Unidentified Funny Objects is a collection of humorous science fiction and fantasy. Packed with laughs, it has 29 stories ranging from lighthearted whimsy to the wild and zany.
Inside you’ll find a zombear, tweeting aliens, down-on-their-luck vampires, time twisting belly dancers, moon nazis, stoned computers, omnivorous sex-maniac pandas, and a spell-casting Albert Einstein.
Unidentified Funny Objects editor Alex Shvartsman got in touch with me after I reviewed IN SITU edited by Carrie Cuinn, in which his story The Field Trip was one of my favourites. He asked whether I’d be interested in reviewing his anthology of humorous SFF short stories. This gave me a bit of pause; humour is very much subjective and thus I find it hard to judge stories on whether they are funny when they are meant to be. This is different from a work that is published as SFF and as additional fact is funny, because that work doesn’t need to be funny. The only out-and-out humorous SFF I’d ever read was Terry Pratchett, so humorous SFF was a bit of an unexplored reading direction for me. I have to say, though, on the whole it was a good experience. Of course as with any collection of short fiction there are works that worked less well for me, but there were also definitely ones that tickled my funny bone.
To start off with the stories I didn’t really like: James Beamon’s Fight Finale from the Near Future and Michael Kurland’s Go Karts of the Gods. The former, a satire on superhero comics, just felt too over the top and in your face, even if I can appreciate the point it makes about gender and sexism. The latter spoofs these cult-like lifestyle cons that promise the moon and the stars but in reality are nothing but a money scam. It shows us the patter of someone trying to ‘convert’ people to the cause, but I just didn’t find it funny. It was chaotic and all over the place and it drew more annoyance than laughs. Stephen D. Rogers’ My Kingdom for a Horse has a far funnier take on the sales patter, having what in our world would have been a used-car salesman try and sell a horse to a king. I think what both of the stories had in common – and what put me off – is that they really go over the top in their commitment to their spoofing and overshot their mark, in my opinion.
Three stories that did hit the spot were: K.G. Jewell’s The Day They Repossessed My Zombies, Leah Cypress’ The Fifty-One Suitors of Princess Jamatpie, and Mike Resnick’s El and Al vs. Himmler’s Horrendous Horde from Hell. Jewell’s story is one of the few zombie stories I’ve actually enjoyed. It was terribly fun, with a great resolution and main character. Besides, zombie slaves kept occupied by watching Teletubbies. . . Somehow that doesn’t surprise me. Cypress’ story about a princess overwhelmed by her suitors’ attempts to gain her favour and how she tricks them to get out of it was very cool. It might have had extra resonance for me as Emma is going through her princess phase and I’ve been watching Disney Princess films far too often the past few weeks! Mike Resnick is always a solid bet and this story was no different. I’m mostly familiar with his work through Escape Pod and PodCastle, where his work often brings a tear, but here he went for the laughs and got them. I loved El, short for Eleanor Roosevelt, and Al, short for Albert Einstein. The writing is vivid and it read like a comic in prose form.
There were two stories that I liked so much, that I would love to see more work set in those universes. The first is Jamie Lackey’s First Date, which was very sweet and a little Buffy in its playful tone. Josh and Leanne were very likeable protagonists and I would love to see more of them. The second was Jody Lynn Nye’s Worm’s eye View. I found it very funny and in addition it was a police story, so I was bound to enjoy it. However, I really liked the idea Nye worked out in the host/guest link between the humans and the Salosians and the ways they communicated. I’d love to see a more-realised universe around this concept and see what kind of consequences and effects such a bond would have on both the individuals involved and their loved ones.
Overall, I had a good time with Unidentified Funny Objects, but then again with names such as Mike Resnick, Jody Lynn Nye, Ken Liu, Sergey Lukyanenko, and Stephanie Burgis among others I hadn’t expected less. Shvartsman delivers a wonderful anthology and if you want to broaden your humorous SFF reading, Unidentified Funny Objects is a great place to start.
This book was provided for review by the editor.