Mannerpunk

I’ve written a piece on mannerpunk, or fantasy of manners fiction, for Deletion, the open access online forum in science fiction studies.

Check out an excerpt below, and read the full article at the link.

With its fetishization of social hierarchies, at first blush mannerpunk, more commonly known as “fantasy of manners” fiction, seems incompatible with a punk aesthetic. One online reviewer writes: “Basically, if you can stick ‘Jane Austen meets X’ in front of your story proposal, it’s got a good chance of being Mannerpunk” (Romano, 2016). Grouping her writings together with the wildly diverse work of Gail Carriger, Cherie Priest, and Sherwood Smith, M.K. Hobson identifies the genre as “[p]aranormal romantic historical fantasy tinged with the Victorian” (Hobson, 2009). Although many mannerpunk novels contain little romance, melodrama, or physical description (Priest’s work is a key example), in the comments Sherwood Smith suggests that Hobson is in fact “describing […] what was called Mannerpunk ten years ago” (Hobson, 2009).

Given the incredibly varied body of texts labelled “mannerpunk”, it would be unfair to claim any description of the genre is definitive. In fact the very diversity of mannerpunk, and the dismissive way this label is often used by authors and critics, raises some interesting questions. From Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint(1987) to Naomi Novik’s Temeraireseries (2006–2016), this essay briefly explores how mannerpunk plays with the tropes of speculative punk. Can a literature grounded in protocols, etiquette, and social hierarchies even be “punk”? If so, what is it punking?

Read the rest here.