Fantasy of manners

Posts such as this one from sartorias, as well as links to descriptions of the Worldcon fantasy of manners panel have me wanting to do a post about why fantasy of manners tends to be something I avoid, as a writer and often as a reader, in spite of many people I respect writing there. Only my thoughts aren’t quite coherent on this. Some analysis of my own work shows that I don’t tend to write about people navigating the rules of society very much–in my worlds either the society is too broken for playing by its rules (even in an attempt to transform them) to be a functional thing to do, or my protagonists are too stubborn to put in the effort required.

I suspect underlying this is something to do with the fact that I don’t always gracefully work within societal systems, especially when the rules don’t make sense. I do it, when I have to, much of the time–but I apparently want my characters to be able to transcend the things that don’t make sense, rather than to come to any accommodation with them.

Even though in the real world, finding ways to accommodate and navigate societal systems is the more functional thing to do.

Then too, being in a highly mannered world, even in fiction, can be a bit uncomfortable, in the way I imagine being in elfland or at a black tie dinner would make me uncomfortable. Because I know instinctively that I wouldn’t be one of the cool clever people in the cool fashionable clothes. I’d be the one to show up in the wrong shoes, fall tongue-tied when I need a clever reply, spill nectar or tomato sauce on my shirt, and have all the subtle cutting comments being made by those around me go over my head.

The world of manners is an uncomfortable place. I can imagine situations in which protagonists are forced to go there, but it seems more fun to write about the ones where they’re not.

Maybe I just need to find a society whose rules interest me enough to focus on them from within.

Interesting things to ponder. And I’m sure I’ll find all sorts of exceptions to all the generalizations I’ve just made about my own stories once I log off. 🙂

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