Marty Brooks is an astronomy professor. As a child, he had a long-term pen pal, Spencer, who shared his love of astronomy. Marty and Spencer confessed their sexualities over those letters—Marty being gay and Spencer bisexual. It was a big loss to Marty when Spencer’s letters finally stopped for good after high school.
A lifelong sci-fi fan, Marty’s excited when his younger brother, Jack, buys them premium tickets the Space Heroes convention in Seattle. He’s jazzed to meet his favorite actor on the show, Derek DeLong. When they finally arrive at the convention, Marty and Jack happen to meet the major star of the show, Sebastian Lookinland. Sebastian is friendly, inviting the brothers to join him to dinner—with an apparent eye to making some special time with Marty. A brief conversation connects the dots that Sebastian is truly Spencer…and he’s still interested in Marty and his stories about space. Though Marty knows Sebastian is bisexual, it’s clear he’s not out. One night turns into two, and a deeper connection than either man might have suspected grows between them.
For me, this novella was a bit light on the emotional build up. Despite being well-educated, Marty seems unsure about himself, and Sebastian is quixotic in his decisions. He’s a closeted movie star, but invites Marty to his hotel room for overnights? There are precious few security guards in chain hotels who wouldn’t sell that secret to the tabloids. The recognition that they had been pen pals felt oddly subdued, as if this amazing coincidence wasn’t a big deal—especially for Sebastian. He read as extremely blasé to me for a lot of this short story. I suspect that was an attempt to make him seem protective of his vulnerability, but it had the side effect of making him seem out of touch and out of reach for Marty.
The plot is decently paced, but without the kind of turmoil that would have me rooting for our MCs to triumph. Instead, I had the sensation that I was being told this story, not fully experiencing it through Marty’s point-of-view, which damped my connection and my enjoyment. I really liked the convention setting, and was charmed by descriptions of meeting one’s “screen idols” only to find them to be extremely human (and maybe petty). I also liked the premise of the story, even as I found its execution a bit lacking in texture and depth. On the upside, it’s a quick read, and has mostly sweet notes throughout. The end is happy, with Marty and Sebastian definitely connecting in real life, and for good.