Wednesday, 7 May 2014


A few years ago, back before I actually did write a novel, my father told me that I probably should, but that I should "put jokes in because people don't want to read serious stuff". The thing is, I'm not entirely sure that's true anymore. My experience of trying to sell humorous fantasy to the world is that quite often, the world doesn't want to laugh quite as much as it thinks it does. I remember the publisher's weekly review of my novel Court of Dreams, which essentially said "Ok but too many jokes." I've toned things down just a touch for The Glass, but I still worry sometimes that people see that tag of "funny fantasy" and run the other way.

Apparently, I'm not alone in that thought. Sir Terry Pratchett rightly continues to sell well, but other great comic fantasy authors like Tom Holt can't get shelf space for more than their most recent book in my local bookshop. There was a Wodehouse revival a few years ago, but Toby Frost seems to have had to fight to find a home for his excellent Space Captain Smith books. Is this the lack of a distinct comic fantasy community, or is it just that no one is interested?

It's usually at about this point that someone points out that they liked the funny bits in one of their favourite books. Which invariably turns out to be a straight ahead fantasy book with humorous bits. Jim Butcher's work is often mentioned, or Kim Harrison's, or I've even heard people reference Joe Abercrombie's books in this conversation. Yes, there's some gallows humour in the First Law trilogy, but no one in the world could describe it as comic fantasy.

So what does this say for the prospects of the urban fantasy series I've had in the back of my mind for years now, about a chap who just happens to supply all the bits for those fantasy dungeons that people keep building to attract barbarian tourists just the other side of reality? Possibly that I should leave it there.


Terri Rochenski said...

Leave it there? NOT SO!!

I recently read an awesome debut UF novel by Alexander Nader - Beasts of Burdin. His MC made me laugh out loud quite often. While it was more snark and sarcasm than jokes, I enjoyed the book more than most serious UF / Paranormal ones out there today.

Stick with your gut - stick with YOUR voice. Perhaps it's the next big thing. You'll never know if you quit now!!!

Terri @ Scribbler's Sojourn

Melissa said...

Thought-provoking post...

I enjoy humor in fiction when I come upon it, but I tend to go for the serious stuff--write it, too. My debut is NOT a light read.

I think it depends on the author. If your a serious type and you try to force the humor, it probably won't go well.

Thanks for visiting my blog.
IWSG #224 until Alex culls the list again.

Sarah Ahiers said...

Ugh, yeah that's a tough place to be. I mean, i know for me there are definitely times i want to read comic fantasy, but it's not as often as i want to read more serious fantasy.
But if i am reading a comic fantasy, i don't see how it can have too many jokes. That's the point, right?

Cherie Reich said...

It really does seem most fantasy is more serious in nature and a lot does have some funny parts than being more comical in nature, but I still think there is a place for humorous fantasy. I wouldn't give up on writing a series because it might not be as popular if it is what is speaking to you to write.

M.J. Fifield said...

I do enjoy humor in what I read, but there's nothing wrong with straight up tragic either.

When I'm reading something where the humor just feels forced, it doesn't go well. Lots of eye rolling is involved.

But like Terri said, stick with your gut.

Huntress said...

Well, "Sh** My Dad Says" did pretty good, LOL.

Stick with the humor. As long as you don't apply like spackle, I say it's a bonus.

Btw, I'm checking your books out now. Well, not now, but soon. It was the '...humorous fantasy...' that did it.

J Q Rose said...

I imagine you have a personality that finds humor in odd places e.g. dungeons for the barbaric tourists. Now that's funny. So if yo are lucky enough to see the funny side, use it in your stories. Going to have to find your books. Sounds like fun reading material. Listen to your heart, not to someone else. Best wishes.

Cindy Amrhein said...

I haven't read much science fiction or fantasy but it seems to me it works well in movies, where people do expect to laugh. I can see your idea as a movie for sure. I guess maybe ask yourself do you write the humor in to your stories because you think it's the way it works or because what your dad says is in the back of your mind? No judgement there in any way. Just wondering if you need to look at what you really want to do. Food for thought. :)
History Sleuth - IWSG .

Donna Hole said...

All genre's have their ebbs and flows. right now its dystopian YA romance. Someday, the fad will again be comedy in books.

emaginette said...

I like a good laugh, so I support more humor in your writing. We all gotta do what we gotta do.

Anna from Shout with Emaginette