Alternate Hilarities 3One of my favorite quotes on the subject of humor is: “Dying is easy; comedy is hard.” These are allegedly the last words of Edmund Kean, a celebrated Shakespearean stage actor born in England in the 19th century.

It’s true because in my opinion, comedy, especially writing it, takes a slightly deranged view of the world. A viewpoint that sees everything and makes the ridiculous connections between it all. These connections are everywhere, but it takes an off kilter mind to see them and an intuitive mind to explain them to others in a way that is understandable and still retains its hilarities.

I believe I have such a mind but I’m kind of an arrogant jerk, albeit a good looking, brilliant one. I accept this as my path because if I had humility, I would be perfect, and I wouldn’t want to make others feel bad about themselves. ☺

In bringing humor to speculative fiction, there are two ways to go, mock the world around you or mock the genre itself.

Speculative fiction is often hailed as the great canvas on which we can explore the plight of humanity without lecturing. It’s a place where we can look at modern issues like racism, sexism, global warming, the ethics of science and others, and follow them to their eventual outcome, as cautionary tales. Humor often does the same, so the two can easily gang up on things.

Then there is the comical nature of the genre itself. You can mock over-used tropes like alien’s probing people were the sun doesn’t shine. You can attack the vampire’s weaknesses to oddly diverse things like garlic or running water. You can shine light on the sheer foolishness of delving into underground caverns stocked with an array of different monsters that don’t ever attack each other, for the chance at valuable prizes. Turn these concepts on their ears and you have a rich vein of comedic gold or an earache, one or the other.

Still, in humor, you need something else, momentum. Many stories that come into Alternate Hilarities have a common flaw; they are just lead ups to a single punch line. This is fine for a short short, 500 words or so, but it’s not good enough for anything longer. In a story more than 500 words, it needs to be funny in a few more places, the more the better.

Yes, every joke needs a setup but if the setup is too long, you run the risk of losing the reader’s attention. For my pieces in Alternate Hilarities, I want to have a joke in at least every other paragraph and each joke builds on the last. This carries the story along and keeps the reader laughing. When they’re laughing, they keep reading.

The first humorous speculative fiction story I wrote was called “Difficult Subject”. It’s about a conversation between an alien abductee and his abductor. The title does double duty since the abductor is forced to explain the ridiculous reasons why the abductions are necessary to his unfortunately lucid victim. This is compounded by the fact that this conscious abductee is very rude and annoying, making him a difficult subject to study.

The troublesome abductee questions and mocks each one of the alien’s points leading up to the horrible revelation that the abductee is in the control group and none of his data really matters. Of course, it ends with probing or there is probing in the end, depending on whether you’re a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person.

Even the best humor is subjective. Not everyone will get or like your jokes. If you only have one, it’s a coin flip as to whether or not the reader will laugh out loud or groan. The more you add, the greater the chance you can get at least a chuckle out of everyone.

So, if you have a well-written humorous science fiction piece, I’m reading for my next anthology, Weirder Science. Check out the submission guidelines here and mention this post for 10% off. ☺

Alternate Hilarities 3: Hysterical Realms is available on Amazon right now. It features a fantastic story by this blog’s own Lela Buis called “Mixed Heritage.” Check it out today.

Twitter: @Strange_Musings