Serious Business

Had a great weekend at ConDFW.  Gave me a lot to think about too.  One of those things is humor.  More specifically, the act of “being funny”.

It’s well-established that I don’t consider myself a “comic” fantasy writer.  There’s many reasons for that.  Primarily, I don’t try to write “funny”.  Secondarily, I don’t enjoy much comic fantasy myself.  Especially comic fantasy novels, which I tend to find unsatisfying.  My opinion is largely irrelevent, of course.  Most of my fans will describe my books as “funny”.  If it’s not the first thing they mention, it’ll probably be the second or third.  Never further than fourth or fifth.  And I am funny, so it’s hard to take offense at it.

So let’s just just assume I am a “funny” writer.  Being funny is serious business.  Being funny takes work.

Most people think they’re funny.  And they usually are when they’re among the right group of people.  We tend to hang out with people like us, who share our attitudes and sense of humor.  And the standard of everyday humor is pretty simple.  A funny voice.  An inside joke.  A clever remark.  A strange observation.  These are the mark of everyday humor, and they work.

But there’s a galaxy of difference between being casually funny and professionally funny.  If I am a humorist, even if it is somewhat unintentionally, then I am professionally funny.  And professionally funny means being funny is part of my job.  Believe it or not (and sometimes even I forget this) I take this job seriously.  I’m an artist, sure.  I write stories I like.  But I also write stories I want people to enjoy.  And part of enjoying those stories is enjoying the humorous elements.

This weekend, when I was at ConDFW (or when I’m at any convention really), I was funny.  I was entertaining.  I was “on”, so to speak.  I wasn’t phony.  But I was certainly friendly, and I was there to make a good impression.  If I’m not there to get people to like me, then why am I?  Yes, I have a good time, but I could have a good time staying at home playing World of Warcraft.  I’m there to work.  And part of that job is being personable, being funny.

One of the things that annoys me about being classified as a “humor” writer is this notion that humor is easy.  That it’s just a matter of personality.  That I don’t have to work to be funny.  And I don’t.  Not to be everyday funny.  But to be professionally funny…that’s work.  To be engaging all day while meeting fans and colleagues at conventions, that’s a job.  I know it’s a job because I come away from these things exhausted.  Being professionally funny is tiring.

I don’t know if comedy is really harder than drama.  I don’t care to try to quantify it that way.  But I do know that being funny is a lot of work.

I don’t think I’ll ever consider myself a comedic writer.  I never write a story with intent to be funny.  I write stories intended to be fun, engaging, and strange.  I doubt I’ll ever write a “serious” novel by any traditional definition.  My tendency to throw in slime monsters will probably put the kibosh on that.  By my own count, I have slime and slime-like monsters in six of my nine novels, including my current project.  And I have tentacles on four covers.  The odd thing is how I didn’t even notice this until fairly recently.

But being funny is more than just something I do.  It’s a big part of my job, and if I do it well (or even adequately) then I do it well because I take it serously.

Yep.  I’m a professional.  Considering I’m working on my ninth novel, I guess it shouldn’t be strange, but there are times I’m still surprised by it.  And I guess it shouldn’t be odd to be considered a funny guy when I’ve been funny pretty much all my life.

But being a professional reluctantly funny novelologist…that’s weird.  But it’s my job.

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,


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One Comment

  1. ampsmagallanes
    Posted February 21, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Hi Lee

    love this blog, not many get to state their profession as a reluctant funny novelist.

    i did a loose review on your books here :

    A. Lee Martinez (A Blatantly Biased Review)

    please let me know if there are things i shouldnt have posted

    i would love to do an email interview to add to it if you approve please let me know, you can leave a comment(or email add) under my bio page(i promise not to post it)

    -Amps(new fan, not very sane)

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