Saturday, 14 December 2013

Humor In SF?

I have been asked what I think about humor in Poul Anderson in particular and in sf in general. I have read very little humorous sf. One value of humor is that it enables us to look at familiar or serious issues from a completely different perspective as the Greeks found when they watched a comedy after a trilogy of tragedies. Shakespeare's plays are Histories, Comedies and Tragedies, with Sir John Falstaff appearing in a History and a Comedy.

HG Wells wrote two frivolous short stories about flying and mountaineering with a common narrator, both unlike his usual style. A, if not the, major humorous sf writer is Robert Sheckley, highly recommended by other authors, but I have read almost none of his works. His Dimension Of Miracles is said to be similar to Douglas Adams' later The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, which is good sf humor but is also a classic example of a series continued for too long, even, in the books, adding extra volumes to a supposed "trilogy."

HHGTTG's proliferation through every available medium is also a bit overdone. I have seen the TV series and the feature film and read some of the books but have not heard the radio series or (I think?) the record or read the comic. When the feature film followed the plot of the TV series, I thought, "What is the point of this? It is the same as on TV, " whereas when it differed, I thought, "What is the point of this? It is arbitrarily changing the plot." Did we need two screen versions?

I value Poul Anderson's and Gordon R Dickson's Hoka series and Anderson's The Makeshift Rocket primarily as imaginative sf rather than for their humor. Anderson's best humor, I think, is in some chapters of A Midsummer Tempest but that is fantasy.