Bimbos of the Death Sun
by Sharyn McCrumb.
Bruce kept telling me about this brilliant comedy novel all about a SF author who goes to a SF/Fantasy convention for the first time and ends up solving the murder of a fellow guest author. With a title like Bimbos of the Death Sun I just had to read it. When I got hold of a copy (from Scorpio Books) I was intrigued to find that this novel is not only funny but is also an honest look at the strange world of fandom that I inhabit.
The Plot: Dr James Owens Mega is attending Rubicon to promote his SF novel concerning the effects of sunspot activity on computers that has just been published as Bimbos of the Death Sun with a picture of a female body builder in a fur bikini on the cover. During the con the special guest author, Appin Dundannon (Writer of 26 books about the Viking warrior Tratyn Runewind, and all-round bastard) is shot. While most of the guests celebrate and buy up all the autographed copies of Dundannon's books Dr Mega uses a game of Dungeon & Dragons to solve the murder.
I dislike most murder mysteries, I'm waiting for a murderer who when confronted, pulls out a Uzi and shoots the nosy amateur sleuth as well as all the other suspects. So I was pleased to find that this novel didn't focus on examining clues. Instead McCrumb looks at the type of people who inhabit SF/Fantasy Cons, such as the computer buffs with zero inter-personal communication skills, the fantasy gamers who spend every waking moment building fleets and breaking alliances, and the intelligent but not so attractive females who find the inexperienced computer buffs an easy lay. McCrumb looks at these peoples' problems in an intelligent way, presenting the reader with situations that ring true, such as the obese woman who spends hours making her costume and losses to the bimbo wearing a bikini and a sword.
McCrumb also comments on some of the problems in the SF/Fantasy genres, such as the sexist attitudes to women: It's a throwback to the 'Thirties teenage space-opera stuff. It's a stroke book....Would you mind reading it again?' and the focus on plot and technology above character. McCrumb does this without being boring, we accept these comments as part of the narrative, coming as they do from Dr Mega's female companion (She wouldn't like being called his girlfriend), a lecturer in science-fiction who attends the convention dressed as Emma Peel.
As a murder mystery the novel works well, I wasn't sure who the murderer was and the game of Dungeons & Dragons used to reveal the murder is handled so that I who have never role-played felt the tension building. As well as this the characters are believable, I got the feeling that this could have happened. There are no sudden leaps into detective cliche. I enjoyed this book, its mix of humour, serious observation and comment make it well worth reading, and I'd suggest that any budding writers read it to see what one intelligent author thinks SF has to have if it is to be worth reading.