When I reviewed Unidentified Funny Objects 2 last year, I was so focused on it being my first exposure to a kickstarter funded project that I failed to point out Editor Alex Shvartsman’s more groundbreaking accomplishment. Unidentified Funny Objects is science fiction and fantasy’s very first annual humor anthology series. While this may or may not seem like much of a milestone to you, I think it is something that humorous SF/F fans should celebrate.
If you’ve read either of the previous editions, then you already have a fairly good idea of the range of stories that you will find in Unidentified Funny Objects 3. Roughly half are SF and the other half are on the more fantastic side. There are a wide variety of creatures to satisfy a full spectrum of speculative tastes, including aliens, vampires, superheroes, robots, zombies, angels, jinn, a mermaid and more. The authors represented include some of the biggest names in the business, some lesser known writers, and one making his first professional sale. And while it may be the child in me that cares about such things, Barry Munden returns to provide amusing interior illustrations.
The humor is predominantly light-hearted, ranging from subtle situational comedy to outright puns. Given the variety of styles, you are bound to find something that will tickle your funny bone. But that also means that unless you have a broad taste in humor, some of these are bound to miss the mark. However, even in cases where I felt the laughs didn’t quite materialize, the stories still managed to entertain.
There are twenty-three stories in all. Two of them are reprints, the rest are original to the anthology. Regular readers of Scide Splitters will know that I try to keep my story descriptions spoiler free:
“On the Efficacy Of Supervillain Battles In Eliciting Therapeutic Breakthroughs” by Jim C. Hines – In the same milieu as Hines’s “Stranger vs. the Malevolent Malignancy” appearing in UFO 2. No familiarity with the previous story is required. Jarhead, beheaded superhero turned psychiatrist, is counseling Puff, a half-teenage girl, half- blowfish suffering from anxiety and depression. Puff’s villainous creator is out of prison and trying to wrest custody away from her adoptive superhero parents. Fun superhero stuff.
“The Right Answer” by James A. Miller – After his wife cheats on him and leaves him, a man gets drunk and wanders onto his patio only to find an alien offering humanity advanced technologies so long as the man can convince the alien that humans are worthy of the gift. The author’s first professional sale.
“The Gefilte Fish Girl” by Mike Resnick – A Jewish man tries to explain to his mother that he is engaged to a mermaid. Reprint from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Resnick manages to mimic the characteristic Jewish mother voice for some good chuckles.
“Master Of Business Apocalypse” by Jakob Drud – A secret organization, long responsible for saving the world from all manner of apocalypses, gets a new cost-cutting CEO.
“Carla At The Off-Planet Tax Return Helpline” by Caroline M. Yoachim – IRS helpline transcripts dealing with esoteric questions like how to report sentient currency and how to file as a Borg-like collective.
“Why I Bought Satan Two Cokes On The Day I Graduated High School” by Nathaniel Lee – A soon to be high school graduate must decide where his allegiances lie, with the angels or with Satan. I didn’t find this one particularly funny, but it was interesting non-the-less.
“Company Store” by Robert Silverberg – A would be colonist on an uninhabited planet must contend with a desperate robot salesman and the contract he signed before coming to the planet. One of the two reprints, long out of print in English, but once quite popular in Soviet Russia. In fact, you can find an animated short of this story in Russian on YouTube (impossible to follow if you don’t know Russian). I got some good laughs out of this one. One of my favorites.
“The Door-To-Door Salesthing From Planet X” by Josh Vogt – A short and funny story about a highly motivated alien salesthing (the collar around its neck will explode if it doesn’t make a sale soon) trying to sell something to an old lady.
“Picture Perfect” by Matt Mikalatos – Isaac Van Helsing, a vampire featured in previous UFO volumes (familiarity with those stories not necessary) is tracked down by a pun loving truancy officer and forced to go to high school.
“The Discounted Seniors” by James Beamon – A horny old man who can’t afford the premium services at his assisted living center receives a lifelike robot in the exact image of his son.
“That Must Be Them Now” by Karen Haber – An entertaining and well told tale of a young alien male hoping to make a name for himself in the salvage business by being the first to make contact with a newly discovered intelligent species.
“Notes To My Past and/or Alternate Selves” by Sarah Pinsker – An evolving laundry list of notes to self involving a time machine and genetic experiments with Kudzu.
“The Real and the Really Real” by Tim Pratt – Reminiscent of a Philip Dick type exploration into the nature of reality with a hint of Vonnegut’s Dwayne Hoover (Breakfast of Champions). A man is convinced that he is the only real person in the world and everyone else is robots.
“Into the Woods, With Zombunny” by Camille Griep – The day is not going well for a medieval squire after he is fired for losing the battle flag, and then fatally shot with an arrow. It looks like the end for him until a scraggly looking bunny comes hopping along. A zombie fairytale.
“Live At the Scene” by Gini Koch – Probably my favorite story in the anthology. A hilarious lampoon of news broadcasters covering the arrival of mysterious floating lights in the sky. Koch captures the inane smiling babble perfectly and plays out the situation to great comic effect.
“The Newsboy’s Last Stand” by Krystal Claxton – The last of the newsboys (a sort of town crier), now a man, has nothing to read to the people but bad news day after day. Then a young girl asks if there isn’t any good news. Well told in a fairytale sort of way. Touching, but not particularly funny.
“The Full Lazenby” by Jeremy Butler – In a future in which a close genetic match to a famous person can bring fame and fortune, a college dropout finds out he is an almost exact match for George Lazenby (played James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). But there are also matches for Bond villains. Complete with Bond-like corny one liners.
“Do Not Remove This Tag” by Piers Anthony – A man releases a genie trapped in a mattress for 3,000 years. The man saves himself from the genie’s wrath by offering to show him how to get along in modern society.
“Super-Baby-Moms Group Saves the Day!” by Tina Connolly – A back and forth series of messages between mothers whose children attend a preschool that has a special program for children gifted with super powers.
“The Choochoomorphosis” by Oliver Buckram – Kafka’s Gregor Samsa is recast as waking up to find himself as a sort of Thomas the Tank Engine. But the cutesy child environment is twisted with sexual overtones and even more bizarre things.
“The Fate Worse Than Death” by Kevin J. Anderson & Guy Anthony De Marco – A vampire wakes to find a geeky fanboy has penetrated his impenetrable defenses. Many aspects of vampire mythology are creatively reinterpreted with amusing effect.
“Elections at Villa Encantada” by Cat Rambo – The supernatural residents of Villa Encantada prepare for a coming meeting of the condo home-owners association.
“Infinite Drive” by Jody Lynn Nye – Nye’s detective with an alien implanted in her peritoneum returns (again, familiarity with the previous story in UFO 2 not necessary). This time she investigates another skyscraper mystery after a man drives a sports car into a 300th floor penthouse swimming pool and vanishes – car and all. Good stuff.
Overall I felt that this year’s selection fell a little short of last year’s in the laugh department. But considering that I voted for UFO 2 as the top anthology in the Locus Poll, the bar was set high and you should not be discouraged from supporting and enjoying SF/F’s only humor annual. Technically slated for an October 1st release, Unidentified Funny Objects 3 should be shipping any day now. Do yourself a favor and enjoy some good laughs.