we can tell, has no personal struggles other than she's even more special than she thought she was. That's a Mary Sue.

Now, Keri may have much more depth than that, but it's not coming through in this query for me, which means it may not be coming through in the pages either. As a reader, I want to read about a character that has real flaws and hard choices to make. If you can create a character I care about, I'll read just about anything.

Marissa Doyle said...

What Adam said--you can write wahtever you want, so long as you can make it believable. That can be hard to do in the context of a 250 word query letter, of course, so maybe it might be better to say "Keri is the youngest-ever captain blah blah blah" and leave out the actual figure, just to avoid the "yeah, right" reaction that happens when we see the '18'.

Dana Donovan said...

I don't really have a comment for #180. Getting here after the first twenty-five posts, I can hardly add constructively to what others have already said of the query.

However, I do want to congratulate Janet for her recognition by P&E and add this. Though her service and commitment to the writing community through this blog is undeniably awesome, additional congratulations are also in order.

To you.

I am talking about those of you who post regularly on QS. Your observations, comments and critiques continue to blow me away. They are intelligent, insightful (if not sometimes brutal) and always dead on. The Shark’s selfless dedication notwithstanding, I believe the participation and contributions of her sharkettes is what puts this blog over the top.

So, in recognition to Janet and all of you, I say congratulations for a job well done.

PS #180, take all the advice you get here to heart, and thanks for the white space.

Stephanie Barr said...

Success at early age doesn't have to be likely. It only has to be plausible. Lots of leaders gained the throne at an early age. But conquering most of the world before thirty - that takes someone extraordinary. The harder success is at an early age, the more impressive it is to do it.

My point is just that arguing the impossibility in this day and age is misleading. Science fiction is a way of building heroes as important or impressive as any in the past. In this case, Keri could be a prodigy or could have inherited her command (as a member of a shipping family, for instance, a la the Liaden universe).

Unfortunately, the query didn't build on that to tell us what makes her extraordinary other than her racial mixture. It's not enough that someone is in an extraordinary position - to be interesting, we need to understand why.

L. Bowser said...

Some of the rest of the world does expect more of their young people. But this "more" rarely includes prominently and nationally recognized leadership positions. I agree that it's not "impossible" for a great military leader to rise up at this age, though I think citing examples from hundreds or thousands of years ago does not help your case. We're talking about something that takes place in the future, not the past. The most relevant context would be near the present day.

There are many reasons that someone of Alexander the Great, Joan of Arc or Henry V age could do what is almost unthinkable today. First, as was mentioned, two were aristocracy. They were born to the right parents who died young enough for them to take the reigns of the kingdom and military. Second, Joan of Arc's rise to leadership had little to do with her military abilities. Rather, she was able to convince the right people she was chosen by God (and therefore could not fail.) Third, at the time all those happened, the average life span was mid thirties or less. If you waited until the ages we do today to develop and appoint military leadership, you would have had chaos. Soldiers and generals were selected and trained from a young age. By the time you were 18-20 you may have had 8 years of military training and service under your belt. Elder statesmen as we know them today, were a rarity. An old soldier was twenty-five to thirty.

You'll be hard pressed to find a modern example of military leadership ascension on this scale, short of a battlefield promotion (which is typically temporary.) Almost every military organization in the world today has a official minimum age of enlistment of 17-18. All notable deviations from this (of which there are two or three) are third world countries. I'm not saying this couldn't change in the future, but in my opinion the circumstances that would allow the world to move in that direction would have to be part of the world building.

Stephanie Barr said...

Odd. Where does the query say she's military?

It might also be noted that, in science fiction and colonies in general, regression to a far more primitive time are common.

I'm not defending the specifics of this query here. I don't have enough information to do so. I'm defending the notion that age does not preclude capability or responsibility. The fact that there are any examples of capable teenagers in history indicates that youth can do incredible things.

Are there societies (including the one we have)where power for the youth is all but impossible? Yes. But that doesn't mean it's better. And there quite a few "children" who have started IT businesses that have made them millionaires while still in their youth. A fair comparison to the forms of success available in days gone by, in my opinion.

I'm not trying to be difficult. I'm pointing out that the restrictions on the success of youth are as much a matter of society as they are a reflection on teenagers. One of the nice things about science fiction is that we can use it to focus on the potential of people adjusting the society as we require.

College Boy said...

One thing that I noticed about science fiction is that it is even more competitive to get published than other genres. What you do with this observation is up to you.

alaskaravenclaw said...

I agree with the points that have been raised about Ender's Game and about the unlikelihood of attaining military leadership at age 18. What it all comes down to is this.

Anything at all is possible in fiction (and Ender's Game's a good example) as long as you convince us it happened. We all know fiction has to be more believable than reality, because reality's got nothing to prove.

What the writer hasn't done, at least in the query, is convince us it happened.

L. Bowser said...

Military(or maybe government) ship is inferred by the military title of Commander. Military may not be stated explicitly, but it is implied by the author's choice of language describing her position.

As far as regression to primitive times in science fiction and colonies, I agree this happens. But typically there is some precipitating event. Colonies revert when there is a hardship the current leadership and societal structure can't handle, or there is a temporary power vaccuum due to death. In times of peace and prosperity, societies rarely violate the social norms they operate by. They also tend to revert back to societal norms once that crisis has passed.

There is no indication in this query that something like this has happened. In fact, just the opposite. Every indication is that things must be good on Earth. They are launching exploration missions, something that is unexpected during a crisis. Another indication is the "youngest ever" designation. This fact is not surprising when things are going poorly for a society because it has become a temporary norm if not necessity. The designation would not be special.

As far as comparing this to young people and their IT businesses, I find this a difficult comparison. When you are appointed the commander of a ship someone else chose you to lead it. And the people you are leading are sworn to follow those above you, and therefore you by proxy. And that command above will not do things that may violate that trust, lest the lose it. Contrast that with starting a company. When you start a company you chose to lead. And people chose to follow you. Some for money, some for purpose. But they also do so knowing they can leave at any time. So while they seem similar on the surface, they are vastly different around the subject of personal choice and at whose discretion you lead.

I am not saying that her worlds have to conform to specific norms. They don't. But there needs to be an indication in the setup why the violation of expectations are possible. Especially if you are starting with Earth, becasue there are pre-conceived notions. Every science fiction story I have read that violates some common societal norm has done this. If you want me to suspend my disbelief at the possibility that an 18 year old has been given the keys to the flag ship, then tell me why. Otherwise you've lost me because I believe you have not spent enough time world-building. Others are free to have a different standard.

Stephanie Barr said...

Agreed.

I won't say youth in a position of power is impossible. However, the query failed to justify it.

This could be corrected in the query by either leaving the age question by the wayside (which, if this isn't YA may be best) or giving us more reason to find it reasonable.

wizardonskis22 said...

About the age thing.
a of all, the closer one is to 18, the older it seems. For a 20-year-old or sixteen, eighteen seems pretty old. However, to someone who has reached the respectable forties or so, I imagine 18 would seem pretty young. Just food for thought.
b of all, 18-year-olds often can do far more than people expect. Take Peter Wiggin (or Val) for example. They were 11, 12, whatever. Not even 13! And already they began to affect the world using the nets. By the time Peter was 14 or so, he was one of the most influential figures of the time, via Locke, and nobody had a problem with it until, in Shadow of the Hegemon, he lets people know. Then there are others. Alexander the Great. King Tut. Daniel Radcliffe. There are so many people who stood out long before they were 18.
Of all the potential problems with this story/query, I feel that age is the least worrisome. After all, Christopher Paolini was writing the Eragon books since he was 15 ish and S.E. Hinton wrote Outsiders at 15, published at 16. It was a 10 year old girl who invented the first sticky notes, and think of the state of society today if we didn't have Post-its!
I didn't mean to go on a rant or anything, but youth have the power to do almost anything, as long as they set their mind to it.

L. Bowser said...

Wizrdonskis22:

You give lots of examples where age didn't matter, but I want you to look at them and see how they are different from what was in this query.

First Peter and Val Wiggins. Orson Scott Card did a masterful job creating a world where power at such an age was possible. But there was an absolute external force involved, namely the war with the buggers. To ignore that is to ignore the exact point I was making. You can violate an age norm when you create the context for why it is possible. The author clearly has not done that with this query.

Alexander the Great and King Tut are also great examples of this. They ascended to rule through divine right. Not because they were the most qualified people for the job. In fact, one could argue that Alexander the Great, for all his accomplishments, really stood on the shoulders of his father who had build the Macedonian army into one of the most well organized and finely tuned fighting machines in the world. Did he need ability to accomplish what he did. Yes. But let's not pretend for one second that his ascension to leadership had anything to do with him. It was the societal expectation. Him not ascending would have been the shock.

A 10-year old girl did not invent sticky notes. They were invented by 3-M scientist Art Fry. A 10 year-old girl would not have even had access to the special glue necessary to create them.

And while I will not deny that Daniel Radcliffe is a decent actor, you could have put just about anyone decent in the role of Harry Potter and had them succeed. And let's face it having a 20 year-old play a 12 year-old boy would have been ridiculous. In his case, age would have been a hinderance to success. Again, context of the world his success happened in. Being too old would have violated the norm in this case.


S.E. Hinton and Chris Paolini were both young when they published. I'm not aware of this being a problem so long as they write well. There is no societal norm that says they can't be a great writer when they're young.

Here's one other thing to think about. Of all the real people you mentioned, why do we not have trouble suspending disbelief around their accomplishments? Because they actually happened. You don't have to suspend disbelief because it's history.

If I write a novel where a 44 year-
old takes power of a European nation in the 1930's and makes a real bid at controlling the whole of Europe, people would have no problem because Hitler did that. If I wrote the same novel and substituted an 18 year-old boy, I would lose a lot of people immediately unless I provided some context as to why this was even possible.

I don't dispute that young people can do great things, or that they have done great things. They do all the time. But looking at the context in which they do it in is critical. In my opinion, the author has not done that.

alaskaravenclaw said...

I'll deny that Daniel Radcliffe is a decent actor.

But all this arguing about what an 18-year-old can and can't do simply underscores the point: if the author had convinced us, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

College Boy said...

As someone who has served in the Navy, I cannot see someone commanding a ship without at least a decade of experience as a naval officer behind them, and that would still have to be an extraordinary situation. Reading that an 18-year-old is commanding a spaceship causes me to immediately stop reading the query.

Janet Reid said...

All the comments about age got me looking at Ender's Game again (what a great book!).

But it also made me think: mentioning the age the OTHER way would be truly intriguing: at 18, she's the OLDEST space ship commander.

That would certainly pique my interest in reading more.

arhooley said...

King Tut? He was nothing but a member of the Lucky Sperm Club -- or the Unlucky Sperm Club. He was apparently an inbred weakling and his reign was undistinguished.

jdh said...

Something about this reminds me of Jack Vance. Now there is some fast-paced science fiction mystery writing for you! Totally addictive. If the author hasn't read Vance, I would totally recommend it. Heck, if anyone on this blog hasn't read Vance, I would recommend it.

nn Angel said...

I strongly agree with the Shark about renaming the Teagun alien race, probably because, replace the u with an e and you have my first name (pronunciation I'm guessing is the same). Actually, the spelling and pronunciation wouldn't be far off from the various forms of the name and it's apparently becoming more popular depending on where you're from. Either way, it might be best to pick a new name for them. On a personal level, I don't want my name associated with a villianous sounding race. On a more practical level, the juxtaposition of the two words makes me think they're prim, drink tea, and gun happy (or the other thought that crossed my mind was a big intimidating looking wuss with a gun).

Jo-Ann said...

I agree with the Shark - have a think about the "Teagun" name. It inspires some unfortunate mental imagery. Where I come from, it's not uncommon for some people refer to a small boy's private bits as a "teapot", particularly when potty-training him. So I think you can see where I'm going with Teagun thing? Urgh!

Mind you, if the writer is following in the footsteps of the (much missed) Douglas Adams, perhaps some silly alien race names are appropriate? Think of "Slartibardfast", "Vroomfondel" and "Magikthies" to name a few.

It's been ages since a good comedy SciFi book/series has hit the shelves - how about it, #180?

L. Bowser said...

Janet,

If it were written the other way, that at 18 she is the oldest spaceship captain, would you still look for more context in the query pointing to the person having built a world where that was possible, i.e. a sentence around backstory? Or would you look for the rest of the query to hang together and then read pages to see if it worked?

alaskaravenclaw said...

Jo-Ann,

Am devoutly hoping that in your part of the world kindergarten classes do not sing "I'm a little teapot/Short and stout/This is my handle, this is my spout".

jdh said...

Sigh-
I, too, miss Douglas Adams. Back when I was super poor, he was the only author I would buy new and in hardback.

Tiger said...

@nn Angel, especially

I have no idea what the problem is with the alien race's name. I don't live in an area that uses it or anything like it as slang, and I don't think it being close to a real name is a good reason to change it. Good lord, get over it. How do you feel when you run across someone in a book who has your ACTUAL name, doing something bad or evil? We don't get to put those kinds of restrictions on authors.

wizardonskis22 said...

Back to the age thing:
First, you're right about the post-it's, I read it somewhere long ago and didn't check it before I said it. Tsk, tsk. However, a teenager did invent earmuffs, which are also pretty important. If you have any doubts about that, ask your ears.

Second, although it is true that Daniel Radcliffe is not necessarily the best actor, he still has been quite successful, if you look at it from a financial and fame-wise view. Anyway, one could say many people are successful that way, but it doesn't mean they're good at what they do. Quite a bit is luck.

That ties into Third, it is true that all those kids had special circumstances. However, which adults that come to power don't have any? The Zhou Dynasty rose to power through the "Mandate of Heaven" which is divine authority. I believe L. Bowser made a point about Alexander and Tut because of that, but I don't think that goes only for kids. Anyway, younger and younger people are becoming more and more accomplished. Young teenagers are making loads of money from computer programming, making aps, and doing all sorts of other things that were previously considered as limited to adults. With this sci-fi, which I assume takes place in the future, it is quite possible that this rise of youth power has gone even further. It's certainly possible: take women's rights. They went from having no power to having some, and kept rising. Now, there's been a female prime minister of the UK, and a woman came very close to being president of the USA. If women can move transend their reptuation as uesless, lower, or deformed men (as Aristotle seemed to think they were), why can't kids?

alaskaravenclaw said...

Well, "woman" isn't a developmental stage. "Kid" is. If you tell me "a woman is commanding a starship!" I don't question it, because I have no reason to doubt the possibility of it. Or at least not if I accept the existence of starships.

You could argue that kids are an oppressed group, but that wouldn't address the problem people are having with this query.

The problem that people are having with this query is that the author hasn't created a context in which his/her assertion is believable.

A good rule for writers: if many people say the same thing about what you've written, you ought to at least ask yourself whether they might be right.