Thursday, June 7, 2012

New blog site

There will be no new blog posts on this site.  All new material including Faux News Reports will be posted to this new site: http://hank-quense.com/wp

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Dodo Dragon Is Now Available

Today, Sheila Crosby launches her book, the Dodo Dragon, a collection of her short stories and novellas.  The book's title comes from one of the short stories in the book.  I read an advance copy of it and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I had previously read several of the stories, but Sheila writers the type of stories that age very well and stand up to repeated readings. 

Almost all the stories are witty and amusing. Many of them with surprise endings, a talent that Sheila often uses in her stories. Some of the stories are set in the Canary Islands where Sheila lives and provides us with a setting that isn’t seen in very many stories. 
Scream Quietly was my favorite story in the book. That story is told in letters from an anguished mother who faces an unusual predicament, one of the stories with a surprise twist at the end.



Contents:
  • The Dodo Dragon I am the last and I am lonely. Last night I saw three of the large moons hanging together, with the sea sparkling and dancing below. It gave me no pleasure. There was no-one to share it.
  • Oh Baby!  The Ibble took great interest in the Earth Ambassador’s pregnancy.
  • The Appliance of Science The fridge had gone missing again. All that was left was a rectangle of gleaming blue tiles where it had stood, surrounded by a ring of black grease. 
  • Caught in the Oort A trillion miles was a long way to come for revenge. I grinned. The Cult of the Bathtub would have to go much further than the Oort cloud to escape me.
  • Scream Quietly Sweet Sister, my husband grows more violent. 
  • Infant Colic Agonized screams ricocheted off the grey metal walls. Hopeless and bewildered, Helen cuddled her newborn son. His tiny mouth opened like a great red tunnel, and his knees jerked up to his belly in spasms.
  • Designer Genes I threw the magazine across my living room as hard as I could. Its pages made a wiffling noise as it flew, and hit the wall with a twick. Then it fluttered to the floor still in one piece.Frankly, I’d hoped violence to an inanimate object would prove more satisfying.
  • Zuggy Zu and the Humans “No. Absolutely not! It’s far too dangerous.” The Controller threw Zuggy Zu’s report in the recycling bin.
  • Breathing Space Dan Gaunt squirted half a tube of Tabasco into his chili. It still tasted like ashes. He shoveled it in anyway.

Friday, April 20, 2012

FNN Report: Sports Cliches



FNN sports reporter, Jock Strapper, has analyzed thousands of newspaper, TV and radio sports reports searching for the most overused cliches.  Here are his winners (losers?)
1) "We have to take it game at a time." What else can they do?  Take a week at a time?  A season?  A play?  An inning? This cliche implies that that the team will refuse to play tomorrow’s game before today’s game is played which is ridiculous until we develop time-travel.
2) "I have to stay inside myself." If anyone understands what this means please write a  comment because I have no idea what this means. It doesn't make any sense to me.  Can a player stay outside of himself?  How does he do that?
3) "We have to take what he other team gives us." Really? If the other team is good, this sounds like an expectation of losing because the good team won't give them anything worth taking.
4) "This is a victory/game/tournament/performance for the ages." What arrogance!  What hyperbole!  Two days later hardly anyone will remember who won the victory/game/tournament/performance of this "one for the ages."
Strapper is looking for more sports cliches to expand the list.  If you have one, please write a comment with the cliche.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tax Return Day Freebie

Today is Tax Return Day (actually postponed until the 17th because of the weekend)
To offset the rampant depression caused by this annual event, I've arranged for everyone to download a free kindle edition of my latest ebook.  The title is 10 Great Fantasy Short Stories.  Every story is told with humor or satire.  
Get a copy and feel better about Tax Return Day. This freebie offer will be run from 4/15 thru 4/17

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mets Manager Stunned by Season's Opening



FNN sports reporter, Jock Strapper, has this exclusive interview with Mets manager Tom Collins.  He admits he is staggered by his team winning the first four games of the season.  He didn't think the team would win their fourth game until after they played seventeen or eighteen games.
"I know our fans are concerned just as I am.  This isn't the way our fans expect the Mets to play.  They expect the Mets to be mediocre.  That's what the want.  They don't want us to be sweeping other teams.  That's not our game."
A source in the front office told Strapper that the General Manager is considering trading a few starters to get control of the team's fortunes.  The trades would bring in third rate players who would give the other teams an advantage and get the Mets back where they belong--at the bottom of the standings.
More details as they become available.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Secret Congressional Peace Talks



FNN has obtained exclusive information that the Democrats and Republicans in the House are in secret peace negotiations.  Another report says that the same is true in the Senate. 

Our political reporter, Stacy Conundrum, has learned that the purpose of the talks is to reach an agreement on what both parties are willing to concede or at least discuss with the other party and what issues they feel are not worth discussing because the parties will not give ground.  If the peace agreement can be reached, neither party will then propose bills that are in the off-limits category.  Spokespersons from both sides say the peace treaty, if it can be reached, will lessen the current mood of outright hostility in both chambers.

In the Senate, sources tell FNN that increased millionaire taxes and repeal of oil subsidies are off-limits for the Republicans while the Democrats refuse to discuss budget reductions that affect the middle-class or the poor.

In the House, the situation is much worse.  The Republican leadership is calling for an unconditional surrender by the Democrats before talks can take place.  The Republican demand includes vacating the White House so it can be occupied once again by its rightful resident, a member of the Republican Party.  A spokesman for the House speaker put it this way: "We refuse to talk until the White House is once again a symbol of Republican superiority." 

More on this story as we obtain more details

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Tales From Gundarland Sales Explode



Sandra Elfenheimer from our Gundarland bureau in Dun Hythe reports that sales of Hank Quense’s collection of short stories and novellas is now on the best-seller list at the Scrolls and Blacksmithy shop.  S&B is the largest scroll seller in the country and carries scrolls from a number of exotic places including Earth.
Quense’s book was translated and copied onto scrolls by the ex-monks employed at S&B and the scrolls fill an entire scroll bucket. In the last month, three Tales From Gundarland scroll buckets were sold setting a new sales record for a foreign publication.
S&B Owner Ian McBlowhard, a dwarf, told FNN, “Folks like the humor and satire in the book. Although it purports to take place in Gundarland, readers know Quense is really talking his own planet, Earth, where ever that is.  The readers know folks in Gundarland wouldn’t behave like the characters in the scroll bucket.”
Unfortunately, the scroll buckets are sold out and new ones won’t be available for a while.  Interested readers will have to buy a print or an ebook version.  A list of book sellers can be found here.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Vatican unveils long-lost epistle.


FNN's religious reporter Matthew Mark Lukejohn is at the Church Of The Blessed Elbow in Hoboken, NJ where Cardinal Giuseppe Rizzo from the Holy Office in the Vatican will speak about the newly discovered ancient writings uncovered in Rome.  "I am inside the church and I can see Cardinal Rizzo as he mounts the steps to the pulpit. He looks over the worshippers and starts."

"My bothers and sisters in God, I bring you good news.  Recently, our researchers in the Vatican uncovered a very old chest hidden behind some of the vast treasure stored in our basements.  When they opened it, they found a scroll.  Once the scroll was unrolled and translated it was found to be a letter written by Saint Tedious to his flock.  

"I have elected to disclose the contents in America because it is so relevant to this modern society and the anguish its citizens are experiencing.

"Saint Tedious was a hermit who lived  in the desert and survived only through the generosity of the nearby villagers who brought him meat, bread, vegetables, unwatered wine and honey cakes several times a week lest he curse their flocks and crops.   In his epistle he instructs the villagers on the role of women.  Speaking as God's representative, he wrote that the role of women is to bear children, maintain a home for her father or husband, obey their commands and to be silent."

"At this point, the mumbling of many women in the church interrupted the cardinal and he glared at them."

"Saint Tedious emphasized the last, that women should be silent.  Murmuring and mumbling is not being silent. I am your spiritual father and I command you to be silent.

"I have it on good authority that our Holy Father will use this discovery to write a new encyclical ordering women to follow Saint Tedious' instructions under pain of excommunication."

"A number of women are leaving the church causing the cardinal to talk loudly in Italian or perhaps Latin.

"The Cardinal has now switched back to English.

"The independence and resistance of American women must cease.  I urge the men in this church to vote for the Presidential candidates who support our cause of returning women to their proper role in society."

"Cardinal Rizzo has slammed a fist on the pulpit railing and stormed out of the church. This is Matthew Mark Lukejohn.  FNN will update this story as more details became available."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

FNN Investigative Report



A survey by the FNN research team has uncovered a potential scandal that crosses all income groups in every state in America.
In a telephone survey of a thousand households, 85% reported that their furnaces or heating systems only developed trouble during cold weather.  The other 15% were homeless or couldn't afford fuel and so didn't use their heating systems.
A separate study queried air conditioner owners.  An astounding 87% reported their air conditions only gave them trouble during hot weather.  The remainder didn't have homes or air conditioners.
The Consumer Alert Bureau believes these statistics reveal an insidious plot to rip off consumers when they are most vulnerable; when they need their furnaces and air conditions the most.  FNN was unable to determine if this is a planned manufacturing defect or if the troubles develop from a different cause.
What ever the cause, we urge you to contact your Congressman and demand a Federal investigation by the Consumer Protection Agency.  A Congressional investigation or two would have the added benefit of giving Congress something useful to do.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Character Development


(C) 2007 Hank Quense
(Originally published in Writers Journal September 2007)

Memorable stories always have memorable characters.  These figures are complex and display a number of traits that the reflect the character’s humanity.  They are much more than the sum of physical attributes because the authors have delved deeply into the inner workings of their nature.
These types of characters contain a myriad of facets, both the physical, external ones and the non-physical, internal ones.  The facial features are an obvious physical aspect.  Dress habit is another.  In my opinion, these external facets are not as important as the internal ones.  These internal aspects of the characters are the ones that grab the reader’s attention because they turn the characters into unique human beings.  In addition, these internal facets dictate how a character will react to various stimuli in the story.  If these reactions aren’t consistent with the character’s inner traits, the character will be viewed by the reader as a phony.  As a consequence, these internal aspects are the ones that consume most of my time when I am developing a new character for a story.
Character background
A writer must develop the background of her character in order to understand what makes the character tick.  This understanding is essential to develop the correct responses to story situations.  For instance, a character who dropped out of high school will be unbelievable if he uses quantum mechanics to explain how the aliens transported money out of a locked bank vault and a sickly protagonist can’t use physical violence to subjugate the antagonist.  However, a character raised in France can use French words and phrases without sounding snobbish to the reader.
How much background is required?  This is open question.  I use more than a page of background to define a major character in a short story and a paragraph or two for a minor character.  As a rule of thumb, the more important the character is to your story, the more background you require.  The deeper you plan to probe into the character’s psyche during the story, the more detail you need about the character’s mental composition.  Conversely, the more you know about the character’s mental makeup, the easier it is for your story to probe deep.
Philosophical Outlook
An important nonphysical feature of my characters is their philosophical outlook.  This element is one of the first that I give to my new character since it influences other aspects.  For instance, a reader will not believe in a cheerful character who is supposed to be a pessimist.  Similarly, a morose character will make a poor (i.e. unbelievable) optimist.
This attribute also influences the way the character thinks and defines the character’s reaction to some story stimuli.  Assume, for instance, a protagonist with a pessimistic philosophy who is faced with a monumental plot problem.  When her sidekick makes a suggestion, she responds, “Yes!  That’s it!  Let’s do it.”  We now have a protagonist who is who acting inappropriately.  She reacted as an optimist.  A pessimist would respond with, “What a dumb idea.  That’ll never work.”
Besides pessimism (reality is evil) and optimism (reality is good), I use a number of other philosophies for my characters.  These include individualism (personal freedom and autonomy), materialism (reality consists of matter only), mysticism (reliance on and belief in creeds or faiths), nihilism (social and economic order is corrupt), and pragmatism (emphasizes consequences and practical results of one’s actions).  Definitions of all of these can be found in number of books including dictionaries.
In building a group of characters for a story, I ensure that the characters have a variety of philosophies.  A lot of conflict and humor can be achieved by giving the protagonist and the sidekick conflicting philosophies such as pessimism and optimism or mysticism and materialism.  This last pair pits a character with a strong belief in faith against another who doesn’t believe that faith has anything to do with events or results.
Empathy 
Readers must empathize with the protagonist of your story, otherwise, they won’t care what happens to him.  For empathy with a character to occur, the reader must conclude that the character shares some human values with the reader.
Empathy (understanding) must not be confused with sympathy (pity).  The reader must say to herself, “This gal is like me.  I want her to solve her problem.”  A protagonist who kicks puppies, and cheats the blind news stand worker is not going to gain a lot of empathy from readers unless he has some other traits which balance these negatives.  If this puppy-kicking character has a conscience and  regrets his actions as soon as he does it, he may have a small chance of gaining the reader’s empathy.  If this character kicks puppies because a brain tumor has damaged his personality, then the reader will be might be to excuse such unkind acts, knowing they may be involuntary.  A further problem with a puppy-kicking protagonist is trying to develop an antagonist who is even more obnoxious.  With a nasty protagonist, the reader may establish an empathetic link with the antagonist.  This results in a reversal of the usual reader allegiance with the reader now hoping the bad guy wins.  If the protagonist wins, as he usually does, the reader is left with an empty feeling that something is wrong with the story, and that it was a waste of time to read it.
On the other hand, a character who constantly moans, “woe is me,” may get sympathy but the reader won’t develop empathy with this whiny fellow.  For instance, suppose your protagonist faces a series of difficulties not of his own choosing.  He can struggle to keep his head above water and gain empathy or he can blame others for his misery and possibly gain sympathy.  The first is the stuff of good stories, the second isn’t.
For the reader to like and root for the protagonist, he must display traits that are admired by the reader.  These include courage, virtue, competence and  amiability.  Of course, the protag may be lacking in one or more of these characteristics at the beginning of the story and find or develop the attribute at the end of the story.  As an example, a character, faced with solving a dangerous plot problem, may agonize over his lack of nerve.  At the end of the story, he overcomes his fears and finds the courage to face the danger.
Idiosyncrasies
To me, these are small bits of action that make characters more human.  Under certain emotional or stressful conditions, the characters will fall back on these habits.  One character may curl her hair when she is deep in thought or concentrating.  Another character may drum his fingertips on a table when upset or angry.  Once you’ve identified the idiosyncrasy to the reader, it can become a signal about the character’s mental state.  When you show this woman sitting at a table and wincing because she curled her hair too tight, you don’t have to tell the reader she is reflecting on a problem; the reader knows that.  Similarly, the guy’s furious thumping with his fingers indicates to the reader that he is angry and the author doesn’t have to tell it to the reader.
But don’t confuse these idiosyncrasies with normal habits.  A character that is always adjusting his glasses is not displaying an idiosyncrasy, he is showing a habit, and he does it without thinking about it.
Linking an idiosyncrasy with a physical attribute is a powerful way to build reader identity with a character.  Suppose you have a protag with a visible facial scar.  Whenever he fingers the scar, the reader knows he is thinking about the knife-wielding assailant and hoping to get revenge.  Another example is a pronounced limp.  If the injury was caused by the character freezing in fear at a crucial moment, every time the character messages his knee he recalls his failure and fears.  Perhaps the story can hinge on him facing these fears in another test.  These linkages can be used with either the protagonist or the antagonist.
Summary
Like ordinary people, story characters must be complex.  The more complex these characters are, the more compelling the readers will find them.  While this certainly applies to the protagonist, don’t neglect to build a multifaceted antagonist.  A complex protagonist struggling against a cardboard antagonist will leave the reader feeling that something is missing. 


This and other fiction writing articles can be downloaded from my free fiction writing articles page.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New Jersey Declared Corruption Free

FNN  banner


Stacy Conundrum,  the FNN political reporter, filed this report from the capital building in Trenton, NJ
The independent Corruption Investigation Commission (CIC) has announced its findings after an exhaustive three-year investigation.  The Commission could not identify any corrupt politicians at any level of the state government.  The investigation covered elected officials and appointees to various boards and regulatory commissions.
Maurice Blowhard, the head of the Commission, said he and his staff interviewed dozens of politicians and regulators.  "We asked tough questions," Blowhard said.  "We pulled no punches.  We asked them straight out if they ever took money from people looking for favorable treatment.  We asked them if they ever gave out political favors.  We asked them if they issued regulations that favored special interest groups at the expense of the public. You can see from these questions that our Commission wasn't fooling around.  We went after the truth. Much to our surprise, all of the people interviewed, every single one of them, swore the answer to all the questions was 'No'.  They vehemently proclaimed their dedication to public service and would never do anything that would compromise their reputations."

The announcement went on to say that the CIC's twenty-million dollar annual budget was money well spent since it served to put the voters' minds at ease.  "The voters can now rest assured that their public servants have their best interests in mind while they hold office."

Blowhard, a major contributor to all political parties, was appointed under the previous administration and has an annual salary of $750,000 .  Serving with him are his daughter, a grandson and a nephew, ". . . the best people I could find to fill the posts," Blowhard said at the time the Commission was formed.

The CIC also recommended that it should be kept in place to continue monitoring the political landscape.  It proposed a budget increase of 25% so it could increase the monitoring at the local level.  "We need to assure the voters that mayors and town officials are just as honest as the politicians at the state level," Blowhard said.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Read an Ebook Week: Discounted Strange Worlds ebooks

In honor of Read an Ebook Week, all my ebooks published by Smashwords are heavily discounted (except the ones that are already free)  Go here to participate: 
Here are the discount codes to use at checkout.
Tales From Gundarland: 50% discount: code REW50
an award winning collection of six humourous short stories and two novels
Zaftan Entrepreneurs: 50% discount: code REW50
A first contact story with a difference: aliens and fantasy creatures
Zaftan Miscreants: 50% discount: code REW50
The craziness continues.  The gundies and zaftans square off in deep space
Brunnhilde’s Quest: 25% discount: code REW25
Wotan (Odin) has a big problem.  He’s lost control of the Rhinegold.
Build a Better Story: 50% discount: REW50
Have a story to write?  Read this book first
Mini-Collection: 100% discount: code RE100
Three of my best short stories

10 Great Fantasy Short Stories: 50% discount: code REW50
This collection includes three new stories, never before published

Saturday, March 3, 2012

FNN Report: New Republican Initiative



This report was filed by our political reporter, Stacy Conundrum. 

Senator Santorum's information officer today held a press conference to brief reporters on the main thrust of the candidate's new campaign.  Ira Babcock told reporters that Santorum is convinced the major problem with the country is the amount of unbridled liberty that citizens have.  Babcock quoted the Senator, "Liberty must be tempered with responsibility. People can't decide on their own what is permissible.  It is the responsible of the authorities to rule on what is allowed.  Once that guidance is in place, our society will become much more focused on what is important and what is counterproductive. This will restore America to its former greatness and glory."
Babcock explained that after Santorum is elected President, he will pass legislation that will make crimes out of major sins.  "This is a time honored procedure.  History is filled with examples of states enforcing religious restrictions."
When a reporter asked if this amounted to a new Inquisition, Babcock answered, "Not at all.  All of the Christian religions have agreed to staff and fund a new Holy Office.  Its job will be oversee the population and point out sinners to the civil authorities.  That is all the Holy Office will do.  It will not be involved in arresting or questioning of these suspected sinners."
In reply to another reporter's question, Babcock said the campaign has the approval of many Republican leaders and he is confident that it will become the main plank in the platform developed during our convention in August.
FNN will follow this breaking news and issue further reports as necessary.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Now Available: 10 Great Fantasy Short Stories

Do you like fantasy short stories?  Do you like them told with humor or satire? Then get a copy of this new ebook. It's filled with fantasy stories told with humor and satire.  The stories range all over the fantasy landscape.  Some take place in Gundarland, some in Manhattan and one in Camelot.   

10 Great Fantasy Short Stories is now available from Smashwords.  Other ebook distributors will follow soon.


You can watch the trailer for Macbeth: the Sequel at this link

Here is a list of all the stories.

House of Atreus.  Meet Agamemnon, King of Mycea, and the conquerer of Troy.  He’s been sent to the modern world by Zeus.
Manhattan Monsters: They are a undead softball team playing in Central Park.  Really.
Recipe for Revenge:  Burga the Warrior Cook seeks revenge on a food critic.
Romeo and Juliet: You’ve probably read this storyline a hundred times.  What’s different about my version? He’s a dwarf, she’s an elf.
Yuletide in Camelot: Entertainment for the feast is provided by Sir Tristan, the world’s worst singer, the Knights of the Round Table Folk Dancing Troupe and the Saxons’ Men Choir.
Inter-Racial Musical Playoffs: Unscrupulous wizards try to fix a band competition.
The Bronze Fleece: Travel to ancient Greece and join Jason and the Argonauts as they undertake a quest for the legendary fleece.
The Rainbow Bridge: Loki is summoned from Asgard and runs into a big problem.
MacBeth: the Sequel.  The Wyrd Sisters have to save their pet from the Laird of the Loch.
Saving the Shore: Find out what happened to the descendants of the Ring Bearer.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Zaftan Miscreants Reviews

Here are two reviews from Goodreads members who have read and reviewed my latest novel.

Johnny wrote:
Zaftan Miscreants, the second book in the trilogy, is a highly addictive and hilariously funny science fiction story by author Hank Quense. Unlike any sci-fi book out there Quense alternates viewpoints between the Zaftans and the Gundies with many a good laughs in between. The story line is catchy, original, satirical, and will have you hooked from the start. The Zaftans are treacherous alien race from planet Zaftan 31B who explore space conquering other alien species and exploiting there natural resources. On the other the hand, there are the Gundies from Gundarland, a mixed race of dwarfs, humans, half-pints, and their droids. In the book, these two enemies clash in an epic space battle filled with action, political satire, and romance. This book kept me entertained and from start to finish and would make a very good animated film. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a good sci-fi fantasy read. 


Yvensong wrote:
I really enjoyed this romp through space with Sam, Slash 9, Klatze, and Gongeblazn.
Starting with Sam, she was interesting and appealing, making her one of the more likeable droids I've had the pleasure to follow in a novel. Slash 9, a ship's computer was entertaining, as he tried to woo Sam and win her -- what would a droid have that's comparable to a human heart?
Klatze, a Zaftan bent on showing her species that ability is an important trait, has to deal with others who continue the old ways of deceit and violence -- and has to confront the old ways directly with Gongeblazn, her superior.
The story is well-paced and broken up in such a way to make it a very quick and easy read.
I did not read book one in the series, but didn't feel as though I was missing anything. The world, the characters and the story are well-developed and intriguing.
I look forward to reading more of Hank Quense's novels about the Zaftans and Gunderlanders.



Interested in reading it yourself?  Follow this link to find a list of Zaftan Miscreants sellers, both print and ebook versions.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Free ebooks

I have two free ebooks available.  Did you get your copies yet?

One ebook is called Humorous Yarns and Other Stuff and it's been downloaded over 2500 times since September 2010.  It contains samples of my stories and novels.

The scene is called The Strange Worlds of Hank Quense.  It provides a humorous backdrop for the two worlds I have created for my characters to romp around in.  Gundarland is a country populated with humans, dwarfs, elves and other fantasy creatures.  Zaftan 31B is the home world of my vicious, foul-smelling aliens.  It's been downloaded over 400 times since it became available last February.

Here's a review:  Elizabeth Miller on Dec. 21, 2011 : star star star star
Hystically companion to Hank Quense's rather odd and funny novels.





Either (or both) are a good way to sample my stories and find out if you'll like my books.

You can both of these free ebooks at:
Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/hanque
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/hank-quense?store=book
Sony: http://ebookstore.sony.com/author/hank-quense_160964

Friday, February 17, 2012

So, a Priest, a Rabbi And a Flubberian Grub Worm Walk Into a Bar…: Humour in Science Fiction

My co-author, Ira Nayman, is my guest blogger today.  He has a post about the absence of humor in scifi stories.  I happen to agree with everything Ira says here.

Ira Nayman:
I was talking to another writer once about how hard it is to get editors interested in works that combine science fiction and humour. He told me that an editor had once told him that: “Since The Hitchihiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was published, there really isn’t any point to writing humorous science fiction.”
I wish I had been drinking at the time I heard this. My spit take would have rivalled Niagara Falls.

To my way of thinking, this is like saying, “Since Star Wars was released, there really isn’t any point to making films about wars in space.” It seems silly, since new artists can bring new perceptions to genres that had seemed spent, yet this is the industry reality that people who write comic science fiction have to contend with.
But, I get ahead of myself. To begin, I should make it clear that I am not talking about works where humor is used as comic relief for what are primarily science fiction adventure stories (as it often was in Star Trek or Dr. Who). This is obviously acceptable and widespread in the genre. I am talking about works where humor and science fiction are equal partners in the unfolding of the narrative (think: Men in Black or, yes, Hitchhiker). These are actually quite rare. Don’t believe me? Everything in life (well, everything important in life), can be explained by a Venn Diagram. Here is one that illustrates my point:

Okay, now that we’ve defined our subject, let’s get back to the main argument: I have heard that humour generally, and comic science fiction specifically, is a hard sell because people’s senses of humour are different. What makes some people laugh uproariously will leave other people unmoved, or, worse, offended. Fair point. However, this principle does not apply just to humour. Many Star Wars fans detest Star Trek (and vice versa). Many who like both cannot abide 2001: A Space Odyssey. Science fiction fans are diverse and enjoy a wide variety of flavours of the genre; I see no reason why humour cannot be one of them.

If anything, the massive success of Hitchhiker should have proven that there is an audience for comic science fiction. Any other work with such a large and devoted following would have had a slew of imitators. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of a cultural industries model. (I could use the example of mediocre vampire stories in the wake of the success of Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight books and movies, but you’re probably already way ahead of me there.) And, there have been books that smacked of Adams’ influence – Mitis Green’s The Ardly Effect comes to mind. The fact that none of them have achieved the success of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy does not mean that comic science fiction is a literary dead end. 
To my way of thinking, there were two factors that led to the success of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The first, most obvious one is that Douglas Adams was a hellaciously good writer at the top of his game when the radio series began. The other, less recognized factor was that, although there were certainly precedents for it, Hitchhiker was a highly original work in its time. Some writers may be able to approximate Adams’ voice, but they will never be able to equal his success because, by trying to be like him, they ensure that they will never match his originality. 
In short, the next big comic science fiction phenomenon will not be the next Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
As publishing consolidates into every larger entities, the industry as a whole has become more conservative, and, while every publisher wants new takes on old themes, they don’t really want works that break serious new ground. Too much originality entails risk, and mature, conservative industries are highly risk-averse. Most major publishers would prefer not to risk offending readers, which means avoiding all but the blandest comic science fiction. Again, I find this argument bogus: any work of art can be offensive to somebody. I, for instance, am in an almost constant state of high dudgeon over rah rah, gung ho military science fiction. (I guess I’m not a big enough demographic for publishers of it to care if it offends me or not.)
I’m not going to argue that every book of humorous science fiction will be a gem; there are bound to be some lousy ones. Just as there are lousy books of straight science fiction. (Sturgeon’s Law is in full force.) In the end, though, the whole “humorous science fiction cannot work” thing becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Since major publishers stay away from it, those who write it have to get it published by smaller presses. But the smaller presses don’t have the promotional resources of the major presses, so those books don’t reach a major audience. This reinforces the belief that such books aren’t worth publishing.
It seems a shame. Laughter is a marvellous human trait that makes us feel good (by releasing endorphins in the brain, natural painkillers that only the most obdurate anti-drug zealots could possibly object to…). Science fiction readers deserve to have a little fun injected into their literary diet.
 Ira Nayman has two collections of Alternate Reality News Service (ARNS) stories in print; a third  is available in ebook format from Smashwords. All of the material in all three books is available on his Web site, Les Pages aux Folles (http://www.lespagesauxfolles.ca), as well as new material every week. He has written a separate series of short stories featuring Antonio Van der Whall, object psychologist (four have been sold; several others are awaiting decision), as well as a novel and two novellas featuring the Transdimensional Authority. He writes a lot.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A review of Lunatics by Dave Barry & Alan Zweibel

A review of Lunatics by Dave Barry & Alan Zweibel

This is the funniest book I have read in years. It is the story of two middle-aged Jewish men living in New Jersey. Phillip and Jeffrey meet at a kids' soccer game and instantly hate each other.  Several hours later, they separately drive across the George Washington Bridge and both get involved in an incident that the NYPD interprets as an attempted terrorist attack to blow up the bridge.  The two escape and slink around northern Manhattan while their photos are broadcast non-stop on TV.  They are captured by a real terrorist cell whose leader is terribly angry because Phillip and Jeffery didn't give him a curtesy call to tip him off about the attack.  He plans to teach them some respect using the Bronx Zoo and a pair of large brown bears.
Phillip and Jeffery manage to escape from Manhattan, despite all the roadblocks and travel to Cuba, Somalia, Yemen, China and the Republican National Convention.  At the convention Donald Trump and Sarah Palin make guest appearances.

If you like humor, read this book.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

FNN Report: Dem Super-PAC funds Santorum and Gingrich



Faux News Network has an exclusive report that a Democratic Super-PAC is secretly sending funds to both the Santorum and Gingrich campaigns.
Our political reporter Stacy Conundrum met with Mr. Bigmoney(an alias).
To protect his identify, he showed up wearing a paper sack over his head and surgical gloves on his hand so he wouldn't leave behind any fingerprints.  He also disguised his voice with an electronic device.
Stacy Conundrum:  Why is a Democratic PAC giving money to Republican candidates?
Bigmoney:  It's quite simple.  President Obama will beat any of the major candidates that are trying for the nomination.  But beating Romney will take mo money than beating Santorum and Gingrich.  Therefore, if Santorum or Gingrich get the nomination, we can use the money not spent on the presidential campaign on Congressional races.  So, thanks to our wonderful Supreme Court, we can raise all the money we want and spend it any way we want, including throwing money to Republican candidates when it is our strategic interests.
SC:  So all this bizarre behavior comes from the Supreme Court's decision that corporations are people and they have freedom of speech rights?
BM:  That's right, Stacy.  Those idiots on the court bench had no idea what they were about to unleash and I think they still don't know what is going on.  What a great country we live in, don't you agree?
SC: I have to think about that before I answer.  We'll have more on this at a later date including Mr. Bigmoney's indentitiy

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

FNN Exclusive Report: University president challenges Obama over tuition hikes.




Faux News Network political reporter Stacy Connundrum filed this report.

Ziggy Zwiebach, President of the New Jersey's University of Hoboken and Weehawken, today denigrated President Obama's plan to restrict aid to colleges and universities that don't limit tuition hikes.
Zwiebach told FNN that "Obama obviously has no clue how expensive running a university is these days.  Decreasing the Federal aid will have a devastating affect on higher education and will limit our ability to fund the most important aspects of university life."
Zwiebach went on to talk about the tough choices ahead of college executives if the Obama plan becomes law.  "At UHW we wild be forced to close entire areas of study such as our Mathematics and Physics Departments.  Also, our research project into the origins of the Big Foot legends would be in jeopardy.  These programs would have to be sacrificed in order to maintain full funding for our football program.  I'm sure President Obama has no idea how expensive a competitive program is.  Scholarships, coaches, equipment, under-the-table payouts to the athletes, all these cost a ton of money.  That's why tuition keeps climbing; every year the athletes demand more and more expensive fringe benefits."
Zwiebach concluded the interview by tell FNN that he has contacted the president of the NCAA and urged him to launch an extensive lobbying and advertising campaigns to block Obama's insidious attack on the American Way.
FNN will, of course, provide additional reports as information becomes available on this breaking news story.