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Science fiction and fantasy novels can both make for some fantastic escapism, but lately it feels like many authors feel the need to prove themselves as “serious” writers. This is great in some ways–after all, it’s nice to know that your favorite genre also has serious literary merit. At the same time, sometimes you just want to kick back with a fun book.
Fortunately, there are several authors who thumb their noses at being taken seriously. These authors can still tell a fantastic story with serious themes, they just have a little more fun while they’re doing it. This isn’t a list of every humorous sci-fi and fantasy author, just a few of my favorites.
1. Douglas Adams
Perhaps the best-known author on this list, Douglas Adams wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This book kicked off the series which would go on to number five volumes written by Adams. While fans will likely never agree on which is the best, there’s a general consensus as to which isn’t the best: the final volume, Mostly Harmless.
Adams also wrote Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and sequel The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul which are brilliant. Both this series and the Hitchhiker’s series are monstrously funny, and should be the first stop for any sci-fi fan with a sense of humor.
2. Terry Pratchett
On of the easiest ways to describe Terry Pratchett, known best for the Discworld series, is “like Douglas Adams but with fantasy instead of sci-fi.” The only problem is that this is entirely wrong. Like Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett was British, a fantastic writer, and very funny, but his style isn’t similar to Adams at all!
While Adams made it to roughly eight books counting the Hitchhiker’s and Dirk Gently series as well as the posthumous collection The Salmon of Doubt, Pratchett’s output dwarfs this. The Discworld series alone numbers 41 titles, though Pratchett wrote other novels as well. While the Discworld series has its ups and downs (mainly near the beginning and end of the series), I’ve enjoyed every one and laughed out loud multiple times for each book.
Want to get started with Discworld? Check out our article on the best Discworld novels for first-time readers!
3. Christopher Moore
Christopher Moore might at first seem to be an odd entry on this list. Most people may not consider him to be a fantasy author, and I can’t imagine anyone would consider him a sci-fi author. That said, every single one of his books—16 at last count—contains supernatural or otherworldly elements.
Whether it’s vampire couples in San Francisco, sea monsters hiding out as mobile homes, or creatures made out of various taxidermy leftovers with human souls, Moore’s creations often have little to do with the “real world.” The books also happen to be hilarious.
4. Jim C. Hines
Most of the authors on this list lean either towards sci-fi or fantasy (or neither, in the above case). Jim C. Hines is the rare sort that has tackled both and done a great job in both cases. Hines kicked off with the Goblin Quest series before moving on the storybook send-up Stepsister Scheme and its sequels. The Magic ex Libris series (which begins with Libriomancer) stars a librarian who literally pulls spells out of books and has a flaming spider as a companion.
On the sci-fi side, Terminal Alliance kicks off the Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series, starring a clean-up team who find themselves the only ones capable of unraveling a galactic mystery.
5. John Scalzi
While Scalzi’s most recognizable series is probably the Old Man’s War series, the biggest reason to include him on this list is Redshirts. If you’ve ever seen more than a few episodes of Star Trek, you likely get the reference that Redshirts is making, and while that book has nothing to do with Star Trek, it has plenty to love for science fiction fans.
Though it has its share of tense moments, the Old Man’s War series isn’t to be missed either.