Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I got interested in a pseudo-genre known as "mannerpunk," or "fantasy of manners" The idea is SF, especially Fantasy, that focuses on characters and their social and political relationships. The ideal would be something like Jane Austen meets JRR Tolkien.

I have read lots of SF that focuses on the "what if" aspect of the genre, and more recently lots of SF that focuses on the internal world and thoughts and motivations of the characters, but not as much that focuses on relationships, intrigue, social politics, culture, social constraints, and romance.

Ellen Kushner and Mervyn Peake are two writers who are considered pioneers of the genre. I have been delving into it a bit, but I am looking forward to a lot more.


Tobi Vail said...

hi Slim, thanks for posting. this reminds me that one of the things we had in common when we first met was all the lesbian/feminist sci-fi we had read as kids...also do you remember when a bunch of kids who lived at the Alamo read the whole Incarnations of Immortality series by Piers Anthony? I recently re-read Woman on the Edge of Time and am getting back into Doris Lessing. Did you read the Female Man by Joanna Russ? Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston? All this stuff totally blew my mind in high school. Reading the Harry Potter books was what made me remember I ever read Fantasy/Sci-Fi and enjoyed it --although I consider Harry Potter to be a guilty pleasure, the writing is not actually good, it's like eating a Twinkie or putting sugar in your soda--you feel your teeth rotting but you enjoy the bad feeling you are getting because it's so thrilling you can't stop--I wonder what the equivalent of that is in music...
What's a good "mannerpunk" book to start with?

saralibrarian said...

feminist sci fi reminds me... URSULA K LEGUIN (who doesn't make many public appearances) will be speaking at the washington center in october. this will be a free event. it's a TIMBERLAND READS TOGETHER (TRT) event. the TRT book for this fall is "the wizard of earthsea."

slim moon said...

I did read The Female Man and loved it. I have read a lot of Joanna Russ fiction but none of her academic-looking non-fiction. I also especially loved The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin, and Dance The Eagle To Sleep by Marge Piercy.

Supposedly, the cornerstone "mannerpunk" book is Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner, but I think part of its fame is because she is a longtime host of a public radio (PRI) radio show, which increases her fame maybe beyond what she would otherwise have gotten as an author alone. Swordspoint is a really great love story between two men in a bisexual universe, with lots of dueling and a bit of intrigue, but it really didn't have as much cultural tapestry and social intrigue as I would have liked, so I am kind of still looking....

Fun books that Harry Potter fans might enjoy is a three book series beginning with Sorcery and Cecelia, by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. The books are about the adventures of two young women in an alternate universe that is exactly like the "Regency Period" in England (circa 1811-1820) with the addition of magic.

If I find some better Mannerpunk, I will write an update. It really is a genre that I just have so far dipped my toe into. I like that it is mostly women writers, and many of them have a feminist and/or gay slant, but I still have many books to read before I have formed a complete opinion.

This exploration did lead me to the historical-fiction works of Georgette Heyer and Dorothy Dunnett, who will be the subject of other blog entries.

p.s. for me, a lot of contemporary country is the musical equivalent of the guilty pleasure you are describing - but for a lot of people i think it is other genres of mainstream pop.

Tobi Vail said...

sara, oh wow. well, I'll have to read this ursala k lequin book. i wrote an essay about the (unintentional, internalized) sexism of the dispossessed for a recent class i took, but she always comes up and i base my whole analysis on that one book so i need to read more i think.

slim, i kind of new you'd say new country after i wrote that. i think for me it's commercial top 40 that's overly materialistic and/or sexist but sounds good...curious to hear about your historical fiction reading