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Bimbos of the Death Sun [Secure eReader]
eBook by Sharyn McCrumb

eBook Category: Mystery/Crime
eBook Description: Sharyn McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sun is a strange work. Ostensibly a mystery novel complete with a murder and an array of suspects with plausible motives, it won an Edgar Award in 1988 for Best Original Paperback Mystery. Although we follow the plot, curious to know who killed famed novelist Appin Dungannon and why, the fact is that what happens in this novel is in some ways much less important than where it happens. Bimbos of the Death Sun is not a mystery that merely happens to be set at a science fiction and fantasy convention; it's a novel about a particular, peculiar American subculture, and it just so happens that a murder and investigation occur while the Trekkies and Dungeon Masters are convening to buy and sell memorabilia and don their hobbit costumes. In fact, the novel is really a parody of that culture and, as such, it has garnered understandably ambivalent reviews from the science fiction and fantasy community it caricatures. The perspective of the novel is decidedly that of an outsider's. The protagonist is a man named James Owen Mega who, under the pseudonym Jay Omega has published a science fiction novel named Bimbos of the Death Sun. Omega, though, is no science fiction fanatic or frequenter of conventions He and his girlfriend, Dr. Marion Farley, are both professors at a local university, and Omega wrote the novel in his spare time as a fictionalized account of his scientific research. The reader, therefore, experiences the convention's peculiarities and surprises along with the bewildered and amazed professors. The pair represents, in some ways, two different approaches to the pageantry of obsession and fantasy that swirl around them. Omega, as a guest author and conference V.I.P., tries to tread lightly around the customs and peculiarities of the sci-fi aficionados so as not to offend or become too involved. Marion, as a professor of comparative literature, casts a more critical eye on the proceedings, giving the touted big-shots and aspiring authors little credibility. McCrumb, however, also tempers the satire somewhat with her choice of protagonists. By informing us that Marion actually teaches a course on science fiction and fantasy novels at the university, McCrumb is careful to acknowledge that science fiction is a legitimate literary genre. Like any legitimate literary genres, it has its noteworthy practitioners (Tolkein, Asimov) as well as its charlatans (the terrible Appin Dungannon). Her target, McCrumb wants us to know, is not the works themselves but the obsessive culture that springs up around the works, and by making the shy, bookish Jay Omega her sympathetic protagonist, McCrumb is also making it clear that her target is not simply the socially maladroit. The satire is directed, rather, at people who have made these escapist fantasies a life obsession.

eBook Publisher: RosettaBooks
Fictionwise Release Date: November 2002


19 Reader Ratings:
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Chapter 1

The visiting Scottish folksinger peered out of the elevator into the hotel lobby. When he pushed the button marked "G," he naturally assumed that he would arrive at the ground floor of the building. Now he wasn't so sure. Things were different in America, but he hadn't realized they were this different. Perhaps "G" stood for Ganymede, or some other intergalactic place. Who were those people?

A pale blue blonde wearing a green satin tunic stepped on to the elevator, eyeing his jeans and sweatshirt with faint disapproval. "Going up?" she said in her flat American accent. She looked about twenty, he thought. The elevator was moving before he realized that he'd forgotten to get out.

"You here for the con?" she asked, noticing his guitar case.

"No. I'm a tourist." He liked that better than saying he was on tour; it prevented leading questions that ended in disappointment when the American discovered: 1) that they had never heard of him, and 2) that he didn't know Rod Stewart. "What are you here for?"

She grinned. "Oh, you mean you don't know? It's Rubicon -- a science fiction convention. We're practically taking over the hotel. There'll be hundreds of us."

"Oh, right. Like Trekkies." He nodded. "We have some of your lot back home."

"Where's home?" she asked, fiddling with the key ring on her yellow sash.

"Scotland." At least she hadn't tried to guess. He was getting tired of being mistaken for an Australian.

As the elevator doors rumbled open on the fifth floor, the departing blue person glanced again at his jeans'. "Scotland, huh?" she mused. "Aren't you supposed to be wearing some kind of funny outfit?"

* * *

"Is Diefenbaker here yet?" asked Bernard Buchanan breathlessly. He always said things a little breathlessly, on account of the bulk he was carrying around, and he was always clutching a sheaf of computer printouts, which he would try to read to the unwary.

Miles Perry, whose years of con experience had made him chief among the wary, began to edge away from the neo-fan. "I haven't seen him," he hedged.

"I had a letter from him on Yellow Pigs Day, and he said he'd be here," Bernard persisted. "He's supposed to be running one of the wargames, and I wanted him to look at my new parody."

Miles swallowed his exasperation. It was, after all, the first hour of the convention. If he started shouting now, his blood pressure would exceed his I.Q. in, no time, and there were still two more days of wide-eyed novices to endure. Diefenbaker would encourage these eager puppies; he brought it on himself. Miles had a good mind to post a notice in the hotel lobby informing everyone of Diefenbaker's room number. Maybe a few dozen hours of collective neo-fans, all reading him fanzine press at once, would cure him of these paternal instincts. Really, Diefenbaker would write to anybody. Just let someone in Nowhere-in-Particular, New Jersey, write in a comment to Diefenbaker's fan magazine, and Dief would fire back a friendly five-page letter, making the poor crottled greep feel liked. More comments would follow, requiring more five-page letters. Miles didn't like to think what Dief's postage budget would run. And this is what it came to: post-adolescent monomaniacs waiting to waylay him at cons to discuss Lithuanian politics, or silicon-based life forms, or whatever their passion was. If he weren't careful, he'd get so tied up with these upstarts that he wouldn't have time to socialize with the authors and the fen-elite. Miles would have to protect Dief from such pitfalls, for his own good.

"I don't think he's due in until tomorrow," he informed the anxious young man. "Of course, you might look around the exhibition rooms and see if you can spot him."

"But I don't know what he looks like!" wailed Buchanan, but Miles Perry was already disappearing into the crowd.

"Miles, I must speak to you!" In a green turtleneck sweater and medallion, Richard Faber looked like a champagne bottle; he could be equally explosive as well.

"Why, hello, Richard. How nice to see you." Richard and Miles were fellow players in an other-world Diplomacy game called Far Brandonia, in which players became heads of state of mythical countries, and engaged in war or diplomacy, all meticulously recorded in a mimeographed fan magazine called Brandywind.

At the moment, Miles and Richard were in détente, which called for scrupulous politeness and as little communication as possible. "Have you signed any treaties with C.D. Novibazaar?" Richard demanded.

"Why do you ask?" countered Miles pleasantly.

"Because he has an army sitting on my southern border, that's why! I thought he was going to lend it to me, but now I'm not so sure. Is Clanton here? What about Diefenbaker?"

Miles noticed a crowd around the registration table. Wendy would be needing some help. "Perhaps we can get together later when the chaos subsides, Faber."

"Novibazaar still has the Seal of Corstorphine, hasn't he? Have we decided yet whether that gives him control of the railroads through Gondal?"

Miles closed his eyes for dramatic effect. That was just the trouble with Faber, in the game and out of it. No patience and no tact. "Richard, I will get back to you when -- oh, good lord, it's him!" He began to run toward the registration table, having just glimpsed a white cowboy hat bobbing about five feet above the floor.

Miles Perry parted the crowd with less than his usual smoothness, and bent to shake hands with the figure beneath the bobbing Stetson. "Mr. Dungannon, what an honor to have you here!"

"The pleasure is entirely yours!" snapped Appin Dungannon, sounding for all the world like a peevish elf. His narrowed piggy eyes darted from one autograph seeker to another, and finally cantilevered upward to glare at Perry's plaster smile. "Are you going to get me out of here?" "I'd be happy to escort you to your room, and we can discuss the schedule." Miles turned to the pack of fans, waving Appin Dungannon paperbacks. "You can catch up with him later, people," he told them. "Let him get settled in first." Picking up Dungannon's leather bag and computer case, Miles steered the guest author toward the elevator, talking soothingly of complimentary liquor and bulk orders of his books. Perhaps by the time they reached his room, Dungannon would have calmed down sufficiently for Miles to ask him about judging the writing contest.

Behind them, an unfortunately loud voice exclaimed, "He writes Tratyn Runewind?" The elevator doors sealed out a chorus of "Shhhhs" from the surrounding fen. That sentiment, seldom so untactfully voiced, was one of the great common experiences in fandom: the shock of discovering that the chronicles of the golden Viking warrior Tratyn Runewind were written by a malevolent elf with a drinking problem. Part of fen lore, to be imparted to promising newcomers, was the lecture on How to Deal with Appin Dungannon. He was susceptible to flattery; willing to autograph books (even secondhand copies -- signature only); but he would not discuss future Runewind books, and if questioned about details on the old ones, he was likely to know less about the book than the fan did. He had probably not read it as often. The one cardinal rule of Dungannontry was: never, never approach the author while wearing a Tratyn Runewind costume. He had once hurled an entire stack of hardbacks and a water carafe at a Runewind imposter. Still, he was internationally famous, and his appearance at a con was a guarantee of good attendance, so con organizers suffered him gladly; besides, his atrocities made good anecdotes to recount at later cons.

"And we were hoping you'd judge the costume contest later this evening," Miles was saying to his scowling charge. "Just a brief little event."

Dungannon grunted. "Especially if you're male."

Wisely choosing to ignore this, Miles continued, "And for dinner tonight, I thought you might like to join me and Walter Diefenbaker. You remember Diefenbaker, perhaps, from Mysticon?"

Dungannon made a sound that might have been assent or the sound of a Kyle-dragon swallowing a village. "Anyway, we thought we'd take you to dinner, and then you can sign autographs or whatever until costume time. There'll be filksinging in Room 211."

"I am indebted to you for the warning," said the author with a little bow.

"Oh, one other thing. There is another guest author coming to the convention. Perhaps we ought to ask him along to dinner as well."

"Who?"

"He's a local guy, a professor at the university. Just had his first SF novel come out in paperback. Would you like to meet him?"

Dungannon produced a fanged smile. "Let him wait in line with the other groupies," he said, giggling.

Miles Perry sighed, sensing a nasty Dungannon legend in the making.

Copyright © 1988 by Sharyn McCrumb


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