Title: Sauntering Vaguely Downwards
Author: Nessa Warin
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond
Length: 192 pdf pages
Dylan Rojers is excited about Dragon*Con—a huge convention in Atlanta celebrating pop culture, science fiction, and fantasy—but he and his last-minute roommate, Brendan Stone, get off on the wrong foot. It seems that every time they manage a tentative truce, something happens to set them back, and by their second day at the convention, both think there’s no way they can get along.
But maybe Dylan and Brendan have more in common than they thought. Once they start talking, the sparks that were starting arguments ignite a different sort of passion. Through the four fabulous days of parties, shopping in the Dealers Room, costume parades, and discussion panels, Dylan and Brendan grow ever closer. There’s just one problem: they live in different cities, and Dragon*Con doesn’t last forever. Will Dylan and Brendan risk a long-distance romance or is a lasting relationship just one more all-too-brief fantasy?
Dragon*con, for those of us who don't go, sounds like the most event-packed weekend ever, with panels, demonstrations, live action role playing, and cosplay, and probably another sixty things I don't even know about, so why can't a couple of guys fall in love?
Brendan and Dylan connected on line, strictly to share a hotel room, after both their usual companions backed out of coming. It's not just economics, though it sounded expensive; Brendan's wonderful buddy cancelled the hotel room too. Knowing each other only by their on line handles and not expecting to have to hang out together for anything other than some drunken snoring and struggling into costumes, they start off badly, and have to struggle from "gee this guy is a jerk" to "he's a kind of hot jerk" to "he's not a jerk, really."
The story is told in the present tense, which brings the story along in a moment-by-moment way over the course of the five day con. Brendan and Dylan have a full complement of con-going friends, who add their two cents in from time to time on the budding relationship. They vary from wryly amused to downright intrusive, but are all accepting to supportive, and add greatly to the con's festivity. The group costume sequence had everyone together, letting Brendan and Dylan see how the friends might blend. Without interference from a few of them, this relationship might not have gotten off the ground.
Brendan and Dylan have these few days to decide if they want to pursue a relationship beyond the con, which is a fantastical step out of real life as it is. While I'm all pleased for them finding both happiness with each other and a glorious time at the con, I can't say that there was a fascinating story to go along with the revelation. The conflicts that they experienced on the way to couplehood are the standard progression of finding out a little about one another, finding out they are both gay, and from then on it's logistics. Once they've gotten into bed, it's very little more than amusing anecdotes. One section where a small misunderstanding threatened to turn into a bigger misunderstanding, it got talked out and resolved in a matter of paragraphs. The biggest conflict seemed to be an argument over the superiority and relative contributions of Neil Gaiman vs. Terry Pratchett in Good Omens.
Adding to the slightly extra work of reading a present tense story, the characters' names are similar enough that it's not entirely effortless to keep them straight. Since they've stepped out of their usual lives, little of those details follow them to the con making the characters blur just a bit more. One does metalwork, the other does leather, neither does his craft on stage, nor shows his work this time, blurring them further. We don't even find out that Brendan is thirty-two until nearly the end of the book. The author has stated that this was originally a real person slash story, so it may be that getting identifying details out has resulted in these homogenous characters; the voices are very similar once Dylan gets over his initial snit.
Sauntering Vaguely Downwards reads a lot like a friend's accounting of a good time in a far-away place; it was a wonderful vacation but it's a little short on plot. 3 marbles