Jan 18, 2008

Blue Pencil #1: G.E.E.N.I.E In A Bottle

After the admittedly weakly-sourced fun-poking I did on Wednesday, I decided to poke around and see what self-publishing was all about (note that ParaWorld Zero, by Matthew Peterson, is NOT self-published).

I came upon a site called Xlibris, publisher of To Live Without Warning, by Timothy LaBadie, and, for as little as $300, publisher of just about anything else you care to send them.

Rather than get into the nitty-gritty details of how self-publication works, I thought I'd take a look at some of the offerings in Xlibris's bookstore. I think this is now one of my favorite sites.

I'd like to share some of these wonderful tales with you, the reader. I do this partially because of the immense entertainment value this site holds, but mostly because it's easy pickins. In honor of the editors these works clearly lack, I'm going to call this series, "Blue Pencil."

For my first foray, I have chosen the intriguingly-named G.E.E.N.E.E. In A Bottle, by Theodore Ransburg and Patrick Codden, the (really, really long) synopsis of which reads as follows (my comments in blue):
Professor Jonothon Richardson is a brilliant scientist, haunted by the biggest mistake of his career: years ago, while in government employ, his research led to an accidental explosion that claimed the life of his wife and child.
Leaving aside the question of which of Richardson's lesser mistakes might have haunted him, I'm wondering how a guy who we learn is a computer researcher managed to blow up his wife and child with his work.

"This code ... it's not compiling ... it's ... OH MY GOD!!! The CPU is overheati-- BOOOM!!! "
Now, in a lonely lab on one of Saturn’s moons, he toils away, trying to sublimate his guilt by creating the next leap in technology. By combining both organic and technological materials, he creates a living computer, capable of massive storage and computation, far surpassing even the impressive technology of the 24th Century. Thus is created G.E.E.N.E.E., which stands for “Genetically Engineered Essence, for Neurologically Enhanced Encryption.” (It is probably just coincidence that his daughter’s name was “Jeannie”...).
Yes, an intriguing coincidence, that!
His assistant is the effeminate Max DeBlanc, who attends to the Professor’s needs in a manner both effecient and annoying.
"Effeminate?" And, er ... what needs are we talking about here?
Secretly, however, Max is an Operative of the branch of the government who employs the good Doctor. His purpose is to secure the technology and make sure it is delivered into the proper hands. What he ends up creating is far more than even he bargained for, as the Professor solves the problem of true artificial intelligence. Not only is the new technology capable of super-computer tasks, but he implants it with the personality profile of his deceased daughter, in an emotional attempt to restore the life he feels he took from her.
Wait a minute! I thought it was a coincidence? Ransburg and Codden, you tricky bastards!
Just as the Professor successfully installs and interacts with his new creation, he is greeted with the unexpected arrival of a pack of super-human thieves. Nearly alien in appearance, they exhibit a terrifying ability to mutate their bodies in various ways, from surviving the rigors of deep space to forming armor plated skin and deadly tentacles. Overpowering both the Professor and the government-trained Max, they make off with their prize, following the orders of their mysterious commander.
So much for "government-trained" Max. A subtle comment on the limitations of effeminism and effeminists.
They are unaware that the organic components of the G.E.E.N.E.E. unit require a nutrient bath, that needs re-charging every few days. Meanwhile the Government, eager to get its hands on the new technology, deploys one of their top Agents, Sasha Sikorski, to retrieve it. Fresh out of a mock-combat training exercise (in which she demonstrates, purely and lethally, why she is the best in her field), she receives her new orders. When she arrives at the deep space lab, under cover and aboard a junker / courier ship, she finds the invention stolen and Max and the Professor badly beaten up.
So ... they've just been sitting there, beaten up, waiting for the cops to show? Must be disappointing when the doorbell rings and it's only a courier ... OR IS IT?

No! It's Sasha Sikorski, mistress of mock-combat!
Quickly re-grouping, Sasha commandeers the junker ship (overpowering the Captain and winning the begrudging fealty of his crew) and takes off to recover the stolen unit.
"Well, you beat up our Captain, and we're none too happy about that. Buuuuuut ... you are a woman, and space is lonely, so just let us know how we can help."
Unfortunately, the ship’s crew is indebted to the Overlord of the black market, and they can’t proceed any further into space without the mid-range drive that he holds as ransom for their latest cargo.
"Wait, you want to go where? Nope, no can do. You see, if you wanted to go kinda close by, or really really far away, we could help you, but our mid-range drive is in hock. Damn the luck."
Against Sasha’s better judgement (and the Professor’s emotional outburst),
they must journey to the heart of the criminal world – the black market headquarters of Baldezar, hidden in the asteroid belt of the solar system.
Considering that they are near Saturn, if they can get to the asteroid belt on the drive the ship has, why don't they just go where they need to go? Oh, wait. It's probably somewhere closer than the asteroid belt but farther than the corner deli. Curse that missing mid-range drive!
Once there, the ship’s crew tries to negotiate the terms of their business agreement (without the help of their Captain), while Sasha, Max and Professor Richardson shop around and try not to get themselves killed.
Oh my god. If I was at the black market, I'd totally go shopping. I mean, it's like, how often do you make it out to the asteroid belt?
Acquiring some valuable technology – and making enemies with nearly every guard in the place – the rag-tag team makes a quick get-away and rejoins the search for G.E.E.N.E.E.. The race against time is on, as the Doc calculates that her nutrient bath will run out in a few short days.
"Hmm. Maybe we shouldn't have taken time to go shopping. And, really, making enemies with nearly every guard did take a long time. Some of them were pretty cool."
When they finally manage to trace the signal, they find themselves headed for the darkest of Uranus’ moons, Umbriel. An abandoned mining facility there seems a likely hideout for the thieves.
Especially since, you know, we traced the signal there.
The final confrontation pits the Professor and Sasha against the evil artificial intelligence which has kidnapped G.E.E.N.E.E., in his element: inside his own mainframe!
Wait, "mainframe?" What year is this set in?
Meanwhile, Max and HeadTrip confront a fresh obstacle in the "real world" – another wave of genetically enhanced Mutates that guard the laboratory.
Wouldn't this indicate that the previously-described "final confrontation" is, in fact, the "penultimate confrontation?"
Will good triumph over evil? Will man secure his dominance over machines? The final answer may surprise us all, but the trip will be worth every second.
The only way to answer this question is to check out the excerpt!



Max woke up about halfway through his rest cycle, with a desperate need to use the waste management facilities.

Um. Let's skip a bit ...
Maybe the guy is part machine himself, he quipped. He sighed, and continued on down the hallway to relieve his call of nature.
Er, a bit further, please ...
Max's eyes flickered quickly over the Professor's torso before coming to rest on the real target—his right bicep. The Professor was not a body-builder, by any means. His physical development had been helped, however, through vitamins and technologically enhanced exercise in varying gravity fields. He was, in short, reasonably developed without being grotesque.

She was a young Caucasian girl, with blonde hair pulled into twin pigtails. She looked around with a calm, curious expression on her face. As she locked eyes with him, there was some sort of familiar spark in her gaze, but it was gone so quickly it might have just been imagination in the first place.

"Hello," he began, hesitantly regaining his composure.

"Hello." Her voice was high-pitched, but not whiny as so many children's voices are. She spoke slowly and matter-of-factly.
Well, at least it doesn't involve bodily functions or inappropriate workplace ogling. But "Slowly and matter-of-factly?" All she said was, "Hello!"
What Max saw on his monitor was an unimaginably huge stream of data and computer commands scroll by on the screens in front of him.
I'm sorry, I can't quite envision how huge that stream of data and computer commands is. However huge I imagine it is, I'm reminded by the text that, no, it's even bigger.

Alas, despite the fact that no one takes any more bathroom breaks during the course of this excerpt, we are left with no answers as to the eventual triumph of good or evil. The evil "Mutates" arrive and, admirably overcoming the fact that their name is a verb, steal G.E.E.N.I.E and whisk her away to the outer edges of the solar system.

One can only hope that the rag-tag band of heroes will be unable to enlist the aid of the government that is so keenly interested in the professor's invention, and that they will, by grit and determination alone, find some way of confronting the villain in his very lair.

(Well, actually, thanks to the very lengthy synopsis, we know that they will do precisely that.)

But who will truimph? That's the question only you, the reader, can answer. (Because I'm certainly not going to read it.)

Jesus, speaking of needing editors ... I think this is the longest thing I've ever posted. Oh well.

1 comment:

Genesis said...


Just for fun, one of my favorite blogs is run by a couple of editors for Tor, and they post semi-regularly on the publishing world, with a lot of insights into vanity presses and self-publishing. Check out Making Light when you get a chance and do a search for "vanity press" - that's a good start.