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Science fiction is serious business. Usually.

After all, science fiction writers are almost always dealing with the fate of the universe, or at least the future of the human race. That's serious stuff. Exploring the unknown. Facing hostile aliens. Dealing with artificial intelligences. Handling nanomachines. Hell, I have my hands full trying to program my DVD recorder.

But science fiction doesn't have to be somber and serious all the time. There's a humorous side to the future, just as there's a humorous side to everything.

Even the saintly Albert Einstein wasn't above cracking a joke now and then. Right after Hiroshima, a reporter asked him, "If World War III is fought with atomic bombs, what weapons will be used in World War IV?" Without missing a beat, Einstein replied, "Spears."

One of science fiction's many wonderful attributes is its ability to make social commentary. In the old, dark days of the Soviet Union I asked a Russian writer if the government in Moscow tolerated science fiction. He told me that the Kremlin didn't mind stories in which the government of Mars, hundreds of years in the future, was composed of bumbling idiots. A similar story about the existing government of the USSR would earn the writer an extended stay in Siberia. Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek in large part because television network executives would allow him to present ideas in a science fiction context that they would never permit in a "realistic" drama.

There's no better way to make social commentary than through humor. You can skewer stuffed shirts and show the ridiculous side of life. You can make your points by making people laugh.

So here's a hatful of stories that look at the funny side of the future: two full-length novels and six shorter works of science fiction. Most of these stories are based on people and situations that I have personally known, although the circumstances have obviously been altered.

If these stories make you laugh, all to the good. But remember, you may be laughing at yourself.

Have fun!

Ben Bova


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