Writing Excuses 5.37: Parody and Satire with Jim Hines

Jim Hines joins Brandon and Howard at Penguicon for a discussion of parody, satire, and why things are funny.

We start by defining parody and satire, and then Jim tells us why he wrote his he-calls-them-satirical Goblin novels, and why aspects of gamer culture so badly need to be satirized. Howard provides his formula for delivering the satire in Schlock Mercenary, and then we begin bandying about the terms “absurdification,” “commodification,” and “DisneyficationTM.”

And believe it or not, we manage to discuss humor in a way that is actually funny, at least some of the time.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Eyes Like Stars, by Lisa Mantchev, narrated by Cynthia Bishop

Writing Prompt: Start with a highly magical, pseudo-medieval fantasy setting. Now… how do you deal with baldness?

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21 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 5.37: Parody and Satire with Jim Hines”

  1. First! Ha ha ha ha h..a… Wait a minute!, I haven’t even listened to the podcast yet! Ah well, this is the internet, so I can be first whether I know anything relevant or not!
    Now I must go and prepare my magical antibaldness ring of Roe-G’aine. I got the recipe from Sp’a’m the troll, double banned from the Internets for spamming and trolling! (I wonder if this counts as parody or satire?)

    Seriously, I love these podcasts

  2. Another excellent cast. Lots to think about and consider and ponder and pontificate on.

    Also, more new books and authorial coolness. If nothing else, Writing Excuses is really expanding my reading horizons.

  3. A funny episode on humor would be a definite new thing for you guys. For some reason, you guys always get so serious when you broach the subject. Well, off to listen to this one.

  4. Great podcast–and very good point near the end: going for the joke is great, but it’s best if it’s built on the underlying scene or plot, not the purpose of it. One is Terry Pratchett, the other Douglas Adams.

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  6. The lady at the beginning does a good job but…. I gotta say, I miss Howard….

  7. I love the podcast but I think you should stay away from comedy subjects in the future. hearing Howard trying to explain why something is funny by going on and on about “comedic drops” and the like made me want to blow my brains out.

    You can’t explain jokes, that immediately kills all the humor. either you are funny or you are not. if you are not, don’t write comedy. no more instruction needed.

    Looking forward to your next topic. :)

  8. My first D&D game had us capturing an orc from an ambush party, spending three hours trying to decipher him (as the DM made up the language), and then agreeing to save the tribe’s kidnapped children. My character died in the process.

    Just saying.

  9. I don’t like the new mixer thingy.

    I like to hear the audience sniffle and cough and all that other background noise that makes it feel like I’m actually there with you guys. This cast, whilst good, didn’t sound good. It sounded flat. Down with the new mixer boooo! (I don’t know if it is the mixer’s fault but since you guys mentioned it…..)

  10. I put my attempt at this week’s prompt up on my blog yesterday. I took it in a slightly different direction than the ‘magic Rogaine’ suggestion implied. It’s not parody or satire, but my wife assures me it’s good and funny. But then, she’s bound to be biased.

    What do you think?

    Also, it’s very strange to go back and look at what I’ve written and think, “Why is this funny?” I think, for this story, the answer is mostly that it’s rather silly.

  11. Enjoyed the podcast – great fun. I’ve always had a problem with Evil Races – I’ll accept them in some stories because there’s a certain satisfaction in mowing things down without feeling guilty, but it makes me uncomfortable.

    I’ve always thought, in Tolkien, that there had to be a Ferdinand the Orc somewhere, the orc that doesn’t want to fight, that just wants to sit and smell the flowers. But, of course, an orc like wouldn’t last very long, which is why I can accept evil orcs in Tolkien – but that means orcs aren’t an Evil Race, they’ve just got an Evil Society. I’d love to see an orc intellectual philosophy movement. :-)

  12. Ya, that’s one thing I have against games, though I enjoy playing them, I can’t help but look at all the characters and thinking; “But what are their motives?” I think it’s extremely important that everyone has motives. I like the stories where you can see the background of even the ‘bad guy’ then the good guy might still go ahead and kill him/her but you realize that they DID have a reason for doing what they did, rather it was a good reason or not.

    Love the podcast. Thanks.

  13. @Michael: “blow your brains out?” Really?

    We explain action scenes without making you want to sit on the edge of your seat. We explain horror without scaring you. We explain romance without turning you on. Why should humor be any different?

    You can’t explain jokes, that immediately kills all the humor. either you are funny or you are not. if you are not, don’t write comedy. no more instruction needed.

    That’s false, and patently so, and most successful humorists will tell you the same. It’s also horrible, horrible advice. Writing humor is just like writing anything else that evokes emotion. You can learn it, you can learn to get better at it, and under the right circumstances you can teach it.

    We humorists carefully examine our work, we share tips with each other, we analyze the heck out of what we’re doing. We argue about it, sure, the same way epic fantasy writers might argue about the role Magic should play in their books. But ultimately we pursue it with the aim of getting better at it.

    Now, making the explanation of a joke funny in and of itself, that’s a real trick.

  14. Thanks for doing an episode on writing humor. I think that it’s an under-examined element because there is an assumption that people are either funny or they are not. In fact it’s a skill that can be learned.

    I was thinking about the difference between parody and satire as the show explored.

    The answer that I came up with is that parody is satire done in the voice of the thing that is being mocked. It is an adherence to a form to make fun of that form.

    Weird Al is the king of the parody song, and his best tunes are the ones that contrast content and form. Like a hip-hop song called “White and Nerdy.”

    When parody is done well it can be even more effective than good satire. For example Stephen Colbert often makes fun of Glenn Beck, but Jon Stewart’s impersonation garnered much more audience and critical attention. In part because Stewart sounded like Beck but his own credibility helped highlight the fact that Beck has none.

    To sum up my definition of the difference I say:

    Doing a send-up of Shakespeare as a sonnet is parody. Doing it as a haiku is just weird.

  15. I would be interested to hear a more fleshed out reason for your opinion of Douglas Adams. This is the first time I’ve encountered the opinion that Adams told jokes at the expense of his characters. Not only do I completely disagree, I am also shocked to hear this stance coming from professional writers.

    Especially in comparison to Terry Pratchett, I felt Adams crafted a well developed and multi-faceted core cast that behaved in a consistent and genuinely humorous manner. Pratchett’s characterizations seemed to lack the same depth and derived humor from their whimsy, rather than a solid comedic foundation.

    Please don’t misunderstand this to mean I do not enjoy Pratchett. The Discworld novels are a fun romp, but are outclassed in every sense by Douglas’s Guide books.

    I would love to see the examples from the texts from which the hosts draw their opinion.

    (…and just by the by, I like the show’s content, but its audio quality is extremely inconsistent. Hope that can be improved.)

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