One Con Glory: An Excerpt
One Con Glory: An Excerpt
My first book, One Con Glory, is now available for the buying! This was initially a serialized story that got its grubby little start in the pages of Alert Nerd Press’ PDF ‘zine, Grok, and slowly morphed into much more of an epic than I ever intended it to be. Well, an epic in my own mind, anyway.
Now it’s revised, expanded, and bound with a beautiful cover by the one and only Chris Stewart. There are delicious extras — playlist! Author Q&A! — and amazing illustrations from webcomics superstars Max Riffner, Benjamin Birdie, and Pj Perez.
The story spotlights an obsessive fangirl and her all-consuming quest for a particularly precious action figure. You can read a more detailed synopsis — as well as check out advance praise from the likes of The Savage Critics’ Jeff Lester, Fantastic Fangirls’ Caroline Pruett, and The Book Smugglers — right here.
But for now…here’s an exclusive excerpt. Read on!
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.
“Powers was fucked as soon as they decided to retcon season three out of existence,” Mitch says mildly.
I sneak a peek at my watch. Seven minutes. Mitch raises an eyebrow. “Seriously, why are you so antsy?” he asks. “I know Los Angeles’ annual assemblage of all things geeky is exciting, but it ain’t that exciting. And you have done this before.”
I have. In fact, as a writer for the ever-shrinking genre-focused glossy Mammoth Media, I have covered GinormoCon, UnCon, CrappywashedupcelebssigningshitformoneyCon, and the granddaddy—San Diego Comic-Con. I met Mitch and Braidbeard four years ago on this incestuous circuit: a motley trio of baby hack-reporters, our plastic-encased press badges stamped proudly on our chests like gleaming beacons of newbieness. Upon realizing that we all call San Francisco home, I started hanging out with them in non-con environments. Or with Mitch, anyway.
Now, I cradle my badge discreetly in my palm, absently running my thumb over the cheap, synthetic material.
This con is different. For a few reasons. For one very important reason. But I’m not going to tell them that.
“I just…I have this one-on-one later,” I say. “And I’m kind of not into it.”
“Oh?” says Mitch. “With who?”
My eyeballs wander over to the Skrulls. One of them has dribbled nacho cheese on his purple spandex uniform. I tip my head back and stare up at the impossibly high ceiling. “Jack Camden.”
Mitch makes a spluttery sort of sound. “You?!” he chokes out. “You’re interviewing Jack Camden? As in Periodic Seven leading man Jack Camden?”
Braidbeard’s eyebrows knit together, forming a hairy caterpillar bridge. “I don’t get it,” he says. “Shouldn’t Julie be doing girly little cartwheels over that guy?” He claps a hand over his heart and approximates what he probably imagines is a sound of womanly ecstasy. It sounds more like a badly injured parrot. “Soooooo dreeaamy!” he trills in an offensively high-pitched “girl” voice. “Better than Edward Cullen!”
“How do you know who Edward Cullen is, B?” Mitch interjects. “I thought you refused to acknowledge Twilight because it—and I quote—‘encourages little girls and soccer moms to invade our genre safe space.’”
“I love how that’s the same ‘safe space’ that contains mega-booby Top Cow heroines,” I mutter.
“Emo vamp’s name is part of the POPULAR CULTURE,” Braidbeard snits. “And popular culture is my job. Now tell me what the frak is up with Jack Camden.”
I contemplate the ceiling for a moment more. Fucking Jack Camden. In truth, having to do this interview isn’t that much of a hardship. It means my Bay Area-to-LAX plane ticket was paid for in full. It means I get to be at this con. And hopefully, that means I get to have my Big, Epic Moment later on.
“Alright, alright,” says Mitch. “But please remember this when Julie is knee-deep in her tirade: you asked.”
He did, didn’t he? My head snaps back to an upright position. Across the room, the messy Skrull blots his uniform with a Shout wipe. I surreptitiously glance at my watch—8:55. Five minutes. Plenty of time to spit out my well-worn theory on why the existence of a B-List TV star is representative of everything that’s wrong with popular culture. And, you know, the world.
“Look,” I say, “The Periodic Seven is almost a perfect show, right? It’s got those neat little plot twists, just the right amount of non-smirky irreverence, and a decent shot of old-fashioned cloak and daggery.”
Braidbeard frowns. “What’s a daggery?”
“Shhhh,” says Mitch, lobbing the last soggy tater tot at him.
“It’s reasonably faithful to the source material and the cast is pretty great,” I continue. “Except for Camden. He’s the one sour note. The Dazzler of the Marvel Universe, the Clooney of the Batman franchise—”
“Dazzler is a highly underrated character!” interrupts Braidbeard.
“The point is,” I say, determined not to let him distract me from my closing thesis, “casting Jack Camden as Travis Trent is about ten billion different kinds of wrong. Travis is a scientist—a nerd—who just happens to be a superhero. Camden is a pretty boy who skates by on his cheekbones and has somehow managed to prolong a career that previously consisted solely of looking moderately conflicted in bad teen romance flicks. He has no soul.”
Grinning indulgently, Mitch choruses the final line with me: “And Travis Trent is supposed to have soul.”
Braidbeard’s eyes narrow. “I must admit to a certain…grudging admiration for your complete and utter obsession bordering on psychosis,” he says. “But it’s not like the source material was frakking Batman. Like, ten people read the original comic.”
“She was one of ’em,” says Mitch, jerking his chin in my direction. “You know, Julie, I’ve always thought this was a black mark on your otherwise impeccable taste.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I say. “I know it wasn’t exactly Marvel’s finest work to come out of the late ’80s—”
“Third-tier at best!” shrieks Braidbeard.
“But if you go back and actually read it, all the stuff that makes the show great is there. Young scientists gain superpowers when their lab is hit by a chemical explosion and awesomeness ensues. And then there’s Glory Gilmore.”
“Whoa.” Braidbeard waves a pointy finger under my nose. “You are not dissing Dazzler and then holding Glory frakking Gilmore up as some kind of geek sacred cow.”
“I always felt a connection to her,” I say firmly. “Go back and read the comics—she’s pretty fucking amazing.”
“Dude…dude. Do you even remember what her stupid powers were?” Mitch throws back his head and roars with laughter. The effect is not unlike Sabretooth baring his massive fangs. “Shitty Jean Grey rip-off alert: Biokinesis and…something with telepathy?”
“Biokinesis and psychoempathy,” I say through gritted teeth.
“Oh, right, so basically she could only move, like, living things and she could sense your emotions if you were standing right next to her.” Mitch starts roaring again. “She was an even lamer version of Counselor Troi.”
“I sense danger…AND HACKY PLOTLINES!” Braidbeard is practically aerobicizing out of his chair.
“But I’ll give you this,” says Mitch. “TV Glory? Claire Yardley? She’s pretty good.”
“Yeah, she is,” Braidbeard leers. “She’s got at least two pretty incredible, um, assets. If you know what I’m saying.”
I sigh and slump back in my seat. Whatever. Ever since The Periodic Seven was reinvented as a TV series, geeks have gained a new appreciation for Glory…or for this version of Glory, anyway.
“I meant her boobs.”
“We got it, B.”
I like Claire—I do. But Comic Book Glory…Comic Book Glory is the true Glory. Comic Book Glory is the one I felt close to. Like me, she had a strangely voluminous mane of jet-black hair that was neither wavy nor straight, but somewhere in between. Also like me, she tended to be in a constant state of annoyance about something. As an overly morose seven-year-old, I got really crabby when, say, my mom wouldn’t let me wear my kick-ass red high-tops every single day. Comic Book Glory, meanwhile, was always getting pissed at her teammates for making various mutant messes around the Periodic Seven HQ. Only when Glory got pissed, she could throw your ass against the wall with her mind.
Which I wouldn’t mind doing to my con companions right about now.
But then Mitch is jumping up, gathering his things, and tossing the cardboard tater tot container into the garbage. “Doors are open!” he cries. “Let’s go!”
Nine o’clock. Zero minutes.
Bring on the epicness.