HHCom 12

May 3rd, 2103: The media has been abuzz for months: the last chance to avoid collision is past, and asteroid 2004 VD17 is barreling toward Earth to impact off the coast of Los Angeles. Cam Sandino and her microbiologist father plan to have a great view when it takes out their old homes, and set up camp high in the Sierras. Everything changes late in the night before the impact, when Cam receives a vidcall from a woman who looks just like her ex-girlfriend, who speaks of biblical prophecy and information that no stranger should know.

By the time the coast is destroyed, forty-six billion computers have been hacked, including ones not connected to the Internet. As a slick of VX nerve agent spreads in the Pacific, her father disappears, and his last “Parks Department” contract traces back to a China Lake military base, it begins to seem as though everyone around her is keeping secrets. That is,
except for the woman's voice on the end of the line, feeding Cam information to prevent the extinction of all complex life on Earth. Soon, Cam finds good reason to question even her motives.

“Wormwood's Progeny” follows Cam from the salt flats of southern California to the mountains of a remote Japanese island, from technology worshipers to a fanatical doomsday cult, in a terrified world. In a battle between the world's most numerous lifeform and evolution's latest creation, Cam finds herself a pawn with one increasingly difficult goal: staying alive.

You have a kitchen sink in there too?
A hook is about enticing us to read about a character we find compelling/interesting. You've got every cliched plot device ever invented in here.

Focus. Try again.


Rei said...

Thanks Miss Snark.
I'll just have to try harder. :)

Anonymous said...

I want to "commend" this guy for going on Wikipedia and actually having the sense to write a stroy that EVERYONE has been pitching to me since there was a story on AP and Reuters on a possible asteroid impact in 2036.

And by "commend," I of course mean chastize for being unoriginal and bland.

Anonymous said...

*jaw drops*

Well, rei, I still like it.


Rashenbo said...

It does have potential but this was a little busy for me. I had to read it a couple of times because it felt like there was quite a bit packed in there... it felt...disjointed a little. That could be because it sounds like you have a lot happening in your plot and you were trying to get the most out of 250 words. Course, mine's still in the que so I might be eating my own words here! :)

Rei said...


Interesting. Even though it's only something at the beginning of the novel, and used mostly for symbolic value ("Wormwood"), simply having an asteroid is a problem? Can someone else confirm this? Stripping this one plot element out of the query wouldn't be a big problem...

Also, anonymous: the actual plot revolves more around Pelagibacter ubique. Please don't tell me you've been getting too many Pelagibacter ubique queries...

blissbat said...

I can see why this didn't work as a hook, but if sounds like it could be a pretty interesting book. God knows it's hard to describe even great plots in ways that aren't cliched.

Re: the anonymous comment above, any commenter who assumes for no obvious reason that the author's a man gets minus ten points in my book. Dork.

HawkOwl said...

I think I already pooh-poohed this on Evil Editor. And I don't know how to spell pooh-pooh.

Rei said...


No, you didn't. It hasn't been posted to EE. The opening was, though. Your comments on the opening were "Ok, I was totally with you until you told us what the plot is. :) I'm so not into hackers and asteroids. Pretty good opening, though."

My other hook (#20) was posted on EE, and the version here was pretty much written by EE, but was trashed by Miss Snark (and you).

What's a would-be writer to do? :P

blissbat said...

the actual plot revolves more around Pelagibacter ubique

You know, I hoped that's where you were going with it. I totally think you should make that part clear in the query.

Anonymous said...

I liked this one, the only thing that stuck is "forty-six billion computers have been hacked, including ones not connected to the Internet."

Anonymous said...

"What's a would-be writer to do?"

EE turns a submission into a better query letter. EE can only work with what he has. I've seen EE turn unmitigated crap into mere crap, and that's the best he could do with what he was given.

Yours is far better than crap, of course. But EE and Miss Snark can only work with what the writer gives them.

Anonymous said...

The writer is directed to read "Lucifer's Hammer" by Niven & Pournelle, watch 10 hours of Discovery Channel programming on killer asteroids and mass extinctions and throw out his DVDs of Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day, and Battlefield Earth.

Rei said...

Anonymous: I've seen the Discovery Channel shows, and do not own any of the aforementioned DVDs. What on earth made you assume that I didn't know what I'm talking about? 2004 VD17 isn't an asteroid that will cause "mass extinctions". It's a 'regional disaster' scale asteroid. I did the effects calculation with two things:

1. The Earth Impact Effects Program

2. Several published papers on tsunami scales from different kinds of impact.

As in the hook, the impact is right near the beginning of the book. The book isn't "about" an impact. It's about the unexpected aftermath.

I just don't get why you decided to target me and assume that I got the science wrong. Simply because I have an asteroid? Are asteroids that problematic? I never would have guessed.

Here's my data that I used:

2004 VD17: 0.5-1.2km diameter. 14.4 gigatonnes of TNT equivalent.
0.13-1.8e12 kg. 2.0 g/cm^3. Low albedo. Impacting at a distance of 500km.
Takes up 0.14 degrees in the sky at impact. Both sun and moon are about 0.5 degrees. On final impact, will move at a speed of 0.09 degrees per second. 13 mile hole in
the water, 4000 foot oceanfloor crater collapsing to 1500 feet. Barely
discernable earthquake arrives in 100 seconds. Ejecta starts to arrive in 5
½ minutes – 8.09 microns, with occasional larger bits. Airblast arrives in
25 minutes, with a mean windspeed of 45.7 mph, loud as heavy traffic, enough
to shatter glass. 20-25 meter waves moving at 200 m/s arrive at Burbank in
20 minutes, with lesser submerging due to its altitude. The thermal flash
and earthquake will do enough damage on their own.

luna_the_cat said...

rei: for what it's worth, *I* didn't assume anything about your science, until I had a chance to read more of it. To me it sounds as if you've done your research (only thing I would suggest is that multiple earthquakes are likely for any impact of that magnitude, as faults are progressively destabilised. From what I can get, something that big, the inside of the earth rings like a bell.)

I think I would read the story...but I agree witht he others, that the hook is busy and unfocussed. (The line about the computers stuck in my head though. It's a great line, although the sheer number of the computers made me do a double-take.) I like the last paragraph, but I think you could cut all the plot stuff from "As a slick of VX nerve agent spreads in the Pacific..." etc.

But then, what do I know. I'm not published yet either.