Sauntering Vaguely Downward, by Nessa L. Warin, is a book about falling in love at a science fiction convention. It is a story that is, itself, in love with science fiction conventions. Sauntering is also an M/M romance. Last, but not least, the title is an homage to the science fiction genre. It’s a reference to the demon Crowley in Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece, Good Omens. For anyone who has attended a lot of cons, this story is sweet, fun and touching.
Dragon*Con is a five-day extravaganza of a con that takes place every Labor Day weekend in downtown Atlanta. It spreads across three major hotels and overwhelms them. The hotels don’t just sell out, they’ve learned not to bother letting mundanes book rooms, because unsuspecting mundanes and fen just don’t mix well at big cons. I’ve personally been there and done that, and the t-shirts are generally very messy.
Sauntering Vaguely Downward starts out with a “meet-cute” that is actually pretty common at cons. Dylan Rojers and Brendan Stone have arranged to room together at the Con, but they’ve never met in person. In their case, it’s because their usual con roommates have bailed for this con, and in Brendan’s case, his roommate also cancelled their room. Dragon*Con sells out months in advance, even with three major hotels.
They need to check-in for the Con and get their attendance badges as early as possible, because the badge check-in line is going to be incredibly long later in the afternoon. But Dylan is on time and Brendan is late. And hasn’t called. Brendan’s plane arrived late, and he just didn’t think about it. So when he finally does arrive, they’re both pissed at each other, and they get started off on the wrong foot. Both figure that it doesn’t matter, they each have friends they were planning to spend time with that they only see at cons, and they’ve split the cost of the room, so it’s all okay.
But it might be better than okay. Brendan and Dylan are both gay, but at the beginning, neither of them knows that about the other. And they have no friends in common, so it takes a while for the light to dawn. Especially since they start out way too annoyed with each other to find any common ground. At first they only thing they have in common is the Con itself, and a mutual love of the book Good Omens, except that Dylan thinks Terry Pratchett wrote the best parts, and Brendan is certain that Neil Gaiman did. This is almost as bad as the Mac/PC debate.
But Dragon*Con works its magic, and with the assistance of their friends, along with too much unidentified alcohol at a room party, they do manage to find out that they are very interested in each other, in spite of the somewhat rocky beginning. But the problem with Con romances is that the Con always ends. Is their five-day romance just part of the magic of the Con? And if it is, how will they make it in the real world of long-distance relationships?
Escape Rating C+: I enjoyed this book because I know what it’s like to be at a con. It brought back some pretty fond memories. On the other hand, I could easily see that for someone who didn’t have that experience, a lot of this would seem like an in-joke that they didn’t get. And even for me, the story went on too long. I know Dragon*Con lasts five days, but the story dragged at bit toward the end.
The experience of coming to a con, having a roommate you’ve never met, falling in love (or lust) at the con, wondering if it’s real or just con magic–that story is universal. It’s happening to someone, somewhere this weekend, at a con near you.