A surly nerd girl goes to GinormoCon on a quest for a rare action figure, and finds… Could it be, true love?

Nerd Alert blogger Sarah Kuhn’s short novella has received enthusiastic online reviews and netted its author a movie deal. Does the book live up to the ballyhoo?

Title: One Con Glory
Author: Sarah Kuhn
ISBN: 978-0578060750, 0578060752
First published: November, 2009.

Available from Amazon.uk, Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

Premise:

Julie, a nerd girl, online journalist, and Science Fiction Con regular, takes as her inspiration and mirror Glory Gilmore, the token female member of a fictional Marvel Universe team. She’s off to find a rare Glory action figure, but will she find, instead, true love?

High Point:

The story opens with protagonist Julie’s account of how she lost her first three Glory Gilmore action figures over the years, culminating with the hilarious explanation of how she then lost the coveted figure and her college boyfriend, due to her own nerd obsessiveness.

The story that follows will not appeal equally to all readers, and for me, nothing manages to be quite as funny or effective at communicating character as that opening sequence. However, One Con Glory has its saving grace in Sarah Kuhn’s witty, fast-paced style. She doesn’t give us time to get bored, and I could get behind Julie.

Low Point:

Reading the online reviews for this story, I expected something a lot better than I found—and yes, I suppose, I’m not One Con‘s target readership. At its heart, we have a predictable Rom-Com superimposed on the nerd-con. The secondary characters have, at most, two dimensions, our protagonist is clearly a Mary Sue, and the male love interest an over-the-top fantasy projection.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 Kuhn herself calls the idea “unoriginal” (Author Q&A, 101). She does provide a few fresh twists on conventions (in both senses of the word).

Imagery: 5/6 Kuhn describes the world of the Con in layers of geek references which she truly understands. We can certainly picture her world, if we’ve been there, but it has not been realized in a way that would give the casual or mundane reader the best sense of where we are. Her style is about getting through the story and keeping us smiling.

Story: 4/6

Characterization: 4/6 Only Julie has any real depth here. Her progress, while predicable, is believable. We see both the little nerdling who became the cranky adult, and the cranky adult as she becomes more amenable to human contact, unmediated by discussions of X-Men trivia.

Kuhn tries to ground love interest Jack Camden, but he remains, for the most part, some geek-girl’s fantasy.

Emotional Response: 4/6 The novel’s saving grace is Kuhn’s blog-like style and witty handling of the nerd world. While she does not avoid stereotypes, hers come from within fandom.

Editing: 5/6.

Overall score: 4/6 This makes for a fast, fun read, but it’s hardly literature for the ages. It also runs briefly; even with several pages of special features, One Con Glory barely breaks 100 pages. It does make an excellent treatment for a movie. I wasn’t surprised to hear the rights have been sold; whether or not an actual film appears remains to be seen. We’ve long needed a comedy, even a rom-com, set in the world of the SF Convention, depicted by someone who actually understands them.

The mainstream media, despite having commandeered Comic-Con and profited mightily from works once the province of nerds, tends to get Geekdom wrong. My fear is that, despite the best efforts of Sarah Kuhn, the film will not do the concept justice.

However, if the film sees completion and release, I intend to buy a ticket. We’ve had a nerd buddy comedy, a nerd black comedy, and nerd road movie, all made with an insider’s perspective.1 They all found some success, but all were uneven in their execution and limited in their appeal. The full-out convention comedy might be a real breakthrough, and One Con Glory has the necessary raw material.2

In total, One Con Glory receives 29/42

Notes

1. Although not necessarily thought of as a nerd film, the extraordinary Ghost World might reasonably be regarded as the best and most successful film about nerds, albeit teen girl hipster-nerds, a breed apart.

2. The One Con filmmakers should hurry, while Ellen Page is still young-looking enough to play Julie.