When I first became an internet reviewer on my website, THE UNITED FEDERATION OF CHARLES, I had one simple rule: don't review stuff you hate. It was something of a self-imposed rule because there was a temptation to exaggerate the negatives for publicity. A negative review inherently got more interest than a positive review--it was just one of those rules. I didn't want to be unfair, though, or crush another author's dreams. Besides, if I hated something then wasn't contributing to its obscurity a better criticism? But this book? This book I feel the need to explain why I hate it.
I AM PROVIDENCE is basically the Big Bang Theory except even more vicious in its hatred of nerds. It's a weird mash-up of creating a book which could only be understood by nerds with its many references as well as convention experience but makes it utterly clear how much it hates nerds. Specifically, H.P. Lovecraft nerds. I hesitate to speculate on an author's real life views or history but it feels like Nick Mamatas had a really bad H.P. Lovecraft con experience and then wrote a novel all about how much he hated it. Given Nick wrote the Nickronomicon, Shadows over Main Street, and Future Lovecraft--I am assuming the divorce was a bitter one.
The premise is Colleen Danzig is a small-time Lovecraftian horror author (is there a big time version) who attends Tentacular--a horror con. She's roomed with Armenian co-narrator Panossian and the two get to (briefly) know one another. There's a murder there but none of the weird and depraved fans there seem to care so it's up to her to solve it. There's a bunch of occult stuff that follows and secrets unveiled.
Here's the first problem: Colleen and Panossian are two of the most singularly obnoxious human beings to ever live in fiction and I include Kvothe as well as Holden Caulfield in that. Her nightmarish convention experience is her turning her nose up at every single person having fun at it. Panossian is a sexist jerk who has own hatred of Lovecraft that he continues reading/writing regardless of the many problems therein. He's rude to his only friends in the world (disgusted by the fact one loves every Tweet he makes) and constantly brings up the fact Lovecraft was racist.
Which, fine, is a perfectly valid critique of the man WHO YOU ARE STILL WRITING FANFIC OF. Basically, the premise of the book confuses me because we have two people who hate Lovecraft fandom but are part of it anyway. The book tries to frame Providence (The Lovecraft con Tentacular is based on) as a nightmarish experience but it seems either like a typical fan experience and a lot of fun. Except for the murders. Well, actually, especially for the murders. Let's be honest. The whole thing is treated as heinous when there's Lovecraft tours, talking to dealers about their fanworks, and seeing people in costume.
It's also a one-joke book which is repeated in multiple forms across the book that was never particularly funny to begin with. One line summarizes it up, "It was high school all over again, except that all of the kids with a measure of social intelligence were t the homecoming dance and the kids left behind were the meatheads, glue-sniffers, nerds, and minor league bullies." My rebuttal is, "Who is the more fool, the fool or the fool who follows him?" Not Lovecraft but still apropos.
I wish I could say there's much more to the book than throwing shade at Lovecraft fans but that's pretty much the majority of the book. The occult mystery takes a backseat to the fact our protagonists are surrounded by repulsive nerds they're so much better than. Yet, for whatever reason, she and Panossian decided to come to the con in the first place for.