I’ve written about humour in fantasy before here, and how it can be a double edged sword when it comes to blurb and Choosing the Best Browse Categories on Amazon. But when you write a funny anything, do you go for the laughs and tag on a genre, or do you try and treat that genre with respect, and dial in the humour?
You see, there’s funny, and then there’s taking the Michael big time. Call a film Killer Klowns from Outer Space and it better be good or it might fall flat on its face (into a custard pie or with one foot in a bucket of water?) A one-joke premise can easily become a bit of a yawn. Adding in grotesque makeup and a wildly imaginative script must have seemed like a great idea, but the laughs mostly come from the ridiculousness of the delivery as opposed to the wit of the writing. Nevertheless, you’ve suddenly got a cult B movie on your hands.
But with Klowns, it’s clear that funny was what drove the idea. And it is a genius title, you have to admit.
GK Chesterton once said that fantasy can “take that which is familiar and everyday and therefore no more seen, and pick it up and turn it around and show it to the reader from a new point of view, so that once again they see it for the first time”.
Without knowing it until I found the quote, that is exactly what motivates me to write The Hipposync Archives. The trouble is, I have a great deal of difficulty being serious about anything. What happens to my protagonists is pretty serious, I take no prisoners there. Serious and sometimes harrowing. But its a reflection of the way I see the world that even with the darker side of things and even in the most dire of circumstances, humour can come to the rescue (I’ve had a medical training for heaven’s sake. If those in the medical profession didn’t laugh at themselves and their working life it would be hell and hand basket time every day).
It’s human nature.
Well my nature anyway.
So, for me, writing contemporary fantasy is all about making sure that the nuts and bolts of the narrative are tight so that it’s thrilling and gripping. That’s a given. However, my slightly jaundiced view ensures that it comes out as a swipe at contemporary society. Satire naturally follows. No Killer Klowns though, that I can guarantee.
So, my favourite quotes from reviewers so far for #1-The 4000Lb Gorilla?
1/ This was such a great fantasy read. The way the plot was written, I never knew what was coming next.
2/ The right balance of snark–enough to be funny, not so much as to be shallow and obnoxious.
3/ random moments of loud and very audible laughing should be expected
Over this festive season, I’ll drink to that.