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.