I did a stand-up routine about Time Travel.
My thoughts on the intersection of sci-fi and satire + A poll to help shape the future of this newsletter.
I became a member of #brightclub recently (check the hashtag out on twitter) and did a standup comedy set about time travel. Quite a bit of my set was inspired by stories I’m writing for Earthloop and Seven Stories about Time Travel, so everything overlaps.
A look inside the dream factory
You might not expect a Science Fiction author to turn his books into silly jokes about going back in time to un-ruin a first date, but that’s what I do. The comedy informs the stories, and the stories inform the comedy. Lax Morales, by far my most popular character from a serious universe, started out as a character in a joke I was writing about sci-fi tropes. The only thing which stayed was his name and his fondness for unusual suits.
In the first (unreleased) story he featured in, he choked on some seafood, the sound of which activated a voice-activated interdimensional portal. This story was later replaced with the one where a little boy called God creates and torments little wooden humans. Tin foil Tim survived both cuts, becoming another beloved fan favourite.
One of the highlights of the night was my sci-fi comedy pal Grant Curnow telling me he really admired how many dense, sciency jokes about predestination I managed to wrap around my set. I was recognised, I became a comedian on that night. A real boy.
It’s very nice to be part of something so prestigious as Bright Club. To do a bad job of explaining it, it is comedy for people who are experts in their field.
Naturally, I signed up as an expert in TIME TRAVEL IN FICTION.
Interestingly, I had to do a bit of time travel to even get there.
I signed up in November 2022 after watching Grant perform with his partner ‘mini dalek’. Watching Bright Club convinced me that there was a space for me somewhere. That comedy was an art where I wouldn’t have to sand my edges down. I could be weird.
When I initially signed up, I told them “I don’t have a PHD in this timeline but in another one I did” because I was fully convinced Bright Club only let you in if you had a PHD. I have no idea where I got this idea from.
My PHD, if I got it, was going to be on
THE EXISTENTIAL IMPLICATIONS OF TIME TRAVEL IN FICTION.
And it was going to be about all the types of time travel, what they mean, how they work, and what they imply for free will, human relationships, and the nature of reality. I didn’t get on it, but I did write some of it.
And I will publish it some day. Here, I promise.
Anyway, Bright Club.
Among others, my comedian pals for the evening included a retired Dentist (who has a death metal song named after him) and a bird researcher. That means something different in Liverpool, but this guy actually researches birds. So I now know how to relax a chicken.
There is a lot of material still unmined in the time travel genre, which is amazing to think about considering it is likely the oldest trope of sci-fi. I’m covering a lot of ground with the upcoming SSATT, but comedy is a valid way to tackle time travel too. The new version of my short story Whale borrows a bit of my sense of humour to balance out the sheer existential dread that surrounds the rest of the story. The froglike alien trader Duran and his catlike crewmembers provide some much needed comic relief right before we bring a fossilised astronaut back to life and tell her she’s the last human.
It’s all about balance.
I want to know your thoughts.
But not in the weird, AI brain scan way.
My final thought here is an artistic one. As a Science Fiction author and Comedian, I am wondering which way to go with my comedy content.
Right now, my comedy is an optional subletter on this Substack. But I’ve seen some people do straight comedy on their Substacks with some success. I am wondering, should I move my comedy content to its own separate newsletter to give both my serious and my silly work a chance on their own?
My options are as follows.
Make the comedy content a built-in part of this newsletter. This means it is opt-out, not opt-in.
Keep it as an optional part of this newsletter. People opt in when they sign up, or when they click the comedy tab. It will come with numerous warnings, like a bottle of cartoon poison.
Move the comedy content over to a separate Substack entirely. Give it more room to get darker and weirder.
For clarity, someone once described me at a gig as “Like Frankie Boyle but for Sci-Fi Poetry” and that was the happiest moment in my life, and I got engaged once to a human I liked.
My vote right now is on 2, but increasingly I am feeling I might not be able to get away with doing both in the same place. My most recent comedy post, about Lana Del Rey and the end of the world, was pretty tame compared to what I’m cooking right now. Sometimes I think about voting for 3, then worry I might be spreading myself too thin, but I have so many ideas for satire articles my comedy document is 20,000 words long. Hmm.
What do you think?
As always, thanks for your input. By the time this newsletter goes out I will be getting ready for another comedy night. This time, I’m not taking notes.
I might even be hosting it.
Let’s see how that goes.
See you in the next post, which will be EARTHLOOP, S1E1.
The bit after the end.
So I am a comedian who writes science fiction.
Or an author who does comedy.
Depends on your perspective.
If it interests you, you can read an expanded, funnier version of this post on my comedy Patreon. The post is free.
The reason I have a comedy Patreon is because it works better for performance work. It is optimised for video content, and has integrations with Discord, where I plan to host online stand-up comedy nights.
The paid tiers are going to be filled with so much weird comedy content that it would be inappropriate to put it here, which is why it’s separate. So if you want to see the guy who wrote Mycelial screaming at an egg or pretending to be a spider pretending to be David Bowie, you know where to be.
I’m going to walk around with a QR code for the Patreon stuck to my chest at gigs, because people keep offering to buy me drinks after, but I don’t much like drinking any more and I have heating to pay for. A £7 cocktail would warm my house up for about half a minute, during which I could write a mean tweet. I think this works.
Phillip Carter is an author, comedian, actor, gaming content creator, t-shirt designer, Lego Artist, book cover artist, publisher, narrator, and some other things. You’ll mostly find free short stories here on Substack, but very soon there will be a whole website dedicated to making sense of whatever it is he is doing at any particular moment in time. You can find him as Realphillipcarter pretty much everywhere.
On instagram, where he posts silly videos
On twitch.tv, where he says silly things, reads stories, and plays Minecraft
On Patreon, where he posts jokes and exclusive videos
Right here on Substack, Phillip is an author. And by subscribing, you will always get one short story or chapter, for free, each month.
I voted! I voted! Remember I get easily overwhelmed though so take it with a spoonful of sugar.
In one universe, the first rule of Bright Club is... you do not talk about Bright Club. You broke the rule so the goon squad has been dispatched with orders to tickle you until you throw up a hairball.
In an alternate universe, Bright Club is called Heat Club. And the first rule of Heat Club asserts that if heat is recognized as a form of energy, then the total energy of a system plus its surroundings is conserved; in other words, the total energy of the universe remains constant.