HHCom 42

Octavia was raised by a good fundamentalist Mormon family, and believes in their rules for women, which don't include working outside the home - but do include polygamy. Nobody asked her if she wanted to move to Mars, but once she gets there, those rules put her in conflict with the need to survive.

Escape from New Deseret is a science fiction novel, complete at 81,000 words. It is set in a near future where space travel has become affordable for even college students and retirees. Various private groups can and do set up independent Mars colonies, hiding under a fig leaf of government authorization bought from the lowest bidder.

The book follows Octavia Vutrick, a child bride who becomes a determined woman with skills critical to the colony’s survival. Unfortunately, her newfound independence puts her at odds with the colony’s leadership, endangering not only her life but also the lives of her children.

The colonization of Mars is a perennial favorite in science fiction. There aren’t a lot of new books about near-future colonization, and many of the books that do touch on the subject are more focused on the first colony. This book focuses on the frontier days after “first landing” but before full settlement. It is meticulously researched, and set in the Meridiani Terra region of Mars, currently being explored by NASA’s Opportunity rover.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Mormons on Mars.
This isn't a hook, this is a query letter.
Any book that uses "perennial favorite" to entice me to read it has missed "fresh and new" as a selling strategy.

Plus this is just same old "coming of age, fighting with your father" stuff gussied up in a space suit.


Stacia said...

Mormons are not polygamists. Mormons found practicing polygamy are excommunicated.

While I see you've used "fundamentalist Mormon" to differentiate, you still want to be careful and get your facts right. Why do they need to be Mormons at all? Why not just be a strict fundamentalist family, or members of a fundamentalist sect? You mention polygamy in the next sentence anyway.

(And no, believe me, I am NOT a Mormon.)

Anonymous said...

I know that this book takes place in the future when the rules of faith could theoretically be different, but to handle Mormonism in this way would definitely offend the Mormons I know. For one, they don't like to talk about the polygamy thing, for another, lots of Mormon women today work outside the home, and for one last thing, many Mormons don't call themselves or their church "Mormon." It's the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Anonymous said...

I'd read it for sure; I think it has the potential to be fascinating. There's a reason the coming of age/fighting with your father stuff and colonization of Mars stuff is so ubiquitous, and not necessarily a bad one - they're interesting topics.

But I should say, Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars books set a pretty high bar for Mars colonization stuff as far as I'm concerned.

Anonymous said...

We don't mind talking about the polygamy thing, but we don't do it. We haven't since the 1800's. Also, women do go to work.

Anonymous said...

I thought the polygamy thing was somewhat randomly thrown into the mix, but the comments below are not exactly accurate.

Mormons are not polygamists. Mormons found practicing polygamy are excommunicated.

Saying that fundamentalist Mormons are not Mormon is like saying that Mormons are not Christian. Mainstream Mormons don't consider them part of the faith, but the polygamists still follow Joseph Smith's teachings, read the Book of Mormon, etc. And yes, many call themselves Mormons.

I know that this book takes place in the future when the rules of faith could theoretically be different, but to handle Mormonism in this way would definitely offend the Mormons I know.(1) For one, they don't like to talk about the polygamy thing,(2) for another, lots of Mormon women today work outside the home,(3) and for one last thing, many Mormons don't call themselves or their church "Mormon."(4) It's the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

1. So? Many Catholics didn't care for The Da Vinci Code, either.

2. They don't like to talk about it because it's embarassing. And the details were rather sordid. But why should a book shy away from the controversial?

3. Irrelevant, since the author made it clear that it was Mormon FUNDAMENTALISTS.

4. Officially, yes, but everyone in the world uses the word Mormon anyway, including, yes, Mormons.

Having said all that, polygamists in space is not particularly compelling in and of itself. And it's not just KSR that you're competing with, but Ray Bradbury. That's some tough competition.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Mormon (the standard kind, not the fundamentalist kind), and yes, you're probably going to offend quite a few people with this plot. If you go ahead with it as it is, you'll have to at least make it very clear that fundamentalist Mormons are NOT following official church practices. We consider them to be apostates, actually, and they usually get excommunicated (if they were members of the official church in the first place). But I agree with December--since this is science fiction, why not make up your own fundamentalist group? It would make your readers feel more comfy, and then you could make their beliefs and practices be whatever fits best with your story.

Anon #1:
You're right--Mormons get really tired of everybody harping on about the whole polygamy thing. It's not that it's so embarrassing--we're just sick of it. Yes, we used to practice polygamy. So did the Jews. So did a lot of people. And there were reasons for it. But we stopped more than a century ago.

We don't really have a problem with the term "Mormon", but you're right that it isn't our official name. We usually say "LDS" when talking amongst ourselves but use "Mormon" more when we talk to people of other religions since more people recognize that name.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't offended. Most of us "mainstream" Mormons are used to both dealing with the "no, we're not polygamists anymore; those are the fundamentalist groups" and the Mormon science fiction bit (think: Orson Scott Card).
The premise of this is okay, but I wouldn't read it anyway because it didn't sound well-done. A good hook about the same novel would've made me pick it up.

Anonymous said...

scratch this and suck it up. #1 rule don't write anything offensive to race, religion or pets.

Anonymous said...

Well, since this is my query, I'll address some of these posts. First, on the off-chance that she reads it, I'd like to thank Miss Snark for her work on this blog.

So, on to the comments:
1) Yes, I know who I'm competing against. I've read OSC, Bradbury, and Robinson.

2) Writing about stuff that doesn't offend SOMEBODY sounds boring. If I just made up another (Christian) group, Christians would be offended.

3) Yes, I am aware of the heartburn between mainstream and "fundamentalist" LDS folk. I am also aware that there is a sizable colony of "fundamentalist" polygamists who call themselves Mormons living in Colorado City, AZ today.

Anyway, thanks for your comments (sincerely!)

A Paperback Writer said...

Hey there, Chris. Work with this thing.
I wrote a short story about fundalmentalist Mormons and vampires (told 1st person from the POV of a young plural wife). MSLEXIA (a UK women's literary magazine) thought it was great and published it in their Oct., 2004 volume.
Anything you write is going to offend somebody. I think your idea's okay, but the hook itself wasn't as good as some of the others. (Mine's still to be shredded, so I may fare even worse than you.)
Keep writing. I'm going to, regardless of how badly I may be ripped into poodle food soon (I'm in the triple digits, so it'll be a bit of a wait).

Anonymous said...

2) Writing about stuff that doesn't offend SOMEBODY sounds boring. If I just made up another (Christian) group, Christians would be offended.

No kidding. And why would Mormons (of the Mitt Romney flavor, not fundies) care about people giving a hard time to the polygamists? As someone pointed out above, mainstream Mormons gave up polygamy a long time ago.

To Chris. I don't know your background, but make sure you know what you're talking about. If you don't know how these people think and talk, and if you go into the book deciding that they're either evil or brainwashed, then you've failed before you've begun. If you don't have a Mormon background yourself, you might, indeed, be better off inventing your own religious group.

Bonne chance!

Anonymous said...

I thought it was a well-written hook and a story I'd read.

I'm following the fundamentalist Mormon trial story in the newspaper. I think this isn't just the ordinary girl fights with father stuff. This touches on very current, very real, and very weird stuff. jmho.

And Mormons (whether fundamentalist or not) go everywhere to proselytize. I can definitely see them heading to an early Mars colony.

But I'm not an agent. I'm not in NYC, either, though. And I'm beginning to get a very clear sense that my batting average with Miss Snark's sensibilities is terrible. Unless the query is super-duper fabulous, where everybody loves it, I'm not usually on the same page as Miss Snark. (sigh)

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's fantastic timing for a story about polygamists. This just might not be the right vehicle for it.

Anonymous said...

Not touching the Mormon debate...

Even for a query letter, expand paragraphs 1 and 3, since they're about your actual character and plot. Conversely, shorten or delete paragraphs 2 and 4, since they're about your worldbuilding and research, respectively. Any SF agent should already know much of what #4 says, and much of #2 can be implied or worked into a more plot-heavy sentence.

FWIW, I thought the polygamy + Mars colony idea was an interesting juxtaposition.

Anonymous said...

I used to live by Colorado City, AZ/Hilldale, UT (they are adjoining cities with two similar groups...more strictly observant and the more lax group). Yes, there are Fundamentalists. I saw them all the time. I worked with many. Frankly, they are very real people--and good. Honest, hard-working, and more like Omish than anything. I don't believe the way they do, but they are good people. Their leader is a bit of a hard ball, but overall very good people. And they do not call themselves 'Mormon.' Or even 'Fundamentalist Mormon.' Nor does anyone in the area. My husband lived 20 miles from their town...for 33 years, and I for ten. They just call themselves 'Fundamentalists.' And I would agree with many posters, having many friends from many religions...including a LOT of LDS friends, know who they are before you write about them. Controversy is one thing, incorrect facts and assumptions are another. You want to know about escapees from Fundamentalism...there is a group that helps with rescues. Talk to them.

Anonymous said...

P.S. The group is called "Tapestry against Polygamy."

Anonymous said...

There are tons of advantages to creating a fictitious religion and no real downside that I can think of (other than making you possibly come up with a new title).

There's nothing preventing you from saying this new religion was caused by a schism within LDS (adherents of which were excomunicated and forced to leave Earth?) and then to assign all the oppressiveness you like without fear of pissing anyone off.

Hell, it could be some bizarre mash-up of LDS and Islam with a little Old Testament Pissed-Off-God thrown into the mix.

Anonymous said...

I am insanely ignorant about science fiction, so I want to appologize in advance if this comment isn't relevant.

First off, I think the idea of fundamentalist groups (of any religion) colonizing Mars is entirely plausible. Afterall, that's exactly what happened in the United States. The pilgrims left England because their religious views didn't mesh. Later in history, large groups of Mormons settled in Utah because it was an undeveloped area of land where they could practice their religion in peace.

Second, your use of the phrase "frontier days" brings to mind a Wild West image. I don't know if that was intended, but it could be interesting.

Anonymous said...

You might want to focus more on the sci-fi and less on what kind of religion the character is from.

I thought it sounded really interesting, for more or less the same reasons as already listed. Depending on what you want to achieve by it, you might want to reconsider describing them as Mormons. By the few hints included, a reader could come to their own conclusion.

As a hook, it wasn't very good. You could all those paragraphs and easily condense it into something much tighter and leaner. A lot of the stuff in it is just padding, and unnecessary. Start with the Mars thing, and focus on the female character. Don't bother justifying the Mars thing, as someone else mentioned, SF agents etc. will get it.

If the book is written well, I'd be interested. It could be right up there with The Left Hand of Darkness and The Handmaid's Tale.

Anonymous said...

Err, okay, I'm not sure why the Mormon thing is all that big of a deal. I wouldn't bring it up in the hook, but it's interesting as a sub plot in a strange way. I love the premise of the book, those early Mars colonial days are going to be full of disaster (if they ever happen) What bothered me more about the hook was that you glazed over the part where her life and her kids life is in danger. The setting is cool, but it overshadows the dilema she's facing. I think you need to balance the setting description in the hook with the life-threatening thing she's facing.

Nancy Beck said...


If you do decide not to use the Mormons and instead come up with your own religion, I suggest getting a copy of Victoria Strauss' The Burning Land. She took bits and pieces of different religions, and I think the result is quite good.

I think she also talks about the religions she looked at and what pieces she brought together on her website.

Good luck.