It’s Alert Nerd Day at The Book Smugglers! Today we take a look at Alert Nerd Press – an independent digital publisher dedicated to making geek-centric fiction and nonfiction for the discriminating nerd, both online and in print.
Title: One Con Glory
Author: Sarah Kuhn
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Geek-lit, Romance, Novella
Publisher: Alert Nerd Press
Publication Date: November 2009
Paperback: 103 pages
Stand alone or series: Stand alone novella
How did we get this book: Review copy from the author
Why did we read this book: We love the geektastic blog that is Alert Nerd, having been introduced to the folks over there earlier this year for their “That’s My Scott and Jean” bonanza. So, when bloggers/authors Matt Springer and Sarah Kuhn contacted us with an opportunity to read and review their novellas, we eagerly accepted!
Summary: (from AlertNerdPress.com)
Diehard fangirl Julie loves Buffy marathons, fighting about comic book continuity, and being left alone.
But more than anything, Julie loves Glory Gilmore, a mostly-forgotten C-List superheroine from the world of ’80s comics.
For years, she’s longed to reclaim the precious Glory action figure that’s eluded her grasp so many times before. And one fateful weekend, she has the chance to do just that.
Of course, no great quest is ever simple. Before she can triumph over the forces of loudmouth nerds and clueless Mundanes everywhere, Julie will have to deal with an avalanche of unexpected obstacles. In the midst of battles for videogame supremacy and frustrating encounters with a supremely irritating TV pretty boy, she’ll be forced to reconsider her fandom and reevaluate her life.
She might even have to talk to people.
Thea: I was actually a little nervous starting this novella – I don’t think I’ve ever known an author before reading their work. I love author Sarah Kuhn’s online voice, but writing fiction is a horse of a different color if y’know what I’m sayin’. But, a few pages into One Con Glory made me realize that I really need not have been so worried – because this is one damn awesome, geektastic book. Well written, zippily paced, with a healthy smattering of nerdiness and romance, One Con Glory totally rocks. I loved it.
Ana: Holy Lord of the Rings! This novella is bloody fantastic! Starting with the nifty title, and the cool cover, plus with the inside being awesomely well written, in a perfect balance of geekness and romance. In other words: this is a M.F.A. (Made For Ana) book and I am totally in love with it.
On the Plot: The basic premise is simple – a diehard Glory Gilmore fangirl and press writer named Julie attends GinormoCon as part of her job. While she’s there, she has the opportunity to interview Jack Camden – pretty boy star of the television adaptation of her favorite superhero comic, Periodic Seven. Julie goes to her one-on-one with her skepticism in check, but her own jaded expectations firmly ingrained – she immediately sizes Jack up to be another one of those irritatingly pretty but basically vapid actors that knows nothing of the source material he’s portraying. Imagine her shock, then, when she discovers that not only is Camden a fanboy, but a genuinely nice guy with an inner-geek? On this trip to GinormoCon, Julie’s curmudgeonly world view is about to be rocked, from the most unexpected sources.
Thea: One Con Glory is written in a brisk, sure-handed style, split into three separate parts. I cannot stress enough how clever this novella is, in both form and function. Each of the three parts begins with an entry from Julie’s blog, GloryGilmoreLives.com, and each entry pertains to the following story – whether it be about the Glory Gilmore action figures Julie has lost, the inviolability of the Prime Directive, or the lurking, indestructible nemesis that is Schmthulu. It’s also kinda cool how there are three parts of the story, and there are three Glory Gilmore action figures that Julie has lost over the course of her life.
So far as the actual writing and plotting are concerned, there’s nothing more I could have asked for from One Con Glory. It’s fast, it’s sweet, it’s got all the popgeek references you could want and manages to integrate those into the story without ever sounding forced (it never feels like Julie is using popgeek culture references to show off how incredibly cool/ingrained in the culture she is; rather, it feels natural). I also have to commend Sarah Kuhn for choosing to create a non-existent superheroine and comic as her central icon in the story. Glory Gilmore is an obscure heroine that does not exist in the DC/Marvel/etc cannon – and I think this was a wise choice. Instead of turning into some ode to Wonder Woman or Jean Grey which might have been awkward or could have overwhelmed the story, this fictitious Glory Gilmore is a completely fresh character that allows us to understand Julie’s connection to the heroine, more so than focusing on the superheroine herself.
Ana: Yes, yes what Thea said. But MORE. I cannot stress enough how much I loved this short story for its cleverness and heart. In a small, confined space of 100 pages, Sarah Kuhn manages to write a story with a past, a present and a future without EVER getting sidetracked.
It is a fresh story because the geekness of the main character feels genuine; it is an unique story because it invents a whole series of comics, with amazing story arcs that matter to Julie and it connects the dots of her life. I am being cryptic on purpose because there is a revelation of sorts relate to Glory Gilmore’s arc and Julie‘s arc. It is a heartwarming story because this is not about plot, it is about character and we all know that is just my cup of tea. It also helps that I know what the Prime Directive is and I too have an opinion on the most important issue of whether Scott and Jean are the ultimate Marvel pairing or not.
This is a fast read, a smart read, an awesome read. Sarah Kuhn is ready, folks. I welcome her to my reading world with open arms and I beg for MORE.
On the Characters:
Thea: Just as with the writing, the characters are fantastic – they are the heart of this story, and damn if I didn’t love them. Julie, our intrepid heroine, narrates the novella in the first person. She’s incredibly funny, she’s intelligent, she’s got a biting wit – but this also means that she’s a bit abrasive and emotionally closed off. She protects herself with her hard outward demeanor, yet Ms. Kuhn allows us glimpses behind the facade as Julie’s walls (or should I say shields?) are slowly worn down. To accomplish all of this in a full length novel, to create a heroine as compelling and layered as Julie, is no small feat. To do it in a scant 100-some pages? Now that’s impressive. I loved Julie. I loved how flawed and very human she is – and I love that when it comes down to it and she’s gotta close her eyes and take the emotional plunge, she handles it.
Of course, there’s also Jack Camden. I picture Jack as one of those pretty CW boys – you know what I mean:
Basically, Jack is the holy grail for fangirls. He’s gorgeous, he’s smart, he’s sensitive, and – oh yeah – he’s also an ubergeek who knows his comics, is a badass at guitar hero, and can talk about continuity snafus until the cows come home. Despite being so obviously compelling, Jack also has some nice development over the course of the novella. Yeah, he’s a bit of a too-good-to-be-true heartthrob, but he’s also vulnerable and puts himself out there for Julie. And that’s cool.
There are two secondary characters who also deserve mentions – Braidbeard (nicknamed for his…braided beard) and Mitch (Julie’s best bud). I liked the animosity that underlies Julie and Braidbeard’s friendship (a scene later in the book really makes both of these characters come together) and I loved Mitch and Julie’s friendship as well. Mitch in particular has a fabulous scene with Julie where he calls her out on her crap – and again, it feels completely real. I loved it all.
Ana: I too, loved the characters – all of them. Julie though, takes the cake for being a fully-realised, fleshed out character, with real issues to deal with. She comes across at first as standoff-ish, somewhat abrasive woman, always with an Opinion about everything. I loved her character arc, the self-evaluation that she does and the realisation that she needs to put herself out there and take the risk. And I loved how there was this parallel in which she reclaims both a Glory Gilmore and her own heart.
Then, there is Jack. Holy Smokes, Batman! Jack is the dream guy for any self-proclaimed fangirl: someone who is both hot and geek, shy and confident and above all, emotionally available. He is not without his own issues though, which makes him human rather than merely a wet dream.
I loved their relationship and I especially LOVED the progression of their story and how Sarah Kuhn inserted a bit of sex and a bit of mystery too. The Guitar Hero scene? Akin to everything I love about romance. And so help me Yoda when I read the scene with the Glory Gilmore connection, I said to myself: this woman, she can SO write.
Mitch and Braidbeard were great secondary characters as well each being a counterpart to a side of Julie. One being a friend, the one a nemesis (and everyone needs a nemesis).
To sum up, I loved it all, dudes! And I will shup up now with my muy lameo attempt at being cleverly geek as it is clear I will never ever be as smart as Sarah Kuhn.
Final Thoughts, Observations and Rating:
Thea: If you couldn’t tell, I loved this novella. I loved it. With its prickly (but lovable) heroine, tongue-in-cheek look at conventions, and genuinely heartwarming romance, One Con Glory has it all. (Yes, I just used our blurb right there shut up don’t judge me!)
Ana: (Thea, you cheeky monkey! Damn you for getting there first!). One Con Glory has a perfect mix of everything I love: popgeekery and romance; great writing, plotting and great characters and I LOVED it.
Notable Quotes/Parts: Hey! You can read an excerpt of One Con Glory online!
July 17, 2009
8:46 in the fucking morning.
The food court hurts my eyes. And my nose. And my…general sense of decency.
Let’s be real: the food court hurts everything.
Especially when it’s 8:46 in the fucking morning and my best friend is trying to convince me that tater tots make for a balanced breakfast.
“You know you want it.”
Mitch Caplan waves a deep-fried glob of starch under my nose, a devilish grin playing across his broad, freckle-specked face. Shuddering, I bat his hand away.
8:47 now. Thirteen more minutes in this fragrant, brightly lit haven of over-processed food-like objects. I fidget in my rickety plastic chair, trying to block out sight and smell and sound.
“—because you’re never guaranteed a good crispiness level with french fry breading, but those McDonald’s hash brown thingies are almost too much with the crunch. Am I right? Are you even listening to me?”
“What? I mean…yes.” I shift around so I’m facing Mitch and widen my eyes into a passable expression of true attentiveness. He grins and pops another tot in his mouth.
“You are so not listening,” he says through a mouthful of golden-brown greaseball. “What’s wrong, Julie? GinormoCon anticipation killin’ ya dead?”
Before I can retort, a nasal voice cuts through the hazy, lard-scented air. “She’s got stuff on her mind, Mitchell. Suckin’ up to nerdlebrities is a lot of frakkin’ work.”
Our heads turn and there he is, an amalgam of pasty skin and beanpole limbs and pure smugginess. I narrow my eyes as he slides into a vacant seat at our minuscule table. “Braidbeard,” I mutter. More of a tossed-off epithet than an actual greeting.
“How do you do that?” marvels Mitch. “It’s like you just…appear. Out of nowhere.”
Braidbeard swipes a tater tot and stuffs it in his mouth. “I have superpowers or whatever.”
Right. Because arguing about DC continuity holes ’til you’re blue in the face is a superpower now.
The source of his nickname—a scraggly beard, carefully arranged into three unkempt braids—dances back and forth as he chomps on the pilfered tot. “Double-u tee eff with that chick they just hired on Powers That Be?” he brays, eyes goggling behind his aggressively hip clunky glasses. “Are they actively trying to get cancelled? Because she’s what I like to call a show-killer.”
I groan and slump back in my seat, scanning the food court. Save for a trio of fresh-faced Skrulls huddled over a plate of nachos, we are apparently the only ones who felt the need to stake out the L.A. Convention Center minutes—nine minutes!—before the GinormoCon doors open.
I was hoping to avoid any and all classic Braidbeard dissertations on Why Everything Sucks today, but that’s what I get for hanging out with Mitch. The boys work together at the entertainment website CinePlanet.com, writing quickie reviews and reporting on “exclusive” news bits. Perhaps sensing that being co-workers = forced camaraderie, Braidbeard leeches onto Mitch every chance he gets. And Mitch—a genial, 6’2” mountain of a man who projects an uncomplicated sort of goodwill—lets him.
You can read the full excerpt online HERE.
Additional Thoughts: One Con Glory comes in a pretty sweet package. The cover is fun and really captures the spirit of the novella, AND there are also three great illustrations within from three talented artists (Max Riffner, Pj Perez, and Benjamin Birdie). The book also includes some cool extras: an interview of author Sarah Kuhn with one of her characters (Braidbeard), a list and explanation of each character’s favorite Buffy episodes, and (in awesome Rachel Caine style) a playlist.
Also, you’ll be pleased to learn that Julie’s blog in the novella, Glory Gilmore Lives, is actually a fun mock-blog online! Complete with vintage Buffy the Vampire Slayer reviews and other assorted geek goodness, it’s a pretty awesome fake blog. Definitely worth checking out!
Thea: 8 – Excellent
Ana: 8 – Excellent
Reading Next: Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
We are giving away a totally awesome prize pack to ONE lucky winner! Included in the pack is a copy of One Con Glory, as well as a gorgeous, fangirl-worthy Phoenix tee (size Large), designed by Chris Stewart.
The contest is open to residents of the US and Canada ONLY. In order to enter, leave a comment here telling us who YOUR favorite superheroine is, and why. The contest will run until Saturday, November 7 at 11:59 PM (Pacific). Good luck!