It’s that time of year! Elves, Klingons, slave women, gamers, computer geeks, aspiring writers, and superfans are converging on Rubicon, the annual science fiction convention. Mild mannered citizens beware!
Newest among the motley crew is Jay Omega, a young, local computer professor and first-time author on a mission: make sure that nobody he knows in real life finds out that he is the author of Bimbos of the Death Sun. Fortunately, his friend and secret lover (but only a secret to him), Marion, is there to promote his book and keep him from getting hopelessly lost.
But then, Appin Dungannon, famous author of the prolific adventure series of Tratyn Runewind, is found dead in his hotel suite. Who could possibly want him dead? Turns out, just about everyone: Appin is also famous for hating the series more than any other person on the planet, and for treating his fans like slime.
As the convention threatens to fall apart, Jay takes on the case and tries to answer: who killed Dungannon, and why? In a world where fantasy has more power than fact, however, the answer is stranger than anyone in theiTr right mind would expect.
This book was hilarious. Sharyn McCrumb explores science fiction and fantasy fandom the way a drunk anthropologist would explore an aboriginal jungle tribe. Even though her characters are all shallow caricatures of the real thing, their clumsy interactions turn the story into a wonderful farce that is as entertaining as it is educational.
There were only a couple of parts that bothered me. At one point, McCrumb gets into the head of an overweight, hopelessly ugly fangirl cosplayer and shows her thought process as she pursues a romantic relationship with an equally ugly and socially incompetent fanboy. I didn’t feel that McCrumb authentically portrayed the character’s own thoughts–it sounded more like a person from the outside giving their take on the experience. Then again, McCrumb was going for humor, not true character depth.
Besides that, this book is definitely dated. The computer technology in the novel is ridiculously primitive, on par with the Commodore 64, the Tandy 400, and the trusty old 386. In other ways, too, this book is solidly 80s–any science fiction convention nowadays would probably have less Trekkies and more Anime cosplayers. However, the dated aspects only make the novel more endearing, in my opinion. Who wouldn’t be nostalgic for the good old days of the 386?
This book isn’t high literature, and Sharyn McCrumb would probably be the first to admit it. It was, however, wonderfully entertaining, one of those rare and beautiful books that made me laugh out loud, heartily. For someone like me who is just starting to become involved in science fiction and fantasy fandom, it was a hilarios and helpful primer to this fascinating subculture. As McCrumb states in her foreward:
Science fiction writers build castles in the air; the fans move into them; and the publishers collect the rent. It’s a nice place to visit, but please don’t try to live there.
That said, I find it telling that it was people in fandom who recommended this book to me. Good to know that at least a few of us don’t take ourselves too seriously.