Eventually there comes the moment when any author has to submit what they have written to the jaded palate of agencies. Friends have enjoyed what I’ve written, but one always receives a bit of a free pass from that quarter. Today I started the process of seeking representation. There aren’t that many agencies that will accept science fiction in the UK, so the list is not particularly hard to find. That still required several days of production: cover letters, synopses (some in one-page form, some longer), character arc summaries, excerpts of the first three chapters, the first six chapters, the first 10,000 words. Here’s the core of my cover letter:
“Father, tell me a story?” asks Isaiah, sitting in the afternoon calm. Moments later, an alien craft smashes into the jungle near his isolated Nigerian village. Inside is the shattered body of a man. Samara has escaped, barely, from the space-based prison of Tartarus. He doesn’t know who captured him, or why. All he knows is that he must warn his people that they are in danger, and return to the woman he loves, before their city breaks out of Earth orbit forever. But first he has to survive the brutal local warlord attracted by his arrival, and protect the village that only ever wanted to be left alone. Samara is not alien but his culture and technology are so different that, to paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, it may as well be magic. Tartarus Falls is a 72,000-word science fiction novel set in an African equatorial region 170 years away. The world economy has atomised. Its most educated people live in orbital cities, their lives insulated from the planet below. Since William Gibson, many science fiction writers have focused on dysfunctional Westernised societies set against a technological near-future. Neill Blomkamp, in District 9, portrayed the more exotic realm of an African dystopia filled with alien technology and competing local rivalries. Throw in a little of Italo Calvino’s postmodern conflict of stories in “If on a winter’s night a traveller”, and the tone of Alan Paton’s “Cry, the Beloved Country”. Tartarus Falls ponders the question of what would happen if those aliens were us.
Now the waiting begins.