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The Wizards of Odd
edited by Peter Haining
Ace Books, 347 pages

The Wizards of Odd
Peter Haining
Peter Haining is the author of numerous non-fiction works related to SF along with editing a large number of anthologies.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

Comedy is one of the most difficult things to write. What one person finds funny, another might find trite, tasteless or juvenile. Nevertheless, several SF writers have attempted to incorporate humor into their output over the years. Peter Haining has collected several of their attempts, including many successful ones, into this anthology.

The Wizards of Odd is divided into three sections, examining the use of comedy in three different sub-genres of SF (absurdity, high fantasy and science fiction). The first of these opens with a Discworld story by Terry Pratchett. The last, with a Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's story. Despite the fact that these two authors are probably the best known humorists in the genre, their stories are among the least humorous in the anthology. The Pratchett may be funnier to someone who has grown up with the British (non-televised) comic tradition, but the Adams story is reminiscent of the less successful passages from his novels.

In addition to the obvious choices for inclusion in this anthology (such as Fredric Brown, Reginald Bretnor and Avram Davidson) Haining has also included some authors who may not be known for their sense of humor. For example, anyone who only knows Stephen Donaldson from his Thomas Covenant books might be surprised to discover his comic inclinations in "Mythological Beasts."

Although many of the stories Haining has chosen to include are well known and widely anthologized ("The Twonky," "Poor Little Warrior," "The Gnurrs Come from the Voodvork Out"), the majority will not necessarily be easy to find. Asimov's "Playboy and the Slime God" had been rather rare until it was reprinted recently in the Mike Resnick anthology, Girls for the Slime God.

Perhaps the most successful stories are those which, like Asimov's "Playboy and the Slime God," are parodies on the conventions of science fiction and fantasy. Dick's "Not By Its Cover," a look at the Bible and historical truth, works as well as any other Philip K. Dick story.

Some of these stories, like Reginald Bretnor's "The Gnurrs Come from the Voodvork Out," began the long series of humorous science fiction about Papa Schimmelhorn which, until Haining's book came out, had been sadly out of print.

Of course, an anthology such as this is meant to be dipped into and enjoyed, story by story. Twenty-four different authors are represented in this anthology and at least half should cause the reader to laugh (which half, or more, depends of course on the reader).

Haining did a good job selecting the stories to be included in this anthology. No doubt any reader of the genre could think of several other humorous stories which could just as easily have been included. In England, Haining recently published a sequel to The Wizards of Odd called Flying Sorcerers, which adds to the humorous SF stories compiled in this first anthology.

Table of Contents
Terry Pratchett Theatre of Cruelty
Lord Dunsany How Nuth Would Have Practiced his Art Upon the Gnoles
John Collier Hell Hath No Fury
Henry Kuttner The Twonky
Eric Frank Russell A Great Deal of Power
Ray Bradbury Doodad
Philip K. Dick Not By Its Cover
Ursula K. Le Guin The Rule of Names
Stephen Donaldson Mythological Beast
F. Anstey The Adventure of the Snowing Globe
James Branch CavellAffairs in Poictesme
Fredric Brown The Ring of Hans Carvel
Fritz Leiber The Bait
Robert Bloch A Good Knight's Work
Brian W. Aldiss Poor Little Warrior
Avram Davidson The Odd Old Bird
Douglas Adams Young Zaphod Plays It Safe
H.G. Wells The Wild Asses of the Devil
C.S. Lewis Ministering Angels
Reginald Bretnor The Gnurrs Come from the Voodvork Out
Arthur C. Clarke Captain Wyxtpthll's Flying Saucer
Isaac Asimov Playboy and the Slime God
Larry Niven There's a Wolf in my Time Machine
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. 2BRO2B

Copyright © 1997 by Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He sits on concoms for Windycon, Chicon 2000 and Clavius in 2001 and is co-chair of Picnicon 1998. Steven will be serving as the Programming Chairman for Chicon 2000. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is trying to get his short stories published and has recently finished his first novel. He lives at home with his wife and 3200 books. He is available for convention panels.

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