Sometimes Humour is Serious

Before the pandemic started (and my brain could words), I really enjoyed participating in Twitter writers chats. They’re pretty fun. Often, the first question asked is our name and the genre we write in. I almost always write something like this:

Hi, I’m Cait (like cat). I’m a humorist who writes space opera with aliens and dessert…

And this is true. I identify as a humorist who primarily uses the genre of space opera as her vehicle for writing adventures for my aliens. In my short fiction, however, I write in many genres. I discovered I could actually do this when invited to participate in ’Nathan Burgoine’s flash fiction challenge in 2018. He noted how humour gets injected into all my stories, regardless of the genre.

While I love being fun, I don’t always write lighthearted stuff. I am Irish by citizenship and culture, and I think I’ve adopted the tradition of exploring serious themes while weaving humour into the plotlines. Also, my young autistic brain growing up was always drawn to comedians and hilarious characters in fiction. Snark hooked me right in. I read MAD magazine religiously and repeatedly.

During my life, I’ve been confronted with pretty difficult trials. Humour has always been a way to help me gain power during a struggle, to lift myself out of the trenches, and/or to overcome gaslighting and ableism.

This is reflected in my writing as well. While I love when people say they have laughed heartily at the comedic elements in my work, I feel especially good when readers also notice that humour is not the only element there.

Life is full of nuance.

Even when I read works that aren’t my own, like the stories in the Nothing Without Us anthology, I don’t consider that collection something to be labelled under Humour, even though several stories use humour really well. Because I’m immersed in disabled and autistic culture, I know how strong a role humour plays in our daily lives. For some of us, it keeps us from head-desking into another dimension.

What I find to be a crying shame is when those of us who are humour authors are typecast as “vacuous.” I don’t know how many times people have thought I’m not serious enough. Could write music to it, really, and call the album: Do Your Feet Hurt When You Jump to Conclusions? When I think about all the hardships I have survived in my life, I know I can feel as serious as a stroke. Even to this day, I manage situational depression and anxiety. I also have to deal with pain 24/7. And don’t get me started about being autistic around neurotypical perceptions. Eeesh.

And I’m not alone. How many times have we noticed comedians who have admitted they deal with mental health challenges? They live with it perhaps daily in some cases and are still so bloody funny. I can’t speak for everyone, but for me humour doesn’t cure, but it lessens the sting so I can face hardships and get the help I need. It’s a respite. When I can laugh, even using twisted humour with my BFF who gets me and won’t make The Face™, then I know I’ll eventually be okay.

In my book The Stealth Lovers, Xax is reflective of me, in a way. He’s always got a quip or funny remark at hand. But when a longtime life goal of having a family gets quashed, two souls call him out. They tell him his humour is his greatest asset, but he shouldn’t use it against himself. I wrote that to remind me (and perhaps others like Xax and I) to reach out when in pain and not cover it up with jokes. Xax is probably my funniest character. Or least he’s the most fun to write. But he’s not one dimensional. Humorous people rarely are.

I’m not exactly sure why I’m writing this post. Maybe I just wanna share how I feel about my fellow comedic authors. Maybe I just want to let colleagues know not to make us into living tropes. There’s more to us than the ha-ha-ha.

We might be funny because things have been far too serious for us.

Black and white photo of Cait Gordon

Cait Gordon is a disability advocate who wants everyone to be wise and prevent the spread of COVID-19!

She’s also the author of Life in the ’Cosm and The Stealth Lovers. When Cait’s not writing, she’s editing manuscripts and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She also teamed up with Kohenet Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the Nothing Without Us anthology (now a 2020 Prix Aurora Award nominee) in an attempt to take over the world.

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