Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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The lighter side of SFF

Here’s a very timely topic from SF Signal: various authors sharing their choices for “lighter” SFF novels, including incidentally Ursula Vernon.

Also Melinda Snodgrass, whose choices I vehemently disagree with; Mari Ness, whose reviews of classics like 101 Dalmatians can be found at tor.com; and plenty of others.

Now, me, I think of “lighter” SFF not just as stories with happy endings; not even as low-tension stories with happy endings; but as, you know, light. In tone, if not necessarily in topic.

In other words, I think of Terry Pratchett, whom incidentally not a single person mentioned in this post, an inexplicable omission. Am I off base here? Do you or do you not agree that Terry Pratchett’s books should be included in a list of “the lighter side of SFF,” even though his themes were often serious?

I also think of Edith Friesner and Gail Carriger — both appear on Kay Kenyon’s list

Mari Ness mentions Douglas Adams — of course! I should have thought of him, too — and, for something a little different, Sorcery and Cecelia. That’s an interesting choice and suggests to me that she is defining “lighter” not just as humorous, but also as . . . maybe comfort reads? I agree with the choice, and in fact another contributor, Valerie Valdes, also mentions another one by Patricia Wrede, Marelon The Magician.

Ursula Vernon goes for Robin McKinley, Juliet Marillier, and Iva Ibbotson — she’s looking mainly for happy endings, but also for comfort reads.

Anyway, this is an interesting set of suggestions that imo range overall from Definitely Light to Definitely Not Light. I mean, I mentioned above that I don’t agree with Melinda Snodgrass’s choices. She actually recommends The Thousand Names by Wexler, and while I totally agree this is a wonderful book and the start of an excellent series and should be widely recommended . . . light? Really? Enjoyable I will grant you, but definitely not light.

Participants also mention TV shows, anime, and games, none of which I know much about, so if you’re interested in any of those suggestions, click through and check out the post. I will say that the artwork of Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju looks beautiful.

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7 Comments The lighter side of SFF

  1. Elaine T

    Definitely Pratchett. Wrede, too. Not always humorous as Pratchett, but there’s a quality of ‘angst? angst? what a waste of time.” that makes for a lighter sort of read, and sometimes ridiculous situations. There are some others along that line where it’s more a tone than what is actually happening on page, like Corwin’s dry narration of the first Amber books.
    Charming by Elliot James has that, or the Lady Trent novels.

    I’m trying to think of others that I go back to for lightness and would add Diana Wynne Jones, and in certain moods Anderson’s Three Hearts Three Lions and High Crusade, but that’s about it. I haven’t been picking up officially humorous books, I think, beyond Pratchett.

    Ursula Vernon’s Beauty & the Beast story (under the T. Kingfisher name) had it.

  2. SarahZ

    Wrede’s Dragons series, especially.

    Also, Adam Rex’s The True Meaning of Smekday. It’s a kids’ book, but excellent, nonetheless, and very funny.

  3. Kootch

    Totally agree with you that Django Wexler’s “The Shadow Campaigns” books are wonderful but definitely not light. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s “Good Omens” is delightfully light. Also the Jhereg novels by Steven Brust. Ok, there’s killings and tragedy and such but the whole delivery is light. Agree on Gail Carriger and Douglas Adams. Also Lois McM B’s “A Civil Campaign”. And since tv shows were also mentioned, I’d include “Firefly”.

  4. Rachel

    “Firefly” is probably my favorite tv show ever, but I’m not sure I’d call it light. Even though there’s lots of humor.

    Steven Brust’s Taltos series, definitely, at least some of it. The wiseass delivery and the caper type of story add up to light. Actually, the Amber books are kind of similar as far as the tone of the protagonist.

  5. pete mack

    Connie Willis “To say nothing of the Dog” and many short stories (All about Eve, DA, etc.)

  6. Kim Aippersbach

    The True Meaning of Smekday! Brilliant! So funny. I also second To Say Nothing of the Dog: just a delight.

    Everything I’ve read by Tanya Huff is a hoot: great escapist action sci fi and fantasy that’s really funny.

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