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Some of us like our Spec Fic down and dirty. Some of us like it brimming with blood and guts. Still others like it with a good twist of humor. I like all of the above. I’ve noticed a bit of a trend lately, though, towards humor. That’s not to say there has been a definite trend, but it does seem that way to me.

When life holds a lot of uncertainty, when the economic climate is particularly difficult, or people are otherwise feeling more stress and strain in their day to day lives, the books they read and the movies and shows they watch tend to reflect this in a number of ways. We might be more apt to turn to entertainments where the protagonist is an underdog struggling to right things set wrong by a some big baddie, like a government or a massive corporation. We identify with these characters more strongly when we feel we’re in a similar situation. On the other hand, we might turn to the ridiculous, to the things that make us laugh and lift our spirits. Taking time out to laugh reminds us things aren’t all bad, and there’s always hope an improvement in our situation is on the horizon.

Here, then, for those who enjoy humor in their Speculative Fiction, are a few of the books and authors I’ve read in the last year worth looking into:

Redshirts by John ScalziJohn Scalzi

It kind of goes without saying that Scalzi is good with humor. He’s a realist, and he’s intelligent. When he sets out to make his audience laugh, he takes realism and common sense, gets them soaking wet, twists them into unrecognizable shapes, and throws them at the wall. What slides down and lands on the page is a delightful romp readers can’t help but enjoy.

Recommended reading: Redshirts.

Lee Battersby

I’ve only read Battersby’s first novel, The Corpse-Rat King, but the follow-up novel, The Marching Dead, has just been released, and it is definitely on my TBR list. You may have read about my aversion to zombies in my Apex post from last October. The humor and ridiculous situations Battersby brings to his work made it possible for even me to enjoy a zombie story. That’s a rare talent that has so far only been shared by Cherie Priest (although I will hopefully add to this list over time).

Recommended reading: The Corpse-Rat King.

Rhys Hughes

Rhys Hughes is an absurdist. His books are filled to the brim with the whimsical and ridiculous. The Truth Spinner: The Complete Adventures of Castor Jenkins, for example, is a collection of related short stories which we are told may or may not be true. One thing is for certain, though: no one can prove them false. From sporting tournaments with the gods to adventures on pirate ships, Castor has a story for every situation, most of which earn him quite a lot of beer at the expense of his friends.

Recommended reading: The Truth Spinner: The Complete Adventures of Castor Jenkins and The Coanda Effect

The Lives of Tao by Wesley ChuWesley Chu

Wesley Chu’s first novel has yet to hit bookstores. Due for a late April/early May release, I’ve only just started reading the ARC myself, but as of page 30, I can already tell you, you’ll want to keep your eyes on Chu. An out-of-shape IT tech possessed by an alien life form and forced into spy training?! Sign me up!

Recommended reading: The Lives of Tao






Jessica NelsonJessica Nelson has been writing since girlhood. She started out writing short stories for herself, usually centering around something like a unicorn and Pegasus prancing along the top of a rainbow, causing glitter to fall from the sky. As she grew, so did her love of words. She filled blank volumes faster than she could get her hands on them, teaching her the true value of napkins, menus, skin, and even her blue jeans.


Jessica has since found her niche in the world of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. She keeps a blog of bookish things and miscellaneous bric-a-brac she thinks readers might find interesting at and writes book reviews for The Future Fire. She lives near Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband, two daughters, and a slew of critters, spending her days reading, crafting, tapping at the keyboard, and picking up fur balls. Follow her on Twitter @AllwaysUnmended.
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  1. Oh, dear. You’ve left off the master of SF humor. Mike Resnick.

    • I’m sure I’ve left off a number of people. All the books I’ve recommended here are books I’ve read within the past year (roughly).

      I don’t believe I’ve ever read Mike Resnick, though (so many books, so little time), so thanks for the recommendation!

  2. I seriously enjoyed The Corpse-Rat King also. I have The Lives of Tao and I’m seriously looking forward to reading it. I think Angry Robots is probably my favorite publisher. There isn’t a book I’ve read released by them that I haven’t enjoyed. They know good fantasy when they find it. I need to try out some Scalzi soon!

  3. There is a lot of speculative fiction that is mixed with humour; unfortunately, because it is not generally supported by major publishing houses, it tends to fly below the radar of most readers.

    You might want to check out Mitis Green (the pen name for Gary Baker)’s The Ardly Effect, for example. It manages to capture the wry tone of Douglas Adams, although it isn’t quite as smart as Adams.

    I really enjoyed <i.Land That I Love by Bill Freedman (admittedly a friend of mine). The novel is an elaborate satire of the Iraq War set in space. It will be a little dated now, but it still packs a good wallop.

    Sumer Lovin’ by Nicole Chardenet (also a friend of mine) is a raunchy fantasy comedy about a portal between dimensions opening up in downtown Toronto (my hometown, her adopted hometown).

    I will also mention two projects of my own. The Alternate Reality News Service sends reporters into other dimensions and has them report back on what they find there. It has been described by a couple of readers as “a science fiction version of The Onion.” There are currently three books in the series (Alternate Reality Ain’t What It Used To Be; What Were Once Miracles Are Now Children’s Toys, and; Luna for the Lunies!); by the end of the year, there will be two more, including The Alternate Reality News Service’s Guide to Love, Sex and Robots (made up entirely of advice columns).

    For readers who can’t get their heads around fake science fiction news, I also have an honest to goodness novel (with characters and a plot and everything) called Welcome to the Multiverse*. It recounts the adventures of two investigators for the Transdimensional Authority – the organization that monitors and polices traffic between realities.

    There are many more treasures to be found, of course. The important thing is that if you really want to experience some unique combinations of speculative fiction and humour, you have to look for it. If you do, you’ll likely find the effort amply rewarding.

    *Sorry for the Inconvenience

  4. “The Lives of Tao” description resembles Charles Stross’ Laundry Files…

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