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Bimbos of the Death Sun (1988)

por Sharyn McCrumb

Outros autores: Ver a secção outros autores.

Séries: Jay Omega Mysteries (1)

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1,0803518,950 (3.78)113
Fiction. Literature. Mystery. HTML:

A sci-fi convention gets a dose of true crime in this Edgar Award-winning mystery by the New York Times bestselling author of the Ballad novels.

When Virginia Tech professor James Owen Mega wrote a fictional account of his real-life research, he hardly expected it to get published. But when a publisher changed the title of his novel to Bimbos of the Death Sun, James??under the pen name Jay Omega??becomes an overnight sci-fi star. Invited to the annual fan convention Rubicon, James is both a fish out of water and a Guest of Honor among the Trekkies and sword-wielding cosplayers. But he's not the only VIP at the overrun hotel.

Revered fantasy author Appin Dungannon never misses a Rubicon??or a chance to belittle his legions of devotees. But when Dungannon turns up dead, police wonder if a die-hard fan finally turned to murder. As the list of suspects grows and hucksters hunt for the victim's autograph, James devises an ingenious way to catch a kil… (mais)

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I know Sharyn McCrumb for her Appalachian fiction, but when this luridly illustrated paperback was donated to the library, I learned that she apparently wrote SF-themed paperback murder mysteries for TSR in the eighties.

This book is a satirical mystery set in a science fiction convention in Virginia, and is a glorious lampoon of old-school fandom, probably the best I've read. The characters were ALL TOO REAL and the setting made me nostalgic for my own glory(?) days frequenting Virginia science fiction conventions a couple decades later.

Alas, as an actual mystery, I thought this book failed pretty hard - the solution was simply not that interesting and the last few chapters stretched plausibility farther than I would have liked. I was also put off by Brenda, whose character is almost a sensitive portrayal of a fat woman who finds her tribe, but who is constantly fat-shamed by the text and whose arc paints a pretty unflattering portrait of young women in fandom.

Still a super-fun read, and highly recommended to anyone interested in the history of fandom (especially women, who can read in horror about the bad old days when white men roamed the earth). ( )
  raschneid | Dec 19, 2023 |
Fun and tightly written little satire of the fantasy and SF convention scene. ( )
  grahzny | Jul 17, 2023 |
review of
Sharyn McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sun
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 27, 2016

Ok, ok, this isn't the complete review. Even for a bk this simple I just had to go on & on. Read this, mutha, "Bimbos of the Something-or-Another": https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/456433-bimbos-of-the-something-or-another

I bought this bk as part of my pursuit of humorous SF & of SF written by women. Given that the author's purported last name is "McCrumb" I do wonder whether it's a pseudonym & whether it's a pseudonym for a male author. An online search for "McCrumb" yields only this author but there are various genealogy pages one of wch provides this (& much more that isn't quoted here):

"McCrumb is an ancient Dalriadan-Scottish nickname for a person with blond hair. The Scottish name Crone was originally derived from the Gaelic word "cron", which means saffron, yellow-colored or dark, and refers to the complexion or hair coloring of the original bearer.

"McCrumb Early Origins

"The surname McCrumb was first found in Argyllshire (Gaelic erra Ghaidheal), the region of western Scotland corresponding roughly with the ancient Kingdom of Dál Riata, in the Strathclyde region of Scotland, now part of the Council Area of Argyll and Bute, where they held a family seat from very ancient times, some say well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066 A.D.

"Translation in medieval times was an undeveloped science and was often carried out without due care. For this reason, many early Scottish names appeared radically altered when written in English. The spelling variations of McCrumb include Crone, Cron, Cronie and others." - https://www.houseofnames.com/mccrumb-family-crest

Further research, however, convinces me that Sharyn McCrumb is a woman & that that's her real name. Her website says this:

"Sharyn McCrumb is an award-winning Southern writer, best known for her Appalachian "Ballad" novels, set in the North Carolina/Tennessee mountains, including the New York Times Best Sellers : The Ballad of Tom Dooley, She Walks These Hills and The Rosewood Casket. Her new novel, King's Mountain, the story of the 1780 Revolutionary War battle and the Overmountain Men, was published in September 2013 by St. Martins Press, NY." - http://www.sharynmccrumb.com/bio.html

That's interesting insofar as Bimbos of the Death Sun is apparently somewhat unusual in her overall output. I like her for that - at least she's not completely stuck in a 'ballad-rut'. Her being the author of "New York Times Best Sellers" is a different story.

What constitutes a "New York Times Best Seller"? One version has it that bks are shipped out in large quantities to new booksellers & that this very large-scale shipping, arranged by distributors, is what makes the bks "New York Times Best Sellers" - they don't have to actually SELL from the bookstores. In other words, it's a prefabricated marketing gimmick, a gimmick whose success is based in the power of distribution interests. Maybe "Appalachian "Ballad" novels" fill some sort of demographic niche. Judging by Bimbos of the Death Sun I doubt that the promotion of McCrumb's work is based on her 'Nabokov-like command of the English language' or on any other critical criteria of substance.

Bimbos of the Death Sun cd be sd to be a somewhat merciless parody of SF conventions - is the author really Shryn the Merciless? McCrumb's take on some of her characters seems somewhat underappreciative of their 'real life' counterparts:

"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." - p 9

In other words, Diefenbaker is a nice supportive open-minded guy w/ alotof social energy who gets somewhat ridiculed by the author for being so. Why shdn't Dief write to anybody? Does that go against snobbishness? Against classist elitism? A "crottled greep" is a "mock foodstuff" according to Wiktionary ( https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/crottled_greep ) & of the 6 examples presented in their definition McCrumb's is the only one that seems to use it either incorrectly or as a metaphor as/for a derogatory description of a psychological inferior. What's wrong w/ discussing "Lithuanian politics, or silicon-based life forms"? Given the low intellectual quality of most conversations I'd say that passionate geek "post-adolescent monomania" is far preferable to the usual drek.

The victim-to-be is known to the reader from the get-go & is immediately typed as being spectacularly self-centered & obnoxious:

""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?"" - pp 10-11

I've been reading SF (& its awkward relative Fantasy) since I was at least 9 yrs old, so for something like 53 yrs now, & I still love it & find it stimulating & inspired. That sd, I've only been to, maybe, 2 SF cons in all that time - the last one being 33 yrs ago. I reckon that like most large-scale gatherings of human beings they're not for me. STILL, I'm sympathetic to them as geek-magnets, as places where people who're probably largely uncomfortable in the mainstream can, perhaps, feel a bit more socially belonging. McCrumb gets this too, although she's a bit more harsh than I wd be about the people who attend.

""Why aren't you in costume?"

"Diefenbaker looked surprised. "But I'm a wargamer!" Seeing that this reply had not proved enlightening, he explained, "The world of fandom is divided into several subgroups, mainly into hard science fiction—people who would read your book, for example—and fantasy folk, who are into Tolkein, Dungeons & Dragons, and—"

""Appin Dungannon?"

""Exactly. They're the ones in cloaks and broadswords. The rest of us settle for small tokens of resistance." He pointed to a button on his lapel that read, "Reality is a crutch for those who can't handle science fiction." "Do you play wargames, by any chance?"

""Ah . . . on the computer?"

""No. Board games. Strategy between players. Diplomacy. Kingmaker. War in the Pacific. No, I see you don't. How about SF? Who do you read?"" - p 17

I find that breakdown interesting. I don't know how accurate it is. It seems accurate enuf but probably oversimpifying. When I went to the World SF Con in BalTimOre in 1983 I went dressed in translucent pants & jacket w/ no clothing on underneath. On the back of the jacket were 4 glow-in-the-dark rectangles arranged to look like windowpanes w/ lite coming thru them. I walked to the Con from my place on city streets surrounded by 4 or so friends to shield me from police scrutiny & when I got there & was asked for my ticket my companions explained to security that wearing a name-tag wd ruin my costume.

I didn't really have a ticket but my friends's strategy worked & I was let in. I remember an elfish young woman trying to figure out what fictional character I was. I was just being myself. There was a hotel rm for a Discordian gathering w/ a sign on it that sd something to the effect of "You know if you belong here" wch was probably true enuf & I decided that I didn't b/c I was less interested in being part of groups largely created by others than I was in groups that I felt like I was cocreating. Simultaneous w/ this con was the 14BX Sub-Par Con of the Church & Foundation of the SubGenius that I'd co-organized. Following it all was the neoist APT 7 that I'd organized. They were more my thing. What I'm saying is that I didn't fit into any of McCrumb's categories but I reckon I was an exception in more ways than one. Then again, the Discordians wdn't've fit her categories either. I do recall there being an unusually high percentage of large women:

""All the girls who weigh less than one-twenty wear as little as possible, and the rest of them put on cloaks and medieval dresses to conceal their bulk.["]" - p 23

Dungannon, the famous but hated author of fantasy bks featuring "Tratyn Runewind" muses about their development while he tries to write one: "The first books had been carried by his curiosity about the folklore, and when that ran out, he'd enjoyed putting his editors and his ex-wife in the manuscripts as monsters, but even that became dull after a while. Now he wrote out of inertia and because they kept waving money at him." (p 35) I find the idea of putting people you dislike into stories as monsters entertaining. It's tempting to do that.

Bimbos of the Death Sun was published in 1988. The author of the version of Bimbos of the Death Sun that's referenced w/in McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sun is looking over manuscripts to judge them. In one of them, he finds the technology-of-the-future wildly not-thought-thru:

"Jay Omega blinked. "Three thousand years in the future?"

""That's what the author says," nodded Marion, tapping a line of typescript.

""And they still get mail? We don't even do that on campus. I leave messages for people on the computer mainframe, and they just check their file once a day. Electronic mail. Instantaneous."" - p 51

Email wd've still been a very new thing to most people in 1988. I didn't have an email address until 1996 & that was b/c I was in the position of most people: lack of access to the technology.

"Early email was just a small advance on what we know these days as a file directory - it just put a message in another user's directory in a spot where they could see it when they logged in. Simple as that. Just like leaving a note on someone's desk.

"Probably the first email system of this type was MAILBOX, used at Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1965. Another early program to send messages on the same computer was called SNDMSG.

"Some of the mainframe computers of this era might have had up to one hundred users -often they used what are called "dumb terminals" to access the mainframe from their work desks. Dumb terminals just connected to the mainframe - they had no storage or memory of their own, they did all their work on the remote mainframe computer.

"Before internetworking began, therefore, email could only be used to send messages to various users of the same computer. Once computers began to talk to each other over networks, however, the problem became a little more complex - We needed to be able to put a message in an envelope and address it. To do this, we needed a means to indicate to whom letters should go that the electronic posties understood - just like the postal system, we needed a way to indicate an address.

"This is why Ray Tomlinson is credited with inventing email in 1972. Like many of the Internet inventors, Tomlinson worked for Bolt Beranek and Newman as an ARPANET contractor. He picked the @ symbol from the computer keyboard to denote sending messages from one computer to another. So then, for anyone using Internet standards, it was simply a matter of nominating name-of-the-user@name-of-the-computer. Internet pioneer Jon Postel, who we will hear more of later, was one of the first users of the new system, and is credited with describing it as a "nice hack". It certainly was, and it has lasted to this day."

[..]

"But as it developed email started to take on some pretty neat features. One of the first good commercial systems was Eudora, developed by Steve Dorner in 1988." - http://www.nethistory.info/History of the Internet/email.html

I find such things fascinating. Eudora was the 1st email app I had at home & it was better than the Mail program that comes w/ Macs that I use to this day. Eudora had filters that were very handy. The version of Mail I have doesn't. The somewhat obscure present of 1988 is fairly common in 2016. Handy, very handy.

I was particularly interested in who's presented as required SF & Fantasy reading by one of McCrumb's characters:

"Marion's eyes narrowed. "I teach science fiction at the university."

"Dungannon looked pleased. "Who's required reading?"

""Clarke, Brunner, LeGuin—"

""Heinlein?"

""The early works. And in the fantasy course, we teach C.S. Lewis, Tolkein—"

""Tolkein! Ah so you do mythology? What about British myths?"

""Yes, of course. There's an excellent book based on Celtic lore. The students love it."

"Appin Dungannon smirked. "Which Runewind is it? The Singing Runes? The Flag of Dunvegan?"

"Marion raised her eyebrows. "No. As a matter of fact, it's The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley."" - pp 53-54

The famous victim-to-be is disappointed that his bks aren't required reading. What wd yr required reading be? I'm not sure I'd have required reading but I've been enthusiastic about all mentioned above except for Bradley who I haven't read yet. I can't stomach Lewis anymore & I have my reservations about Heinlein's later work too.

A Scottish folksinger sets the reader straight about the 'Scottish' kilt:

"Nobody seemed to realize that the whole kilt business was thought up in the early nineteenth century, and that it was an Englishmen who'd been give Scottish peerages who wore them." - p 56

Really? That's the type of factoid that I delight in. BUT, I also doublecheck it just in case the author's fuckin' w/ us. Here's the beginning of what one website claims:

"Scottish kilts are known as “The National Dress of Scotland” and are a highly recognized form of dress throughout the world. Kilts have deep cultural and historical roots in the country of Scotland and are a sacred symbol of patriotism and honor for a true Scotsman. The word “kilt” is a derivation of the ancient Norse word, kjilt, which means pleated, and refers to clothing that is tucked up and around the body.

"Scottish kilts originate back to the 16th century, when they were traditionally worn as full length garments by Gaelic-speaking male Highlanders of northern Scotland. They were referred to as a léine, Gaelic for “shirt” and typically, the garments were draped over the shoulder or pulled over the head as cloaks. The wearing of Scottish kilts was common during the 1720s, when the British military used them as their formal uniforms. The knee-length kilt, similar to the modern kilt of today, did not develop until the late 17th or early 18th century." - https://www.authenticireland.com/scottish-kilts/

Weeeellllllll! That certainly goes against McCrumb's character's assertion. SO, let's try a different source:

"The history of the kilt stretches back to at least the end of the 16th century. The kilt first appeared as the belted plaid or great kilt, a full length garment whose upper half could be worn as a cloak draped over the shoulder, or brought up over the head as a hood. The small kilt or walking kilt (similar to the 'modern' kilt) did not develop until the late 17th or early 18th century, and is essentially the bottom half of the great kilt.

"The word kilt comes from the Scots word kilt meaning to tuck up the clothes around the body, although the 11th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica (vol. 15, p. 798) says the word is Scandinavian in origin. The Scots word derives from the Old Norse kjalta."

[..]

"A characteristic of the Highland clan system was that clansmen felt loyalty only to God, their monarch, and their Chief. The Jacobite Risings demonstrated the dangers to central government of such warrior Highland clans, and as part of a series of measures the government of King George II imposed the "Dress Act" in 1746, outlawing all items of Highland dress including kilts (although an exception was made for the Highland Regiments) with the intent of suppressing highland culture. The penalties were severe; six months' imprisonment for the first offense and seven years' transportation for the second. The ban remained in effect for 35 years.

"Thus, with the exception of the Army, the kilt went out of use in the Scottish Highlands, but during those years it became fashionable for Scottish romantics to wear kilts as a form of protest against the ban." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_kilt

Weeelllllll, these 2 online sources don't exactly reinforce McCrumb's character's assertion but that doesn't mean that the author is wrong.

I had a moment of identification w/ Dungannon, the victim-to-be. He's doing a bk signing & a guy comes to him w/ multiples of the same bk:

""You have three copies of the same book in here."

""Right. Someday you'll be dead and I'll be rich."" - p 59

Dungannon gets poetic justice in more ways than one here. Something like that actually happened to me once. My bk How to Write a Resumé - Volume II: Making a Good First Impression was required reading for an arts class at UMBC. One student DID actually wish me to be dead so that he cd profit off the bk. Another student hated the bk so much she wanted her money back for it but she didn't want to have to return it. It cost her a whopping $10 in 1992, a minute amt above actual cost of materials (I printed it myself). I wd've given her a full refund if she'd returned the bk in good condition. She didn't seem to get that. What brats.

McCrumb's parody can be pretty brutal about the attendees of the SF con where the action takes place:

"["}Women are at a premium in this hobby, and therefore even the plain ones are prized. That poor creature up there could pick up six guys by Sunday if she chose. I expect she'll settle for one."

"Jay Omega peered at Brenda Lindenfeld, who was rotating slowly to show off her hooded cloak. "Any six guys?"

""No, silly. Any six losers. You know, the terminally shy guys who have no idea how to talk to a woman; the runty little nerds that no one else wants; and the fat intellectuals who want to be loved for their minds. She can take her pick of those."" - pp 65-66

Are SF fans offended by the above? Do they even read this bk? I reckon I'm an ardent reader of SF & I read this bk & I'm not exactly offended but then I don't really see myself in the description either. AT any rate, not all of McCrumb's details ring true:

"The demented fans who read the series had hours of fun devising plausible explanations for his sloppiest screw-ups. They would churn out endless articles in their unreadable mimeographed excrescences trying to explain why Runewind's sword changed lengths or why his mother was known by two different names. So far, the two likeliest explanations—apathy and Chivas Regal—had not been suggested." - p 102 ( )
1 vote tENTATIVELY | Apr 3, 2022 |
I'm guessing this is much more funny if you are into the whole comicon eco-system. The plot was so-so, and the technology references are extremely dated. ( )
  grandpahobo | Sep 28, 2021 |
This is just a fun romp through the precursors of Comicon. In this case, a fictional mixed-genre fan convention in the 1980s. The victim is the abusive, egotistical author of a famous series of fantasy novels. The everyone-hates-him kind of victim.

The main protagonist is an engineer who has author a serious Indie hard scifi novel that the publisher embarrassingly called "Bimbos of the Death Sun".

I suspect that the main reason someone who enjoy this is the setting and characters, right down to the Scottish filk singer and the D&D group playing in the hallway. If the idea of a serious murder mystery set at a 1980s genre Con doesn't titillate you, then I'm sure this is a pass.

Also, I found the writing to be incredibly comfortable to slip into. ( )
  James_Patrick_Joyce | Oct 24, 2020 |
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McCrumb, Sharynautor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
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Fiction. Literature. Mystery. HTML:

A sci-fi convention gets a dose of true crime in this Edgar Award-winning mystery by the New York Times bestselling author of the Ballad novels.

When Virginia Tech professor James Owen Mega wrote a fictional account of his real-life research, he hardly expected it to get published. But when a publisher changed the title of his novel to Bimbos of the Death Sun, James??under the pen name Jay Omega??becomes an overnight sci-fi star. Invited to the annual fan convention Rubicon, James is both a fish out of water and a Guest of Honor among the Trekkies and sword-wielding cosplayers. But he's not the only VIP at the overrun hotel.

Revered fantasy author Appin Dungannon never misses a Rubicon??or a chance to belittle his legions of devotees. But when Dungannon turns up dead, police wonder if a die-hard fan finally turned to murder. As the list of suspects grows and hucksters hunt for the victim's autograph, James devises an ingenious way to catch a kil

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