“Humor is hard to write. You have to take it seriously when you’re writing, otherwise the absurd situation isn’t believable,” Jody Lynn Nye said on a snowy Thursday in February a few years back. It was supposed to be a panel of women writers, one of the first panels of Capricon that year. However, due to the weather, we only had Nye and it became a session of “about Jody Lynn Nye as an author.” It was fascinating, and I often remember her words on both humor and believability.
It’s the humor portion that applies today to The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones. This slim volume is essentially a glossary of fantasy tropes. Not only is it hilarious, but the more I read the more I thought “oh man, that’s this book! And this other book! And how did I not notice this before?” Some items appear to be references to specific books, but my feeling is that I only perceive them that way due to not having read other books using the same device. Below is a sample entry:
CAPITAL LETTERS (cliche) at the beginning of words are used liberally by the Management according to Rules that transcend human understanding and may under no circumstances be questioned (see TABOO).
The entries are listed in alphabetical order, separated by letter, and may have icons indicating pertinent information about them. Some icons include Person, Landmark, Magic, and Cliche. Any separate entries cited will be listed in all caps the first time they appear, and any common phraseology will be shown in italics with a note that it’s an Official Management Term. These are things such as AMBUSHES being in a rocky defile or places being shrouded in MIST.
It’s books like this, which completely lack disagreeable children, that remind me why I do like Diana Wynne Jones. It is a shame that she passed away in 2011 after a long illness, but her work will live on. I haven’t yet read everything she produced in her life, so there is more to look forward to.
That and the three books I bought today. Of the seven places at the flea market selling books (yes, I counted), only one had a decent sci-fi/fantasy section. All used, but I like it better that way. If they’re new, well, I have B&N giftcards to use. I found three books I hadn’t known before, though one appears to be a sequel. I don’t mind holding off until I manage to get a copy of the first book – again, it’s not like I don’t have plenty to read.
For those of you trying to keep track, I brought eleven books on vacation. I have thus far read six books and purchased four, and so I have nine unread books with me. There’s going to be a long car ride tomorrow (four hours give or take) and another on Monday, so I’ll be taking several books with me for the weekend. Not all nine, because even I don’t read that fast and I’ve already been informed that I’m baking as soon as we arrive tomorrow. Plus family. Lots of family. Like almost all of my mom’s siblings and a bunch of my dad’s relatives that I see infrequently.