Alex Shvartsman has been published in Daily Science Fiction, Nature, Penumbra and Buzzy Magazine. Besides being a writer, he’s a game designer, a business owner and has traveled to more than 30 countries playing a card game for a living. He recently launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to help fund Unidentified Funny Objects, an anthology of humorous SF and fantasy stories by such writers as Mike Resnick, Ken Liu and Lavie Tidhar. UFO will be published in November.
SF Signal had the opportunity to chat with Alex about the humorous side of science fiction and fantasy.
JAMES AQUILONE: John Scalzi recently told Locus magazine that “humor is one of the great taboos of science fiction.” Why do you think that is?
ALEX SHVARTSMAN: The short answer is: because writing humor is hard. Much harder than writing drama.
I think it only fair that I shamelessly swipe the long answer to this question from John Scalzi himself who explained it better than I can during the Redshirts book tour. I’m paraphrasing what he said, below:
Suppose I want to write a very sad scene and I’d like it to be powerful enough to make the reader cry. If you read it and cry, I’ve succeeded. If you read it and feel very sad but don’t actually shed tears, I succeeded a little bit less but the scene still worked, for the most part. If you read the scene and are touched just a little by its content, that still gets a passing grade. I only fail if you read it and feel absolutely nothing. Now suppose I want to write a scene that’s intended to make you laugh. You read it and you either laugh, or you don’t. Being mildly amused won’t cut it. Thus, my likelihood of success in creating such a scene is much, much lower.
Many writers don’t want to take a chance on humor, because the odds of really connecting with the reader are so much lower.