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Humorous science-fiction series by Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson.

The Hoka are an alien race who are notable for two reasons: First, they look remarkably like living teddy bears. Second, they are entranced by fiction. Give them a story and they will start to live it out, believing (or at least acting) as if they are in it. They have whole cities based on various periods of human history, with Ancient Rome, Victorian England, American Wild West and other places. One of them believes he is Napoleon and has an entire city of Hokas willing to follow him as leader of "France". Actually, a better way of saying it is that their hat is following tropes, as they tend to act out the trope more than reality. Luckily, they are non-violent, so they tend to just fake the wars and other violent parts[1].

Each of the stories features a different story or genre being re-enacted, from The Western to Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. One of the most well-known stories, "The Adventure of the Misplaced Hound", features the Hoka Sherlock Holmes.

In most of the stories, the point-of-view character is Alex Jones, the human ambassador to the Hoka planet, who generally finds himself being the Only Sane Man. His outsider viewpoint, and the fact that unlike his furry charges he's capable of stepping out of the role he's been given, grant him a measure of Genre Savvy, but it doesn't always do him much good.

Tropes used in Hoka include:
  • Baseball Episode: "Joy in Mudville"
  • Blackmail:
    • In "Don Jones", Alex tries to blackmail Terwillinger to agree that both of their irresponsible behaviors should be swept under the rug. Terwillinger says, "Publish and be damned!" Fortunately this inspires Doralene to decide that he's not after all a stuffed shirt and she's in love with him. This inspires him to let Alex off after all.
    • In "The Napoleon Crime", Alex, finding himself cast as the Duke of Wellington, can remember only that he responded with "Publish and be damned!" to a blackmailer. At the end, when a reporter tells him that he can make him look ridiculous, Alex decides not to resist temptation: "Publish and be damned!"
  • Contrived Coincidence: In "Full Pack (Hokas Wild)", three aliens who resemble a tiger, a snake, and a monkey make an unscheduled stop on the Hoka planet right near a bunch of Hokas who are re-enacting The Jungle Book (with humans playing Mowgli and Messua).
  • Could Say It, But...: Alex once explains a story by saying he can't explain because he's unwilling to accuse officials of having swallowed the story of a drunk or possibly deranged individual.
  • Duel to the Death: Once Alex Jones challenged the Pirate Greenbeard to a duel -- when Greenbeard was the persona he adopted to infiltrate the pirates. Staging it behind a wall, he convinced the Hoka pirates that he had actually fought it.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first Hoka story features the Hokas' ancient enemies, the reptilian Slissii. They are never seen again; Alex later explains that they fled the planet.
  • Everything Is Worse With Bears: At least, for your sanity.
  • Feudal Future: On some parts of the Hoka planet.
  • Gargle Blaster: Old Panther Sweat. Made in Montana by Panthers.
  • Heavyworlder: The Brobdingnagian in "The Napoleon Crime."
  • The Infiltration: Alex Jones inflitrates the Hoka Pirates to prevent actual fighting from breaking out.
  • Law of Inverse Recoil: In The Sheriff of Canyon Gulch, Alexander Jones gets in trouble when he assumes that his skill with a laser pistol will translate into skill with a six-shooter. He's never experienced recoil before.
  • Legion of Lost Souls: The Hoka version of the French Foreign Legion includes not only Hokas that want to be Legionnaires, but those who are inspired by certain works of fiction but are unable to get other Hokas to join in.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:

 Alex: I've really begun to wonder if some evil masterminds aren't at work behind the scenes. It's either believe that or believe we're only characters in a series of stories that are being written by a couple of hacks who need the money.

  • Magic Antidote: A "soberpill" removes all intoxication the moment it's swallowed.
  • The Man They Couldn't Hang: You can hang a Hoka, but it won't hurt him (they have unusually strong neck muscles), and he'll consider it all part of whatever fiction is currently being lived out.
  • Napoleon Delusion: One Hoka calls himself Napoleon. For once, Alex feels bound to explain that a sane Hoka can call himself Napoleon. Sane by Hoka standards, anyway.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: In one story, one character describes another as the offspring of a union that the compilers of Leviticus would not have approved of. At another point, Alex swears by apparently saying "Blankety-blanks!"
  • Noble Savage: Once the defeated Slissii realize the associations that come with being labled "injuns" by Wild West-acting Hokas, they milk this trope for all it's worth, to such spectacular effect that they manage to afford being able to hire a bus.
  • One Tex Limit: Not in the Western setting. For the males, anyway, as they have about 20 names between them. The females keep traditional Hoka names, as otherwise they'd all be named "Jane".
  • Only Sane Man: Alex, of course. In at least one story, his wife gets to play the role when Alex is away. Her sanity is tested, though.
  • Planet of Hats: The Hokas have the hat of living out fiction. Some of the other alien races that appear in the stories also have hats.
  • Pirates: But not thieves, mind you. They do take stuff, but they give it all back afterwards.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Played straight in "The Sheriff of Canyon Gulch" (with the other natives of Toka, no less) and "Joy in Mudville" (although that lot are not entirely reptilian); subverted in "Full Pack (Hokas Wild)" with the snakelike Seesis, who turns out to be an innocent hostage - and since the Hokas are acting out The Jungle Book at that point, he's seen as Kaa, the wise old python.
  • Rule of Funny: A lot of the background details.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Doralene, it turns out.
  • Space Pirates: For once, not intentional. They're the Space Patrol -- but have no legal authority.
  • Read It In A Book Once: The basic principle the Hokas operate on.
  • Space Western: The first Hoka story, featuring the Hoka version of the Wild West.
  • Thoroughly Mistaken Identity: In a sense, the Hokas can be considered to be doing this all the time, except that when a Hoka adopts a role, that becomes their real identity for the duration. There's a more clear-cut example in "The Adventure of the Misplaced Hound", where the Hoka Holmes persists in addressing Alex as "Watson", because he needs somebody to be Watson and the real Watson (that is, the Hoka who usually enacts the role) is unavailable.
  • White Man's Burden: Referenced, as humanity has re-embraced the trope as spaceman's burden, trying to uplift every tribal society they come across and make that species as much like humanity as they can. Experience with the Hokas teaches Alex that this might not always be a good idea. Or possible.

Notes

  1. except hangings, which they do with gusto because Hokan neck muscles are much too strong relative to body weight for it to do anything but tingle
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