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Old November 26 2012, 03:06 PM   #1
BoredShipCapt'n
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Why is humor lacking in so much modern sci-fi?

I thought this might deserve its own discussion.

Timewalker wrote: View Post
Kamdan wrote: View Post
Has there ever been a detailed analysis of what was added to the novelized versions of the animated series of Star Trek? I haven't gotten the chance to read them and I would love to hear how the stories were expanded upon, since the show was only a half an hour.
They're a lot better than some of the TOS novels, many of the TNG novels, and they have something that the vast majority of other Star Trek novels lack - humor.

Why does it seem that much of post-1980's sci-fi is so bleak and humorless? I ask this as a ST:TOS fan. You could see the beginnings of this trend in ST:TNG with the characters taking themselves oh-so-seriously, but at least there was the occasional glint of humor or an appearance from Q to deflate their pomposity.

Compare the new Battlestar Galactica with the original. I can enjoy something that is "dark," but there's no need to be humorless. Doctor Who has its dark and serious moments, but it's equally funny. Firefly certainly got dark, but the humor was there too. Why is it missing in some other shows?

Are we seeing the work of former fanboys who were a bit too obsessed as adolescents, cringed at every comical robot or cute Ewok, and grimly vowed that if they ever made sci-fi, things would be different? Could they never lighten up?

I guess humorless sci-fi must appeal to some people, but I'm not one who would keep coming back for that. "Realism" is just fine, even "grittiness" (whatever that really is), but with no levity it's not even realistic because humor is part of human nature.
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Old November 26 2012, 03:26 PM   #2
T'Girl
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Re: Why is humor lacking in so much modern sci-fi?

The early Trek novel "How Much For Just The Planet" (as you might guess from the title) had a nice amount of humor in it. The modern Trek novels are down right grim.

Comedy is missing in post-TOS series to a great degree. There are occasional funny pieces, A Fist Full of Data's comes to mind. Plus there are scenes that I think were supposed to be serious that are quite funny. Janeway discovering her tiny "spirit guide" while drugged up on Chakotay's electronic peyote always get a giggle out of me, but I don't think it was intended to be funny.

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Old November 26 2012, 03:26 PM   #3
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Re: Why is humor lacking in so much modern sci-fi?

Well Red Dwarf has plenty of humour in it. True it is a sit-com but it is also Sci-Fi. You say DW has it's humour. So on the surface of it, it appears as if British Sci-Fi hasn't fully it's humour.
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Old November 26 2012, 06:09 PM   #4
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Re: Why is humor lacking in so much modern sci-fi?

I can appreciate humor in science fiction when it's used as comic relief in an otherwise tense story. I'm not as tolerant toward sci-fi comedy, though there are some exceptions, like Red Dwarf. Science fiction requires a willing suspension of disbelief, and if the humor is not done well, there's the risk of the audience laughing at the production instead of with it. Star Trek was always uneven with its light-hearted scenes. I don't know if the fault was in the writing, the direction, or actors' performances, but they often had trouble getting it right.
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Old November 26 2012, 06:43 PM   #5
Greg Cox
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Re: Why is humor lacking in so much modern sci-fi?

I'm not sure humor is all that missing from modern sf. Look at shows like Warehouse 13, Eureka, Haven, and so on that feature lots of humorous situations, as well as plenty of snarky quips and banter.

And I'm don't think I've ever written a Trek book that didn't have some (hopefully) funny dialogue in it . . . .
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Old November 26 2012, 07:04 PM   #6
marksound
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Re: Why is humor lacking in so much modern sci-fi?

Two reasons:

A. The people creating it have no sense of humor and couldn't write a joke if their lives depended on it.
B. The people consuming it would only bitch about the lame attempts at humor, and they wouldn't get the jokes anyway.

3 ... 2 ... 1 ...
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Old November 26 2012, 07:55 PM   #7
King Daniel Into Darkness
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Re: Why is humor lacking in so much modern sci-fi?

Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis were often very funny.
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Old November 26 2012, 08:03 PM   #8
Doug Otte
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Re: Why is humor lacking in so much modern sci-fi?

Up until the early 1970s, sci-fi generally projected a utopian future, and had a lighter mood. Since then, sci-fi has taken a darker turn overall, reflecting our angst and disenchantment by showing a largely dystopian future. Thus, the lack of humor.
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Old November 26 2012, 08:35 PM   #9
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Re: Why is humor lacking in so much modern sci-fi?

Battlestar Galactica is the exception here, not the rule (and even it had more humor than its reputation for bleakness). I don't think the charge that sf in the 1990s and 2000 has much merit.

Consider Stargate SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis, Farscape, Futurama, Red Dwarf, etc. Even The X-Files, for all its conspiracies, tragedy, and dark cinematography had plenty of humor, featuring comedic characters like the Lone Gunmen on a regular basis and frequently producing entirely comedic hours.
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Old November 26 2012, 08:53 PM   #10
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Re: Why is humor lacking in so much modern sci-fi?

KingDaniel wrote: View Post
Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis were often very funny.
Oh, absolutely. "You ended that sentence with a preposition, you bastard!"
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Old November 26 2012, 09:15 PM   #11
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Re: Why is humor lacking in so much modern sci-fi?

Greg Cox wrote: View Post
And I'm don't think I've ever written a Trek book that didn't have some (hopefully) funny dialogue in it . . . .
Oh, that was supposed to be funny.
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Old November 26 2012, 09:20 PM   #12
Greg Cox
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Re: Why is humor lacking in so much modern sci-fi?

T'Girl wrote: View Post
Greg Cox wrote: View Post
And I'm don't think I've ever written a Trek book that didn't have some (hopefully) funny dialogue in it . . . .
Oh, that was supposed to be funny.
Well, the jokes work better in the original Klingon . . .
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Old November 27 2012, 12:45 AM   #13
jayrath
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Re: Why is humor lacking in so much modern sci-fi?

"Doctor Who" is often very, very funny, but I take your point. As somewhat suggested above, comedy is hard.

I imagine that part of its general absence from sci fi is that the strand of believablilty is already so stretched. As soon as there's humor, the whole story stands the risk of being instant self-parody (for example, the seatbelt scene at the end of NEM, which was done for a single cheap laugh). But there remain many good opportunties for humor in characterization, and so we at least have such nuggets as Mudd and "It's . . it's green."

Anyway, the lack of real humor in modern sci fi likely results from the fear of risk. There's no shame in that; again, comedy is hard work, best left to specialists. The stakes are even higher these days because everyone is creating such dark futures; the resulting contrast is higher if even the lightest joke is introduced.

I don't want get all academic, but such an outlook is an error. Shakespeare's best laughs come in the most dire scenes. Of course, we have few Shakespeares today. Likely none.

I'm rambling, but one final example: I think that "Tribbles" is rather unfunny, with one exception -- when Kirk is questioning everyone about who started the fight on the space station. That is character humor, rather subtly played, and I laugh at it still.
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Old November 28 2012, 06:37 PM   #14
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Re: Why is humor lacking in so much modern sci-fi?

Harvey wrote: View Post
Battlestar Galactica is the exception here, not the rule (and even it had more humor than its reputation for bleakness). I don't think the charge that sf in the 1990s and 2000 has much merit.
I do. And I find the idea that New Galactica had anything even approaching humor in it to be (ironically) laughable. There was NO humor in that show whatsoever, which was only one of the things wrong with it.
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Old November 28 2012, 09:52 PM   #15
Harvey
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Re: Why is humor lacking in so much modern sci-fi?

It was a dark show, but no humor whatsoever? You know that's an exaggeration. Here's a whole thread on this BBS about the show's sense of humor.

Or perhaps I should just quote this post from another thread:

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"33"
Tigh: If the crew doesn't hate the XO, he's not doing his job. Besides, I gotta make the Old Man look good.
Adama: I always look good.
Tigh: Look in the mirror.

"The Passage"
Adama: I hear they're eating paper. That true?
Tigh: No. Paper shortage.
Yep. No humor whatsoever.
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