I'm again suffering a failure of memory when it comes to the first part of the week. All I can remember is that I went to a presentation on the electronic filing system that the local federal court is starting on January 1, 2004. Since every time I finish a big motion, I lament the number of trees that have died for it, I'm quite enthused about electronic filing, though I recognize that it will have some bumpy moments.
Friday we drove to Massachusetts, which was unpleasant: very thick fog (read: clouds) in the mountains; highway construction that caused the road to go from three lanes to one just as I came over a little hill, with zero warning (not only that, but then it went back to three lanes for 100 yards and then back down to one!); and my car turns out to be uncomfortably narrow for Chad to sit in over long distances. Got in, said hi to my folks, admired our wedding album that finally arrived (tip: don't wait to order your wedding pictures. Our photographer is apparently teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and for a while it was unclear if we were getting our pictures at all.), fell into bed.
Saturday afternoon we drove into Boston to Socialize with larabeaton, one of her sisters, M.S., and N.S. We had excellent barbecue in Davis Square and then hung out at an Irish pub across the street. There was a very good trio doing live music, and a step dancer who I'm convinced was flying at points. In-between we stopped in at a used bookstore; not much genre fiction, it wasn't that kind of store, but we did see The Prize in the Game shelved under Literature. We re-shelved it in proper alphabetical order after admiring the dedication for a bit.
Sunday we dragged ourselves out of bed early to go to Readercon. The first thing I went to was "The Manner of Fantasy, Amended and Restated," a talk by Donald G. Keller, who coined the term "fantasy of manners" in the early 1990s (and did not coin "mannerpunk", a related term). The works that are probably most-often cited as fantasy of manners or mannerpunk are Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint, the Bordertown shared universe (several anthologies, Will Shetterly's Elsewhere and Nevernever, and Emma Bull's Finder), and Bull's War for the Oaks.
This was interesting because Keller talked first about the structural aspects of the subgenre, which I hadn't thought much about before; I'd primarily used the style as a marker. (Those were, to summarize briefly and possible inaccurately: negotiability and mutability of social structures, e.g., social mobility and disguises such as girl-as-boy and the foolish fop; coming of age; intimacy as a danger, one that the characters recognize yet strive to overcome; the importance of language, especially as manners; mixing of genres.) Keller also suggested that when he wrote the original New York Review of Science Fiction article, he saw that the authors working in the subgenre were of a common generation with common influences, such as Dorothy Dunnett, the Fairport Convention, certain TV shows, etc. (He noted that when he asked some of these authors, they denied reading Dunnett; I asked later, apropos the false fop, if Dorothy Sayers could be an influence. He thought insofar as she was an influence on Dunnett; I am somewhat skeptical that it's only a secondary influence, but that's just a guess.)
[ ETA: I also asked if a happy ending was also a structural feature, as someone had brought up Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as a work that had some similarities, though obviously not stemming from the same cultural sources—because, to my mind, CT,HD doesn't have one. Keller wasn't sure; on second thought, happy endings are common enough that I don't think that they're a useful marker for the genre. ]
Keller thought that fantasy of manners hadn't really grown as a subgenre since he originally wrote his article, possibly because the original authors write very slowly? [This was the point at which I realized just how accurate it is to call Issola a novel of manners. I'm not so quick sometimes.] Some newer authors are writing within the subgenre; he cited Holly Black's Tithe as being similar in plot fixtures (my characterization) to War for the Oaks, and Madeleine Robins' recent Point of Honour, which is apparently Austen noir. (I haven't read either yet, but both are on my list.) And then Buffy came up, about which I have nothing to say as I've never seen it.
Does anyone know of a good reading list for fantasy of manners and mannerpunk? I'd make a stab at one myself tonight, but I'm tired. Maybe I'll try later.
[ Update: here's the second draft of a reading list. ]
I then went to blackholly's reading of a short story, "The Night Market," soon to appear in an anthology called Faerie Reel. I like going to readings at cons, but I think I'd do better sticking to excerpts from longer works, or maybe poetry; I read text so much faster than people talk that I get impatient and start ripping things to pieces in my head as I wait for the next sentence. It's not a way of approaching a text that works for me. That said, as best I could tell it was well-done, interestingly woven with details from Filipino culture, though not of a story pattern that I like.
Thence to the dealer's room, where I bought the Robins novel and two other books someone in the audience recommended to me after the talk, Andre Norton and Rosemary Edgehill's The Shadow of Albion and Leopard in Exile. I'm currently *counts* six books behind on the book log (arrgh), so don't look for a report anytime soon, but they're on the list. Quick lunch with Chad and then off to the panel "Psychology, Myth, and Fantasy," which Chad has already described. My only addition is that the best mis-statement of the weekend came from Delia Sherman, who was wondering animatedly what an awareness of neuropsychology would contribute to fantasy: "We know that we have four arms—"
This panel is also a good example of how I prefer smaller discussions, where you might actually get to say something instead of just muttering to the person next to you, "Middle-aged women's stories? That's Katherine Blake (a.k.a. Dorothy Heydt)'s The Interior Life, isn't it?" and so forth.
Met up with epicyclical and blackholly after the panel, by which time I was more than a little bleary; as a result, I don't remember a heck of a lot of what we discussed: Dunnett, redeemed Draco, [ETA: the vast gaps in Harry Potter canon regarding how magic works,] and, err, stuff. It was nice to meet both of them, even though I was fading fast.
Back to my parents' and saw my aunt and uncle, who were visiting with their shiny Corvette, so we popped the hoods of our respective new cars and had a look. (Mom called to tell me they were coming down with the 'vette, which was initially baffling because I've had our dog search on the brain . . . ) Had a nice visit, then went through all the stuff I still had at home and sorted out what I actually wanted. Stuffed it in the car and headed out. No fog on the drive back, thankfully, and all the worst traffic was going the other way. I was still too fried to write when we got back in.
And yesterday I brought home work, a case that needed to go out this morning (I have emergency duty this week). Hence the update today. And with that I'm going to bed, as I'm still not caught up on sleep.