The role of humor in storytelling is vastly underrated. Not just in the “Ha Ha, that’s silly” sense. Although that type does tend to be easily dismissed as frivolous and unimportant. But I’m also talking about humor that has something to say, which is so often overlooked and thrown aside that many just don’t seem to get the point of it.
The only reason I dislike being labeled a “funny” writer is because it seems to come with that sort of baggage. But really, I try to have my humor come from real places and genuine characters. I don’t write to be silly. Even if a story is about monster gods and vampires in overalls, I’m not just out to be goofy for goofy’s sake. And if my hero happens to be a robot who talks like a P.I. or a raccoon god in a Hawaiian shirt, it doesn’t necessarily mean that weirdness is my goal.
Most of my stories are set in strange universes and feature odd characters. I tend to have a healthy dose of humor even as those universes explode or those characters struggle with their day-to-day lives. Often, it’s the juxtaposition of the ordinary and the fantastic that form the humor in my stories, but just as often, I think it’s the universal elements of existence that form the funny bits.
In Gil’s All Fright Diner, Duke and Earl’s exchange witty banter. But it’s built on an understanding of just how good of friends they are. Most scenes between Earl and Cathy have humor on the foundation of Earl’s awkwardness, his gradual realization of what Cathy represents to him, and how his own insecurities and clumsiness make things more difficult than they have to be. And Tammy and Chad have a real relationship, even if it isn’t a healthy one.
In In the Company of Ogres, Never Dead Ned’s weary attitude and loss of motivation is something we all experience now and then. He’s an immortal who doesn’t see the point in any of it. And if you can’t relate to that, well, count yourself lucky.
A Nameless Witch is about family and friends, love and loss.
The Automatic Detective is about the struggle against our inner nature and learning to find our place in the world.
Too Many Curses is about the hidden strength in those we so often consider weak and powerless. And about how one person can bring people together without even realizing it.
Monster is about our inability to learn from our mistakes and to keep failing because of that. It’s about notions of destiny and control with Monster and Judy representing two ends of a very different spectrum.
Divine Misfortune is about our desire to have the universe notice us without ever really pausing to ask what that means. And it’s also about responsibility and growing up, even when you don’t technically have to.
Chasing the Moon is about living in an incomprehensible universe where nothing is certain and everything could be important or pointless. And you’re unlikely to ever know which is which.
Underneath all the humor and weirdness, I have to believe all these stories have something important to say. Because these stories matter to me. That’s why I wrote them. I care about the characters, their struggles, their tragedies and triumphs. Even in the most absurd situation, I have to think they’re worth investing in. Otherwise, what’s the point? If it’s just about a cheap laugh, I’d feel like I’m wasting my time with them.
I don’t expect everyone to see anything deeper in what I write, but I’ll admit it bothers me when my books get dismissed as empty calories, as the literary equivalent of a Three Stooges short or a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Heck, I love Tom & Jerry, but I’d like to think I have more emotional resonance than that. Though I can’t force anyone to see that. I can only write the stories and hope someone does. And if they should find them just silly, I can’t complain about that either. Because if someone likes the books, it shouldn’t matter. My royalty checks cash the same either way.
But if you should happen to see me on the street or at a convention or wherever, I wouldn’t complain if you said something like “Hey, I really liked Nessy the kobold. She’s a great character” alongside your “Your books are so funny” compliment. Not that I’ll hold it against you if you don’t. But it’d be nice to hear once in a while just the same.
Oh, and Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain? That’s about living with the our mistakes and ourselves. Also, giant awesome robot fights.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,