The Best Sci-Fi Comedy Is Existential

Tom Gerencer’s e book Intergalactic Refrigerator Repairmen Rarely Carry Money features 19 pieces of humorous science fiction. Gerencer selected the tales out of virtually hundreds that he’s created in excess of the previous two a long time.

“If you go to Walmart, and you go into the area with the major Tupperware bins that you can put outfits and stuff in, I would just publish and write and produce, and fill a notebook with shorter stories—or fragments of shorter stories—and then I would set them into the bin, and then I would fill another notebook and set that in the bin, and fill a different notebook, and now I have five or six bins in the basement, and there are several bins that I lost at some level,” Gerencer suggests in Episode 473 of the Geek’s Information to the Galaxy podcast. “It is unquestionably an avalanche of terms.”

With titles like “Trailer Trash Savior” and “Apocalyptic Nostrils of the Moon,” you may possibly be expecting the stories to be light-hearted, but Gerencer’s get the job done also has a darkish streak of existential angst, often dealing with queries these kinds of as: How can we be satisfied? Why does the universe exist? Can an standard individual save the globe?

“When I deal with horrifying things on paper, it just comes out funny, which is fine,” Gerencer claims. “It allows me choose a phase back again from my authentic lifestyle and be like, ‘Come on, unwind. Like Bugs Bunny and any individual else in advance of him claimed, ‘Don’t acquire it so very seriously. You’re in no way going to get out of it alive.’”

Gerencer’s existential humor is strongly motivated by writers these as Robert Sheckley and Douglas Adams. “The [Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] trilogy is a person of my favored functions of fiction in the earth,” Gerencer says. “I went and identified the radio drama and listened to that religiously, around and around yet again. I have an autographed duplicate sitting over my desk suitable now. I even went on a form of pilgrimage to the Uk and satisfied Douglas Adams, and interviewed him, and talked to him about his operate.”

Critics often dismiss The Hitchhiker’s Guideline to the Galaxy as simply a sequence of amusing episodes with no greater composition, but Gerencer says that to do so is to overlook the character arc that sees sequence protagonist Arthur Dent outgrow his bafflement at the pointlessness of the universe.

“Arthur lastly learns that what he has to do—the inescapable summary, the place he tends to make this huge selection at the end—is to decide that he does not have to know what’s going on,” Gerencer claims. “He at last gets to a issue wherever he realizes, ‘I’m just going to hang the sense of it all and get pleasure from myself.’ And when he does that he virtually learns how to fly. It’s fantastic. It is so liberating.”

Listen to the entire interview with Tom Gerencer in Episode 473 of Geek’s Tutorial to the Galaxy (above). And test out some highlights from the discussion below.

Tom Gerencer on Mike Resnick:

“He made use of to simply call me ‘genius’ all the time. Any time he talked to me, as a substitute of calling me ‘Tom’ he would just connect with me ‘genius.’ Which was incredibly flattering, but it was also quite overwhelming … It set up this unrealistic expectation in my head, and it set up a large fear in me that I’m in no way heading to be equipped to stay up to what he thinks I am, for the reason that I’m not. And I informed him, ‘I’m not a genius. I publish so substantially, and 99 % of what I write is absolute rubbish, and then I go back again and study by it, and I pull out these gems, and I’m like, ‘Oh, this is very good.’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, but 99 per cent of writers out there don’t know the variation concerning garbage and good creating, and you do. I realize that you write a good deal of garbage, but then you create this superior things, and you are able to go again and determine it as superior things, and that, I believe that, is what does make you a genius.’”

Tom Gerencer on his tale “Electric Fettuccine Sample Case”:

“I was in this Thai restaurant, and I was talking to the owner, who was this terrific guy—he was from Thailand, and he was very funny. I asked him, ‘What’s the offer with this bitter melon? How do you cook it? What do you cook dinner it with to make it not so bitter?’ And he claimed, ‘No, no, no, no. If not bitter, not fantastic.’ And I stated, ‘I do not understand.’ And he mentioned, ‘Because we take in from the yang.’ He experienced a significant smile on his deal with, and I thought, ‘That is so great. They try to eat from the yang.’ He mentioned, ‘You Americans, almost everything has to be sweet or salty or spicy with you. It is just like with your lifestyle, you just cannot cope with any upset. Every thing has to be great or it is not excellent.’ He said, ‘We don’t see points that way. We take in from the yang. You have to solution meals and lifetime the place you also relish the terrible matters.’ And that really strike me.”

Tom Gerencer on character names:

“My very last title is Gerencer, which is Hungarian for ‘smith.’ I was like, ‘As my alter ego, I’m just going to pick Hungarian names.’ But as I started seeking at Hungarian surnames, I was like, ‘You just cannot pronounce any of them.’ I just can’t pronounce my possess surname thoroughly. When I went to Hungary to check out, they corrected me incessantly on my surname, and I could not get it proper. So alternatively than do that, which nobody would be ready to get a take care of on, I imagined, ‘Well, Poland is subsequent door. Everyone knows what a Polish surname is. I’m just going to appropriate that, and every time I have to arrive up with a character, fairly than making an attempt to feel really hard about it, I’m just heading to set some type of Polish surname on this human being.’”

Tom Gerencer on his tales “The Third Story” and “Pizza Hell”:

“I was like, ‘Those stories had been so awesome, and I just took it for granted that I continue to had them, but I dropped them, and that is so unhappy to me.’ They had by no means been printed, but I definitely appreciated them. I lastly uncovered this 3.5-inch floppy disk, and I was like, ‘I speculate if they could be on there?’ I seemed on Amazon and noticed that I could get a floppy disk travel, so I acquired one particular. I truly had about eight floppy disks, and I went by way of each and every of them, and most of them didn’t even work. Just one of them labored, and I did not obtain anything, but I copied every little thing off on to a typical really hard drive. I was like, ‘I just cannot believe that this is a 30-12 months-old floppy disk and it operates.’ I had accomplished a file lookup and [the stories] didn’t pop up, and then I just started off going via manually and scrolling by way of all the folders, and I identified both of those of them. I was surprised.”

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