Best SF&F humorists

Emphyricist

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I'm surprised that there doesn't seem to be a thread for this. There's this thread, but it's A. about books rather than writers, while some of the best SF humorists were masters of the short story, B. SF only, and C. specifically asking about absurdist humor in the vein of Douglas Adams.

While I like Adams well enough, I mostly treat him like I treat Doctor Who: a source of shibboleths I can use to find common ground with like-minded people, and which I probably wouldn't partake of if I didn't find it useful in that respect. Robert Sheckley, who preceded Adams, is often compared to him, and many of his longer work has the same sort of absurdist humor as Adams (most notably Dimension of Miracles, to which the early versions of the Hitchhiker's Guide reportedly bear a striking resemblance), but even then I don't find it quite as absurdist as Adams; most of Sheckley's humor tends towards irony and reductio ad absurdum.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, many of my favorite SF writers write lighthearted, humorous fiction. Sheckley and William Tenn number among my all-time favorite SF writers. So does Arthur C. Clarke, and with the exception of "The Star," my favorite Clarke writing are the White Hart stories. Other writers who often wrote lighthearted, humorous stories of the sort which make me laugh include Anthony Boucher, Fredric Brown, and Eric Frank Russell. Indeed, Russell's Hugo-winning "Almagoosa" is the only SF story which has actually made me laugh.

Weirdly, despite being a huge fan of James Schmitz, I have yet to read his most famous work, the Witches of Karres, which is reportedly also quite humorous. My favorite SF writer, Jack Vance also wrote a number of humorous SF stories (particularly the Magnus Ridolph stories), and though with the exception of "Milton Hack From Zodiac" very few of them rank among my favorites, there's very little Vance I don't like. Irony pervades Vance's work but there's relatively few stories I'd call humorous. (Interestingly, my all-time least-favorite Vance story, "The Practical Man's Guide," the only Vance story I recall disliking, seems to be an attempt at humor which falls flat for me.)

When it comes to fantasy, possibly because I don't read as much fantasy, one of my favorite writers was Patricia Wrede, who wrote the hilarious young-adult Enchanted Forest series. And of course there's Terry Pratchett. Despite the absurd premise of Discworld, Pratchett's world is inherently fairly consistent, and even the fantastic becomes utterly mundane. And Jack Vance's Dying Earth books are heavy with irony, which he raises to an art with Cugel and Liane. But I don't generally read fantasy, so those are the only names I can think of.

What are some other SF&F humorists you guys like?
 

Emphyricist

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I've never heard of John Sladek but I'll have to check him out. Either he's never been in any anthology I've read, or I haven't remembered his contributions.

Which Asimov stories are you thinking of that are humorous? The only humorous Asimov story I can think of is "Spell My Name With An S", which was OK but not exceptional. However the commentary in the anthologies he edits has a humorous tone.
 

TheDustyZebra

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Well, Spider Robinson is always at the top of my list -- the Callahan books are punster gold.

Keith Laumer's Retief books.

Connie Willis -- Bellwether is a fast, light read that is basically Dilbert meets research science. To Say Nothing of the Dog is a different thing altogether, but no less humorous.

Robert Asprin -- the Myth series, and the Phule series.

Poul Anderson -- the Hoka books.

Piers Anthony's Xanth series is a favorite of some -- I never could quite get into them, but I haven't actually tried it since I got inoculated to punning.

And, of course, no humor list would be complete without Bujold's Vorkosigan books.

And Heinlein may not be considered by many to be that humorous, but The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Time Enough for Love should be among the classics in humor.
 

Emphyricist

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Ooh, I read a Keith Laumer story and meant to read more. I love Poul Anderson, but he's written so much I've really had no idea where to start and mostly read his stuff in anthologies. So I'll check out Hoka. Connie Willis and Lois MacMaster Bujold have been on my list for awhile, and Spider Robinson since I joined the forums, so it's good to have a place to start. Bellwether in particular sounds intriguing.

I read a couple Xanth books and I just didn't find them that funny. As I recall the humor tended more towards the absurdist.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is humorous? I don't recall that at all. Haven't read Time Enough for Love though.

I've never heard of Robert Asprin, but according to Wikipedia he died while reading Terry Pratchett.
 

TheDustyZebra

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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is humorous? I don't recall that at all.

Well, I did indicate that may not be a widespread opinion, but I've always found it quite humorous. The banter between Manny and Mike, and teaching humor to a computer. The bit I use as a touchstone with my daughter, who has a hard time with jokes -- "That's a funny-once, not a funny-always." Heinlein had a very intellectual and dry sense of humor that appeals to me. Time Enough for Love is in that vein -- very elitist intellectual superiority (and why not?), as Lazarus Long is the man who's lived thousands of years and seen and done everything.

Asprin's Myth books are more Xanth-like; Phule's Company and the sequels are a band of misfits and their misadventures, quite the rollicking time. I didn't know he'd died, though. Seems as good a way to go as any, and better than most.

ETA: I see there are at least two, possibly three, Phule books that I haven't read! Nice.

Also ETA: You have read Adams' Dirk Gently books, haven't you? Totally different ballgame than HHG.
 

2DaveWixon

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Poul Anderson -- the Hoka books.

I'll note that the Hoka stories were collaborations between Poul and Gordy Dickson -- and that may tell you to check out Dickson for humorous stories -- start off with Spacial Delivery, for one...and it's sequel, Spacepaw. Then there's "Saint Dragon and the George," which was the genesis of the Dragon Knight series (v. 1: The Dragon and the George; v. 2: The Dragon Knight...and there are more, with a good deal of humor in them)
"The Girl Who Played Wolf."
Delusion World.
"Strictly Confidential."
"Miss Prinks."
"A Case History"
"Show Me the Way to Go Home."
Gremlins, Go Home (collab. with Ben Bova)
"Cloak and Stagger."
"Computers Don't Argue."
"Idiot Solvant."
The Magnificent Wilf (which is an novelization of several short stories, including "The Faithful Wilf," "Rex and Mr. Rejilla," "A Wobble in Wockkii Futures," "Who Dares a Bulbur Eat?")
"Soupstone." (one of several short stories featuring World Scout Hank Shallo...)
 

2DaveWixon

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Add: by Clifford D. Simak:
"I Am Crying All Inside."
"Crying Jag."
"Operation Stinky."
"The Big Front Yard."
"Buckets of Diamonds."
"Dusty Zebra."
"Galactic Chest."
"Leg. Forst."
"Lulu."
"How-2."
"Mr. Meek -- Musketeer."
"Mr. Meek Plays Polo."
"No Life of their Own."
"Ogre."
and the novel Out of Their Minds.
 

Emphyricist

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I've read a lot of Clifford Simak and most of those, but Out of Their Minds isn't even a novel I knew existed (my father seemed to have everything he'd written, but it's not in his collection).

I like Gordon Dickson, though I haven't read enough of him to say whether I generally find him humorous. I read "Half Pint Posted" and one of the sequels ("Law-Twister Shorty"), and while both were certainly light I didn't find them all that humorous. Clever, yes. Humorous, not as much. I ordered the recent Baen collection of his works a few days ago, and when I get it I'll see if any of them are in it.
 

TheDustyZebra

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Add: by Clifford D. Simak:
"I Am Crying All Inside."
"Crying Jag."
"Operation Stinky."
"The Big Front Yard."
"Buckets of Diamonds."
"Dusty Zebra."
"Galactic Chest."
"Leg. Forst."
"Lulu."
"How-2."
"Mr. Meek -- Musketeer."
"Mr. Meek Plays Polo."
"No Life of their Own."
"Ogre."
and the novel Out of Their Minds.

I would be remiss if I didn't like that post. :D
 

Hugh

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oops.

I was going to suggest Harrison's "Bill the Galactic Hero" (the original, not the sequels by other writers), and Zelazny's "A Night in the Lonesome October".

Then I realised this thread was re short stories, but anyway...
 
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BAYLOR

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Jurgen by James Branch Cabell
Silverlock by John Myers Myers
The Color of Magic By Terry Pratchett
Bill The Galactic Hero by Harry Harrison
The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison
Lest Darkness Falls by L Sprague De Camp
The Mines of Behemoth by Michael Shea
The Dragon and the George by Gordon Dickson
 
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Kylara

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Toby Frost ;) always hilarious.
Jasper fforde has a good sense of humour in his work too.
Neil Gaiman has his moments, with some works more humorous than others.
Scalzi is well known for his humour, even if it is rather person specific.
 

Danny McG

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@Emphyricist

Same reaction as your good self
Almagoosa made me laugh.

Am hard pressed to think of many genre short stories that do/ did the same.

I'm more into longer ones by Pratchett and Rankin when I want some light amusement
 

Emphyricist

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@Hugh: I'm not asking about short stories, so much as authors who often write humorous fiction and are good about it. I just talked about short stories because most of my favorite SF humorists do better in that form. When it comes to fantasy, Wrede and Pratchett are generally novelists, while Jack Vance's most humorous fantasy was also his most famous novels.

@BAYLOR: I like Terry Pratchett, but you picked the worst book in the entire Discworld series. I read The Color of Magic as a teenager and was put off Pratchett for over a decade, until someone told me it's basically a bunch of mini-series and suggested I start with Mort or Guards! Guards!
 

BAYLOR

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@Hugh: I'm not asking about short stories, so much as authors who often write humorous fiction and are good about it. I just talked about short stories because most of my favorite SF humorists do better in that form. When it comes to fantasy, Wrede and Pratchett are generally novelists, while Jack Vance's most humorous fantasy was also his most famous novels.

@BAYLOR: I like Terry Pratchett, but you picked the worst book in the entire Discworld series. I read The Color of Magic as a teenager and was put off Pratchett for over a decade, until someone told me it's basically a bunch of mini-series and suggested I start with Mort or Guards! Guards!

The Color of Magic hooked me on Pratchett. :)
 

psikeyhackr

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A Civil Campaign and Captain's Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois Bujold would qualify as predominantly humorous novels but somewhat layered humor that is helped by knowing the non-humorous stories. Others have hilarious incidents, Miles and Ekaterin falling into a pond in Komarr.
 

Randy M.

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Men, Martians and Machines by Eric Frank Russell, a collection of four linked short stories/novellas. And, of course, "Allamagoosa" among others.

Some of Fred Brown's short stories are humorous, though of course I can't think of a title just at the moment; and C. M. Kornbluth was a sometimes savage satirist who managed occasionally to be funny as well -- at least, I find "The Marching Morons" amusing.

Also, I'd second Zelazny's A Night in the Lonesome October and a good read for around Halloween.

Some of Neil Gaiman's work is humorous, too, like, "Shoggoth's Old Peculiar."


Randy M.
 

clovis-man

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Bringing Eric Frank Russell to center stage. He wrote a number of satirically humorous pieces. At the head of the list is The Great Explosion from 1962. Brian Aldiss has described him as John W. Campbell's "licensed jester" in reference to his many submissions to the old Astounding Science Fiction magazine.

Oops. Just noticed Randy's mention of "Allamagoosa". Good catch. To which I might add "...And Then There Were None". There were many other good ones as well.
 
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