July 17, 2016


Using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, August 2015, I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. This is event #4198. The link is provided below…

Humor in Teen and Middle Grade Fiction Humor within young adult and middle grade fiction is abundant. What is it about the bending of these genres with humor that works so well? Why are we drawn to tales that make us laugh? Our panelists take a walk on the lighter side of speculative fiction for children and teens as they dish about their favorite authors, books, and stories. Frog Jones (m), Gail Carriger, Kaja Foglio, Nichole Giles

First of all, what do the participants know about humor in YA/MG speculative fiction?

Frog & Esther Jones – authors of the Grace series. Check
Gail Carriger – author of the Parasol Protectorate series. Check.
Kaja Foglio – author of the Agatha Heterodyne and the… series. Check. (She also does the art for Magic: The Gathering cards!)
Nicole Giles – YA writer, but as far as I can see, nothing funny…she’ll get a check, too.

So these folks know what they’re talking about.

I still can’t pull off written humor. I CAN make people laugh, though I’m not what you’d call a funny guy (get it?). I get laughs by doing word play, funny voices, physical humor, and timing comments – none of these seems to translate well into writing. If you think about it, The Three Stooges, or Jim Carey in LIAR, LIAR would have been hard to put into words. Though I suppose they were written somewhere – or were they “extemporaneous”?

As a guidance counselor at a near-inner-city (ie: 10% of our students are bussed in from a major metropolitan inner city district; poverty rate as measured by recipients of free or reduced lunches is about 45%) I KNOW my kids love to laugh. Race doesn’t matter when it comes to teens laughing. If you can get them to smile, even in a bad situation, they tend to feel better. I’m good at that.

But I suck at writing humor. I CAN do one or two funny situations, but on balance, my writing is pretty serious.

OTOH, I know humor writer Gordon Korman. His books are ALL funny! But he’s never won a major award – let me amend that: he’s never won a major award from ADULTS. Kids pick him all the time. What does that say? (He does write speculative fiction, too – the Nosepickers From Outer Space are right up there!) I could guess, but I’ll leave that action to you.

I have a COMEDY WRITING SECRETS (https://www.amazon.com/Comedy-Writing-Secrets-Best-Selling-Think/dp/1582973571/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1468770151&sr=1-3&keywords=How+To+Write+Comedy) book; I read THE HUMOR CODE (https://www.amazon.com/Humor-Code-Global-Search-Things/dp/1451665423/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1468770086&sr=1-3&keywords=international+humor+study); and like I said, I’m a funny guy. I’ve read collections of science fiction humor, too like ANALOG Science Fiction and Fact’s THE FUNNY SIDE (an old collection) and the Kelvin Throop III stories. Spider Robinson’s CALLAHAN’S CROSS TIME SALOON books.

But I can’t seem to make it work. Why? Am I not funny enough?

Did these people reveal the formula for writing speculative humor novels for teens and middle grade readers.

Probably – it’s just that I wasn’t there.

What does the internet say? Lots of things, so I’ll leave you with this – and I’ll start working with it as well and update you in the future. Accordingly: “J. K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, and Suzanne Collins all use a mix of:

 1) One-liners
2) Awkward situations
3) Fainting scenes

“…to lighten the mood.”

So there you go. What do you think?

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