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Name: Laird Harrison

Titles:

Only the Millennia Will Cure Her

Messing with the Multiverse

Exotic Matter

Genre:

Upmarket Science Fiction

Comparables :

              The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

              The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu

Hook Line:

              Deprived of funding because of his awkwardness, physicist Pascal gets money from an unscrupulous time traveler who wants his help returning to the future.

Short Pitch:

On the verge of a pathbreaking discovery, brilliant physicist Pascal Rahali has neglected to publish. Socially awkward, he has lost his funding. So, he can’t ignore investor Zipporah Goldblum’s bizarre offer: She will provide all the money he needs. But he must ask no questions, accept all payments in cash, and quit his prestigious position at a national laboratory.

With no alternative for continuing his life’s work, Pascal accepts the sketchy deal and sets up his own new lab. No sooner does he make the expected breakthrough than he discovers that Zipporah has traveled backwards in time from the sixth millennium. Her time machine was destroyed on the journey, and she has fallen ill with a 21st century virus.

If he doesn’t help her return to the future with its superior medicine, she may die. But if he does, she may bring back colonists whose advanced technology will allow them to take over the present-day earth. He longs to take the next step in his research. But if he makes use of the powerful physics she is teaching him, he may cause the universe to split into alternative realities – and separate him from the woman he loves.

Prose Sample

Pascal Rahali could predict the path of a proton. He could read radiation from a vanished star. He expected very soon to find out why the universe exists. But Zipporah Goldblum confounded him. From her emails, he had pictured a coiffed and gym-fit thirty-something in a tailored jacket. Instead, she had showed up in a bellbottomed pink pastel leisure suit that stretched to cover her thin figure of at least six feet. Her pale skin showed no sign of a wrinkle, but her close-cropped hair had gone completely white. The address of her investment firm, Tiller Angel Associates, was in Israel. But that wasn’t enough to explain the disorientation he sensed as the restaurant host led her to his table at one of the poshest restaurants in Berkeley.

He rose. "Ms. Goldblum? Pascal Rahali. Pleased to meet you."

She blinked twice and repeated his greeting in an accent that didn't sound Israeli or really like anything else he could place. Then she studied him for a moment that lingered into awkwardness before asking him to sit. Only then did she smile, as if just remembering that she was supposed to. "I am a fanatic of your work."

"Thank you. I'm just— Where did you hear about it? Are you a physicist?"

"A physicist? Not exactly. An investor. I would like to make you big."

"Make me big?" Someone must be writing her emails for her. When her invitation had come out of the blue, it was polished enough that Pascal’s curiosity had overcome his skepticism. But in a time of daily phishing attacks, syntax like this would have stopped him for responding.

Her eyes widened. "Make big your project. To help you with the money you need. To buy equipment, assistants, travel, all you need."

No one who knew anything about physics would make such a sweeping offer without asking a lot of hard questions. He should probably leave before the conversation became embarrassing. He just needed to know how she had picked him out of all the physicists in the world. She sounded more naïve than conniving. Maybe instead of conning him she had conned herself, dreaming that he could make her rich. Or was this all part of the act, like card sharks who make you think you're taking advantage of them until they suddenly go in for the kill? He picked up the menu. "Have you eaten here before?" White drapes hung in the floor-to-ceiling windows. Red armchairs and chandeliers contrasted with ionic columns and black-and-white checkered tile. A hamburger was $21.

"No, I have not. But many users of help recommend it."

"You mean users on Yelp?"

"Yes. And many people say compliments about you, too, Dr. Rahali."

"Not on Yelp, I don't think."

"But in our research."

“Who?" Only a handful of people in the world knew what Pascal was doing, and only one or two believed what he believed: that he was on the verge of discovering what led to the Big Bang. The work could place Pascal among the most important physicists in history. Caught up in that excitement, he had lately neglected to publish his work. The Lab had cut off his funding, putting an abrupt end to his life’s work and making him desperate enough to take his meeting. But how could she have known that? 

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