The Funniest Speculative Fiction Books That Never Disappoint

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The Funniest Speculative Fiction Books That Never Disappoint

Postby Estraa on Sunday, 18 September 2011, 12:55 pm

There are some indications in the main-site author analyses, but to highlight an omission, Harrison's masterful comic touches haven't, to my knowledge, been alluded to. Of course, some of his books have them, some of them don't from what I can remember, and part of it may be subjective (although recently on his blog he affirmed being consciously someone who puts a lot of humour in his stuff, at least his recent stuff). I recommend In Viriconium to the lovers of the comic masterpiece. It is comic, and it is the other one. The concept of a lonely paranoid megalomaniac dwarf ruler who calls himself The Grand Cairo is already ingeniously comical. To my mind, Lafferty never came up with a name as effective. Then there's the book.

Signs of Life is also quite funny, at least in the beginning, but the others I must reacquaint myself with to be able to say. I have failed to find anything much to recommend in the first nine chapters of Light, but that may be some fault in me. (When I started reading in English, my language skills were such that I didn't find even Cabell funny. And now I should reread at least some of his stuff to remember whether it is all that funny or not. What matter new books when one can't remember those he has read? My otherwise trusty but here frail memory tells of my being much pleased by Figures of Earth relatively recently, but the exact nature of that pleasure escapes me. So much to reread...)

I suppose many of you find most of what you read funny in parts, and that may be why there is no thread like this yet, but that is also why I added the part "That Never Disappoint", for there are authors who include "something for everyone", and they are bound to include things that amuse others and annoy the sensitive, and there are also those who just aren't worth reading. Harrison is not like that, even if his humour sometimes escapes the reader. A lot, perhaps most, of Lafferty is also fully successful, I would say, although in my estimation less is comical in his novels than the main site seems to suggest. Pratchett is much more often comical, within a single book, from what I can tell (I haven't got through a single book yet, discounting the few I read a long time ago), but he is of the "something for everyone" type, which I personally dislike.

I sometimes feel like quite the special needs reader.
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Re: The Funniest Speculative Fiction Books That Never Disappoint

Postby DavidTate on Tuesday, 20 September 2011, 4:36 pm

Estraa wrote:I sometimes feel like quite the special needs reader.

Ha! Well put. I feel your pain.

I can't think (offhand) of many SF writers who are consistently successfully humorous -- especially among those whose primary goal is to be funny. Lafferty's humor succeeds so well, in part, because being funny isn't his main purpose. The same is true for Barry Hughart. Avram Davidson might get my top vote, though. The two Peregrin volumes (of, alas, an incomplete novel) are good examples, as are many of his short stories. "Cornet Eszterhazy" makes me laugh out loud, frequently, every time I read it.

I have to say, I think Pratchett's humor is remarkably good, for someone who is deliberately trying to write funny books -- but there are still quite a few clunkers to be found. Similarly for Douglas Adams; both Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and the various Hitchhiker works are full of very funny stuff -- but also of failed attempts to be funny.

Depending on your tastes in humor, some of Randall Garrett's works might please. His Lord D'Arcy alternate-universe-fantasy-mystery stories are chock full of puns and references that are either horrible or wonderful, depending on your tastes. There are some in-jokes for bridge players that make me smile as I write this.

Robert Sheckley was capable of fairly sophisticated humor, and rather unsophisticated humor as well. His novel Mindswap has one of the funniest jokes about academic approaches to practical problems that I've ever seen. (For anyone who has read it, I'm thinking of Senor Valdez and "The Theory of Searches").

Seconding Eric, I'd recommend G. K. Chesterton as a source of astonishing humor, coming at you from unexpected angles. The Man Who Was Thursday has its share. I have only just begun The Napoleon of Notting Hill; it looks like it will be a typical Chesteron in this regard. And, of course, his non-SF works delight as well. I particularly recommend Manalive, which seems to be the least-known (and my personal favorite) of his novels.
David Tate
Professor of Story Problems, emeritus
Rationalist with sombrero
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Re: The Funniest Speculative Fiction Books That Never Disappoint

Postby Estraa on Tuesday, 20 September 2011, 7:16 pm

I agree that Pratchett can be quite funny. Do you have a favorite?

I suppose I could mention Vance, although he is what I would call "too obvious", with a long and endlessly useful article at the main site (although I'm one of those who would put the Cugel books somewhere higher on the list).
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