Five Very Quick Tips For Writing Sci-Fi Comedy

2016 Artwork Sci Fi Comedy article sketch

Well, although it’s been a long time since I last wrote any sci-fi comedy, I was reminded of this amazing genre a few months ago by the Christmas episode of “Doctor Who”. However, this is a genre that seems to have fallen into obscurity these days – which is a real shame, because it’s amazing.

So, I thought that I’d give you a few very quick tips about how to write sci-fi comedy stories and/or comics.

1) Be A Fan: This goes without saying, but in order to write good sci-fi comedy, you have to be a sci-fi fan yourself. Why? Because one major part of the sci-fi comedy genre is ridiculing and parodying well-known things in the genre. If you don’t have a good knowledge of the genre, then you can’t parody it.

2) Realism: One of the interesting things about the sci-fi genre is that the future is often shown in a fairly stylised and “serious” kind of way. So, one of the easiest ways to add comedy to a sci-fi story is to just add some “realistic” annoyances from everyday life to it.

For example, you could show your characters’ giant interstellar battleship getting a parking ticket when they leave it in orbit around a planet. You could show your main characters receiving spam e-mails on their futuristic computers. I’m sure you get the idea.

For some good examples of this technique in action, check out a classic TV series called “Red Dwarf” or read Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”. Warren Ellis’ “Transmetropolitan” comics are also worth checking out too.

3) Characters: All good comedy relies on character interactions. Generally, the most funny things in the sci-fi comedy genre often include main characters with wildly contrasting personalities. So, give your characters very distinctive personalities and worldviews that clash with each other – and the comedy will pretty much write itself.

To use an example from “Red Dwarf”, a some of the comedy in this TV show comes from the arguments between Dave Lister (a space slacker/drifter who used to be a caretaker on a giant spaceship, before becoming the last surviving human in the galaxy) and his holographic friend Arnold Rimmer (an extremely uptight man who is obssessed with neatness, protocol, rank etc..).

Likewise, you can also add a lot of comedy to your sci-fi story by giving some of your characters a few eccentricities. The trick here is to do this in moderation, since too many eccentricities can make a character seem contrived rather than just amusingly odd.

4) Settings (and other genres): One of the cool things about the sci-fi genre is that you have a lot more settings on offer to you than you do in any other genre.

Want to set part of your story in a desert? Then just have your characters travel to a desert planet for some reason. Want to set part of your story in the Roaring Twenties? Just have your characters travel back in time or use some kind of virtual reality program.

In other words, one of the strengths of sci-fi comedy is that you can also use it to parody a whole host of other genres, rather than just the sci-fi genre.

5) Backstory: Like with the fantasy genre, science fiction stories are set in a world totally unlike our own. As such, the writer often has to explain a lot of new things to the reader. Usually, the best sci-fi stories do this in a fairly subtle way (eg: explaining what a futuristic gadget does by simply showing one of the characters using it etc..)

However, sci-fi comedy is one genre where a certain amount of essay-like exposition is allowed. As long as it’s funny. In fact, this is one of the classic features of the genre. So, when you come up with new locations, gadgets etc… then think of an amusing backstory for them.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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