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Once Upon a Con #1

by Ashley Poston
AR Test, Diverse Characters, LGBTQ

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Elle Whittimer is living in an impossible universe. Her father died, leaving her with her awful stepfamily. Now her only connection to her father is through Starfield, an old science fiction television show that he loved so much he started a fan convention for it. These days ExcelsiCon is one of the biggest cons in the country, but Elle hasn’t been back since her father died. Instead, she finds her solace in late night Starfield reruns, posting on her blog, Rebelgunner, and dreaming of the day when she can escape to California and become a screenwriter. When a movie reboot of Starfield is announced, Elle is afraid that her favorite story is about to be ruined. But this movie just might be the ticket to her dreams because this year, the first-place prize for ExcelsiCon’s cosplay contest is a chance to attend the premiere in Hollywood. With a little help from her coworker Sage, Elle decides to turn her father’s old costume into a prize-winning cosplay.

Darien Freeman just landed the role of a lifetime: Federation Prince Carmindor in the Starfield movie reboot. However, as a lifelong fan, he’s afraid he won’t be able to do the character justice. There are already fans, like the blogger behind Rebelgunner, who are convinced that casting a teen heartthrob was a terrible idea. The last thing Darien wants to do is surround himself with a bunch of angry, hardcore Starfield fans, which means he really needs to get out of judging the ExcelsiCon’s annual cosplay contest. When Darien sends a text hoping to contact someone at ExcelsiCon, he ends up reaching Elle. After connecting through a mutual love of Starfield, their anonymous friendship begins to grow into something more. But what will happen when their paths cross on the convention floor?

Geekerella is part modern-day Cinderella story and part love letter to fandom culture. Poston does a wonderful job exploring the ways in which art can bring together creators and fans alike – across time and distance. Themes of love and acceptance are an integral part of the story. At the same time, some darker topics are addressed, like Elle’s mistreatment by her stepfamily and how Darien has lost his personal life to overzealous fans and toxic paparazzi.

At its heart, Geekerella is an adorable fairytale. Even if readers are unfamiliar with fandom culture, they can still have fun picking out the parallels to the classic Cinderella story. Elle is a charming heroine, whose wit and determination make her easy to root for, while Darien’s sweet optimism makes him an incredibly endearing character. When these two lonely souls find each other through a mutual love of Starfield, it’s nearly impossible not to hope that their budding romance will overcome all the obstacles thrown in their way.

Sexual Content

  • Darien says he doesn’t want to think about the “creepy google searches” that male fans of his costar Jessica Stone make, implying that they might be sexual in nature.
  • Elle describes Darien’s face as “annoyingly beautiful.”
  • When Darien takes off his shirt on live TV, Elle says, “His abs and chest beam across Catherine’s plasma TV, piercing through [her] sleepy brain like a ray of hope in this godless universe.”
  • A fan jumps on stage and forces herself onto Darien. “Her mouth connects with [Darien’s] with such force that it sends them both tumbling over the sofa.”
  • When Darien discusses the kissing incident with his bodyguard, Darien says he thought he’d “choke on her tongue.”
  • Darien and his co-star Jessica must kiss for a scene. When Jessica asks where Darien learned how to kiss, he jokes that he’s had “two hours of practice by now.” In the same scene, Jessica refers to herself as “the best kisser in Hollywood.”
  • Elle daydreams about what life in a better universe would be like. “And maybe at that midnight release, I’d see a guy across the theatre dressed in a federation uniform, and we’d lock eyes and know that this was the good universe. Maybe a guy with dark hair and chocolate eyes and—for a moment Darien Freeman flashes across my mind.”
  • Darien thinks to himself that when he was kissing Jessica, he was really thinking about Elle. “The truth is, it wasn’t just when we’d kissed that I’d thought about Elle. I’d thought about her during every step of that dance.”
  • During a text conversation with Darien, a.k.a. Carmindor, Elle describes an episode of Starfield as “the one with the other Carmindor being sexy in the shower.” She then panics and adds, “Not that YOU couldn’t be sexy too.”
  • Elle worries about what would happen if she met Carmindor, a.k.a. Darien, in real life and thinks to herself, “I hate that I’m falling for someone I don’t even know.”
  • Darien refers to Elle as “ah’blena” during one of their text conversations, in the universe of Starfield this is a phrase meaning “my heart.”
  • Darien’s handler says that whoever wrote the negative blog posts about him “has a serious crush.”
  • After filming the final scene for the movie, Jessica asks Darien if he’s thinking about “the absolute sadness that we didn’t make out more?”
  • When Elle meets Darien for the first time, she describes him as “beautiful in person,” but thinks that his personality is “the biggest turn off.”
  • When she enters the cosplay ball, Darien is captivated by Elle. Darien watches “the top of the stairs, the girl with glowing red hair stares down at the rest of us from behind a sparkling golden mask. Her bowlike lips are painted the flaming color of a red giant. She’s beautiful.”
  • As Darien watches Elle enter the ball, he compares the moment to a meet-cute from a movie scene. “But this isn’t a movie, and I’ve already missed my meet-cute. The sky doesn’t suddenly crash in around us. The world doesn’t lose sound. Because this isn’t where I fall in love. I fell in love across the cell signals and late-night texts with a girl I barely knew.”
  • A rude stranger at the cosplay ball insinuates that Elle is simply a Darien Freeman fangirl, not an actual Starfield fan, and tells her that she is “too cute to play dumb” when she gets offended.
  • Elle and Darien share a dance at the cosplay ball and start to fall into familiar banter. “We’re so close, I can feel his breath on my lips, and my heart is tugging, telling me to kiss him even though I don’t know him. Even though my heart, battered and bandaged and taped together, is still rattling from the text a few hours before. But there’s something familiar in the cadence of his words, the way he phrases sentences, the way he articulates thoughts, like a voice I’ve heard before.”
  • Realizing she’s stayed too long, Elle rushes out of the cosplay ball. Darien, having realized who she is to him, chases after her. “His mask has fallen off and I can see the shiner on his nose, dark as a rainstorm, and the alarm in his eyes. The kind where you’re afraid you’ll never see someone again. ‘Wait, ah’blena!’ Ah’blena? I stumble and one of Mom’s shoes slips off.
  • One of Elle’s stepsisters tells her friends that Darien is “way sexier in person.”
  • When Darien shows up at the country club looking for Elle, Chloe throws herself at him. Elle thinks that “flirting comes as natural as breathing” to her stepsister.
  • Darien reflects on seeing the real Elle for the very first time. “I won’t say that she is perfect or that she is the most beautiful girl I have ever seen, but the moment her gaze finds mine, she’s the best part of the universe. She’s a person I would love to spend a lifetime with on the observation deck of the Prospero.”
  • Elle and Darien share a kiss upon being reunited. “‘Ah’…,’ he begins, enunciating every syllable, raising his hand to my chin, ‘blen…,’ tilts my face up, slowly drawing toward me, like two supernovas about to collide, ‘…a.’ And somehow, in this impossible universe, his lips find mine.”
  • Elle and Darien kiss a second time and she describes it as “the kind of kiss that creates [possibilities].”
  • Sage and her girlfriend are holding hands in the limousine before the Starfield Elle says, “I don’t think they’ve stopped holding hands since that day at the country club.”
  • Sage’s girlfriend says she loves Jessica Stone, to which Sage responds, “Maybe we can share her.”
  • When a reporter asks if Elle and Darien are a couple, he tells her, “I want you, ah’blena. I want to try this thing with you, whatever this is. I want you to be my copilot. And I want to ask you before the movie, in case you really hate it.”
  • Darien kisses Elle on the red carpet. “He bends close, despite the crowds, despite the cameras, despite Franco’s nose-diving into his suit pocket where he’s probably keeping a snack, and kisses me. Around us, the flashes flare like the thrusters of the good ship Prospero, sending my heart rocketing into the farthest reaches of this impossible universe.”


  • During a fight, Elle’s stepmother, Catherine, hits her. “With a crack, Catherine’s manicured hand strikes the side of my face.”
  • Darien films a choreographed fight scene. “There’s an explosion behind us—bright lights, the actual effects to be added later—as half the ship blows. Calvin lunges at me. I dodge left, grab his right hook, but he powers through it and sends me careening backward. I slam against the floor, pulling my weight back, scrambling to get my feet under me. He picks me up by the collar; I grab his hand and wrench it away. Quickly, I reach for my gun. Too slow. He rams his shoulder into my chest, and I stumble into the console. The entire structure shakes. He grabs hold of my neck and pretends to squeeze.”
  • Elle accidentally hits Darien in the face with a door, causing his nose to bleed. He describes the blood as leaking “into my mouth and down my chin and onto my favorite T-shirt.”
  • Darien gets into a physical altercation with his former friend, Brian. “If one good thing has happened over the last few months of preproduction and soulless salads and four A.M. workouts with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cousin, it’s that I learned to throw a punch. Thumb out, clench fist—swing. Brian stumbles from the force of it.” The fight scene lasts for three pages.
  • Sage tells a dog, “The next time you jump on me I’ll skin you and wear you as a hat!”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Prior to the beginning of the story, Darien was in an accident that prompted headlines to speculate about his health. When he describes the accident he says, “I wasn’t drunk, or high, or tripping on anything besides my own feet.”
  • Darien describes his former relationship with Brian, a friend who sold him out to the paparazzi, as “shoot-the-shit, drinking beer in the back of pickups friends.”


  • Elle uses the phrase “Nox’s crack” in place of a curse. The Nox are a race of aliens from the Starfield
  • Anon, the director of the Starfield movie, tells Darien that he has “brass balls” right before he films a stunt sequence.
  • Darien describes one of his lines as a “kiss ass goodbye.”
  • Elle describes sitting inside the food truck on a warm day as “hot as balls.”
  • Sage refers to Elle’s stepsisters as “the hell twins.”
  • Sage describes Princess Amara’s character arc as a “crappy subplot.”
  • When Elle first sees Darien in person, she thinks to herself, “Holy Federation Prince, Batman. It’s Darien effing Freeman.” This is one of three times this phrasing is used as an exclamation.
  • Miss May, one of the people running ExcelsiCon, says that Elle gave Darien “a snowball’s chance in hell.”
  • When Sage enters ExcelsiCon, she says, “Holy shit.”
  • Darien uses the word “fracking” in place of an f-bomb.
  • Darien tells Brian that he’s “not trying to be a dick.”
  • Elle calls the stranger harassing her a “left-testicled Nox.”
  • During his fight with Brian, Darien imagines a headline describing the incident: “DARIEN FIGHTS WITH SLEAZY PAPARAZZO AND MURDERS HIS ASS.”
  • During an argument with his father, Darien asks, “Why the hell insure my abs anyway?”
  • Sage tells Darien that she has been grounded by her mother, adding, “like hell I am.”
  • Elle says that her stepmother got rid of all of her Starfield memorabilia, including “one hella rare Pez dispenser.”
  • Elle tells Darien that she will make his life “a living hell” on her blog if he screws up Carmindor.


  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Elle describes herself as sending a prayer to “the Lord of Light or Q or whoever is listening.”

by Evalyn Harper


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