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Comic Inferno

Entry updated 26 July 2021. Tagged: Theme.

A more or less self-explanatory item of Terminology coined by Kingsley Amis in New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction (1960), describing sf which cheerfully extracts Satire or outright black Humour from a scenario rooted in Dystopia. Examples cited by Amis include Anthony Boucher's "Barrier" (September 1942 Astounding as "The Barrier"), Frederik Pohl's "The Midas Plague" (April 1954 Galaxy), Robert Sheckley's "A Ticket to Tranai" (October 1955 Galaxy) and William Tenn's "Null-P" (January 1951 Worlds Beyond). Further stories can easily be added to the list, such as Sheckley's "Pilgrimage to Earth" (September 1956 Playboy as "Love, Incorporated") and Tenn's "The Liberation of Earth" (May 1953 Future Science Fiction)

Brian W Aldiss appropriated the term for just such a story in "Comic Inferno" (February 1963 Galaxy), and James Blish adopted its critical use in The Issue at Hand (coll 1964) as by William Atheling Jr, which suggests that Anti-Utopia, Dystopia and Comic Inferno may be used more or less interchangeably. John T Sladek also made frequent use of the comic-inferno form; several of Richard Condon's Near Future novels can be described as being set in comic infernos. [DRL]

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