Dear Miss Snark,
Chris Narito survived the bloody civil war that destroyed the United States and has now built a peaceful life in Canada. As the head of a research center that seeks a cure for the most intractable serial killers, Chris hopes to come to grips with human evil through science
– although this all too often takes a back seat to dealing with hard-headed politicians in search of pork to cut, fighting turf battles with private prison contractors, and the endless quest for
more funding. (this is as unfocused a topic sentence as we've seen today)
Unfortunately, Chris's work has attracted the attention of religious fanatics who want to remake Canada in their own image. (they're in favor of serial killers?) They target the center for threats, sabotage, and ultimately a terrorist attack. In the aftermath, even Chris's closest colleagues suspect that their head of research has come unhinged. Chris is forced into a war on two fronts – trying to save the center while confronting the past. (none of this makes any sense)
The Sleep of Monsters is a 60,000 word science fiction novel based on the latest research into the biological origins of violence. It's my first book-length work, but my short fiction has appeared in XYZ.
I've enclosed the first page; the full manuscript is available on request. Thank you for your consideration.
I'd have sent a form rejection at this point.
"No flash," I said for the third time, as a cameraman leaned in to get a shot of Member of Parliament Ray Thorpe in front of a biochamber. I was beginning to feel that I should never have agreed to host this fiasco, no matter how badly the Center needed the funding. (I agree to host fiascos all the time, don't you?)
But refusing Thorpe wasn't an option, and leaving someone else in charge might have been taken as an insult. Anyway, it would hardly be fair to put the burden on one of the lab techs. Lawrence really would have been the right person for the job, but Lawrence had a school play
to be at, and wouldn't get back until three. It wasn't like he was getting off lightly - there wasn't much to choose between watching third-graders attempt Shakespeare and explaining neurochemistry to a politician, anyway.
"So who is it in the box?" a reporter asked as the photographers swarmed around.
"Medical privacy laws forbid me to reveal that. I'm sorry." The last bit was a lie.
"Is it true that the Hicksville Horror guy is in here somewhere?" The prurience in his voice disgusted me. I reminded myself that he, too, was doing a job, trying to make a living, and so on.
"I can't say."
"I have it on good authority that he is," reporter said in a lower voice. "He killed eight kids before he was caught, right?"
He was trying to trick me into something that sounded like an admission. I wanted to tell him that Martin Stapleton only killed five children. That the other three were false confessions. How one of the keys to understanding Stapleton's actions was understanding how much he liked the attention that he got when he'd offer to show the police where more bodies were buried. But the reporter wouldn't care, and those of his readers who would care already knew. I walked away.
"So," the Member of Parliament said jovially, moving away from the biochamber, "give me your spiel. Obviously this place is meant to be more than a sauna for perverts and creeps."
"Obviously." I tried to smile, and not to let the whirring of the cameras and rustling of clothes distract me as I launched into my lines. Usually the lab was so quiet that you could hear someone coming in tennis shoes from three hallways down. "The purpose of the Offender Rehabilitation Program at the Zino Center is to create treatment programs for the most dangerous, most recidivism-prone criminals. Up until now, it's been very hard to find a cure for
chronic violent criminals because the only way to discover if the treatment has worked is to release the offender back into society and see if he – or in a few cases, she – offends again.
"When we're talking about offenses like rape or murder or child molestation, there's an understandable reluctance on the part of the community to take that risk. But without doing so, we can't learn very much. So for decades the rehabilitation issue has been stuck in
a morass of trial and error, with real progress often swamped by confusion or obscured by politics."
I glanced at the Thorpe, but he was smiling and nodding as if politics were the furthest thing from his mind.
You've started with an issue instead of a story or character and it shows. Writing fiction to illustrate political points is very very difficult. As I reader I'll care about people before I care about an issue.