I love speculative fiction—a guaranteed way to anger and alienate me is to write off the genre as childish and, to a work, poorly written. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a sense of humor about my beloved fantasy and science fiction classics; it’s an easy genre to spoof and spoof well. (I direct you to the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, “The Quest of the Delta Knights”.) Today, we’re going to be looking at two books on my reading list that skewer the genre.
How Much for Just the Planet? by John M. Ford
Dilithium. In crystalline form, the most valuable mineral in the galaxy. It powers the Federation’s starships…and the Klingon Empire’s battlecruisers. Now on a small, out-of-the-way planet named Direidi, the greatest fortune in dilithium crystals ever seen has been found.
Under the terms of the Organian Peace Treaty, the planet will go to the side best able to develop the planet and its resourses. Each side will contest the prize with the prime of its fleet. For the Federation — Captain James T. Kirk and the Starship Enterprise. For the Klingons — Captain Kaden vestai-Oparai and the Fire Blossom.
Only the Direidians are writing their own script for this contest — script that propels the crew of the Starship Enterprise into their strangest adventure yet!
When J. J. Abrams’s Star Trek came out, the stalwart Star Trek fandom (the very same that invented slash, by the way; I love my Trekkie foremothers) experienced a population boom. While some old-timers weren’t that happy, most of them were loving and, most importantly, happy to guide the newbies through one of the most time-consuming fandoms known to man. Among that advice? Read this book—it’s hilarious. (Just check out Kirk in a tuxedo on that deliriously eighties cover!)
J. Richard Laredo, writing for the Orion Press, describes it as a “madcap, screwball comedy“, but notes Ford’s science fiction slapstick isn’t up to par with, say, Douglas Adams. Conan Tigard at Reading Review found it hilarious, although he notes that Kirk is a little out-of-character and he wishes that the song lyrics had footnotes denoting the tune.
How Much for Just the Planet? was published in October of 1987.
Mogworld by Yahtzee Croshaw
In a world full to bursting with would-be heroes, Jim couldn’t be less interested in saving the day. His fireballs fizzle. He’s awfully grumpy. Plus, he’s been dead for about sixty years. When a renegade necromancer wrenches him from eternal slumber and into a world gone terribly, bizarrely wrong, all Jim wants is to find a way to die properly, once and for all.
On his side, he’s got a few shambling corpses, an inept thief, and a powerful death wish. But he’s up against tough odds: angry mobs of adventurers, a body falling apart at the seams and a team of programmers racing a deadline to hammer out the last few bugs in their AI.
Mogworld is the debut novel from video-game icon Yahtzee Croshaw (Zero Punctuation). Mogworld is a comic fantasy novel in the tradition of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, with a video-game twist: the main character is a minor character in a massively multiplayer online role-playing game.
I know Yahtzee Croshaw from his work for The Escapist, Zero Punctuation, a weekly series that reviews video games in Yahtzee’s own twisted way. It’s shocking, occasionally tasteless, and utterly hilarious—I always look forward to Wednesday afternoons, when a new episode gets released. The visual gags alone are worth the price of admission (which would be free). It’s definitely not for the children in any way, shape, or form, however. I saw Mogworld in bookstores before I put two and two together, and now I can’t wait to get my hands on it—in fact, it’s one of the rare books I would purchase sight unseen. In fact, I have to—neither of my library systems has it.
Graeme at Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review found it funny and enjoyable, but noted the accessibility problem—this is for people who have at least played an MMORPG like World of Warcraft. Chris Greenland, writing for the Tor.com blog, found it hilarious but also found the “twist” (spoiled on the back cover) frustrating, as we have to wait for Jim to discover it.
Mogworld was published on September 14, 2010.