Beyond Bestsellers: Humorous SFF: So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

by Emily Z.

It’s the end of the month and time to check in and pack up Beyond Bestsellers: Humorous Science Fiction and Fantasy, or as I like to say to myself (very loudly) “HSFF!”

After all I read and learned leading up to this month I can now confidently state that I am a stolid fan of absurd and madcap vein of science fiction and fantasy, especially if it playfully parodies its own genre, examples being the works of Douglas Adams and Sir Terry Pratchett.

What about you? Any insights on your preferred type of humor?

Find anything new (or at least new to you) that you liked? Loved? Loathed?

 At present, I am digging into The Murdstone Trilogy by Mal Peet. The trilogy, which is actually only one book, is tale of dark humor about a once widely lauded author now struggling to stay relevant (and solvent) in the rapidly changing publishing game by penning the next classic fantasy novel. Not having any great fondness for the genre himself, he stops off in a pub to …research the issue. On his stumble home he has a strange encounter and, not much later, finds himself typing up the fantasy epic of his editor’s dreams. Kind of. Someone is feeding him the words for his masterpiece, pulling the strings of his yarn–tighter and tighter—and when Mr. Murdstone is a bestseller once more, they will want something in return.

Mal Peet’s humor is charmingly dry and his words curiously and effortlessly lovely, despite his characters often miserable predicaments. I know I’ll be sniffing out more titles from him, no matter what they’re about.

After that, I’m looking forward to Kill the Farm Boy with great interest. It is meant to mock the Chosen One trope so popular in the realms of high fantasy and appears to be part of a planned trilogy. Penned by both Kevin Hearne (of the Iron Druid Chronicles and A Plague of Giants) and Delilah S. Dawson, it has quite the pedigree. It is out in July but already in our catalog so you can put your name on the list for a copy. In the meantime, you can play around with the character name-generator (you may now call me Pippi Skivviis).



Now it’s time for the lists you folks made this month!

jocelyn_victoria has crafted a list of funny paranormal romance books, which I greatly appreciate. I was hoping someone with the necessary expertise would help highlight this increasingly popular genre.


Chromatick has put together a veritable who’s who of funny fantasy
I am loving each and every one of these! The book Sourcery is actually where Sir Pratchett himself thinks people should start the Rincewind/wizard storyline within the Discworld universe of books.


lindseyanderson created a fabulous middle-grade list of funny genre fiction!  I can personally attest that the Phoebe and Her Unicorn series is both excellent and sparkly.


I’m also going to roll out each of the lists from the intensely silly quiz featured in our opening post this month, just in case you wanted to see all the other possible results.

Fantasy Humor

Science Fiction Funnies

Gentler Genre Fiction Humor

Horrific Humor

Paranormal and Urban Fantasy Fun

So what about next month?

The Beyond Bestsellers crew is taking a break for June, but we will be back after that with a little twist.

July is going to be a special celebration of film adaptations of books.

After that we will dive back into books with LGBTQ+ stories.

September will be an ode to short fiction.

Beyond that, well, you’ll just have to wait and see…

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9 responses to “Beyond Bestsellers: Humorous SFF: So Long and Thanks for All the Fish”

  1. Alez says:

    I must admit, if I read anything the most it is probably humorous Paranormal Romance. I LOVE the list given here, and have read many of the books on it.

    I have had an ARC of Farm Boy for months, and I keep meaning to pick it up and read it. Everything about it sounds fantastic.

    • Emily Z says:

      I defer to the expertise of others when it comes to romantic fiction, but the humorous and paranormal variety is definetly the kind of romance I would read. I’ve tried some of the Parasol Protectorate series, but beyond that the closest I think I’ve gotten is Hold Me Closer Necromancer and maybe the Rivers of London series. Any favorites from that list or elsewhere that you’d recommend to a humor-romance newbie?

      And I do the same things with ARCs and other newly purchased books; as soon as it is in my hands, this voice in my head goes “Well, it’s safe now! You own it and have all the time in the world to finish it” so it sits on the bedside table for eons. It was even worse when I worked in a bookstore.

  2. Carla Fisher says:

    Besides Terry Pratchett, one of my favorites is Jasper Fforde and the Tuesday Next books. His puns are wonderful and his plots are interesting. He also does some nursery-rhyme-based mysteries that are pretty funny. Are there any women authors in the genre? Seems like it’s mostly men.

    • Emily Z says:

      I am with totally you on Pratchett and Fforde, though I think Shades of Grey is my favorite of his. I still wouldn’t say no to a pet dodo of my very own.

      I would like to imagine that there is a gradually increasing number of women authors in this admittedly small sub-genre. At present there’s the likes of Patricia C. Wrede, Diana Wynne Jones, Gail Carriger, and The Lady Janies (Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows who write humor together, though not as much when they’re publishing solo). I’ve also heard good things about Connie Willis, Esther Friesner, and Catherynne M Valente. There is significantly more female representation in the romantic humorous fantasy market, for whatever reason.

      I’ve also been surprised by some authors who I didn’t know had a knack for comedic writing. Martha Wells, best known for her fantasy works, came out with her first science fiction novella about a year ago called All Systems Red and while it wasn’t necessarily marketed as a comedic book and it’s definitely not exclusively a funny book, there’s humor in there. I mean, the main character is a security robot that calls itself “Murderbot”. That was the only real clue for me that there were laughs to be had inside.

      Ultimately, I think we need to stay vigilant, hopeful, and curious about new books from female authors. Women are increasingly making their presence known in science fiction and fantasy genres; hopefully they will branch into the realms of the humorous more frequently as well.

  3. Erin L. says:

    I’m just finishing “Mort” as suggested here. I love it and am trying to finish before the e-book expires tomorrow. I guess I wll be staying up tonight. It’s a light book but still has you rooting for the main characters.

    • Emily Z says:

      Yay! Yes, I find all of them charming, Death in particular, who is pretty delightful for an ageless anthropomorphic personification. I also really enjoyed the idea of Death’s library full of biographies writing themselves in real time.

  4. Marie says:

    I got the best name ever! You may call me Rianadella Somnambulist. I am a bilious elvish jeweler from the Morningwood, and my cousin always smells like bread (no wonder I’m always hungry).

    • Emily Z says:

      Nice! I’m kind of jealous of that last name. I think my character was “offended by the very idea of raisins” which I suppose is partially true as I prefer currants in my scones.

  5. H.A. Burns says:

    There really isn’t a lot of humorous Sci-fi… though one could argue there is humor in everything. Particularly if one is prone to argument. When I wrote “Cyborg Dreams: The Mind of Mine” I purposefully added in a few jokes to spice things up a bit. Even though I love it, I found cheesy slapstick is surprisingly hard to convey in writing.

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