Fantasy of Manners

One of my writing mentors asked me to pick my favorite genre (fantasy), and having done that, pick my favorite sub-genre (fantasy of manners) and concentrate on writing that. (One of my other writing mentors thinks I should concentrate on self-publishing romance e-books.)

Fantasy of manners stories are set in a Sword & Sorcery, semi-Ruritarian, or High Fantasy world, but not S&S themselves, even if the heroine is a sorceress or takes hiring a swordsman for granted as a normal business expense. They owe as much to Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen as they do to Professor Tolkien or Greek mythology, and have more than a slight reliance on old costume drama movies like The Black Shield of Falworth, Quentin Durward, etc.

My mentor asked me to name ten fantasy of manners books, and explain why they fell into that category.  Here is my homework assignment.
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Curse of Chalion, 2001
Paladin of Souls, 2003
The Hallowed Hunt, 2005
Semi-medieval, court and nobility, deities interactive with humans.
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The Seven Towers, 1984
Semi-medieval setting, kings, wizards, knights, political intrigue, fantastic non sequiturs, noble savage nomads.
Sorcery and Cecilia (with Caroline Stevermer), 1988
The Grand Tour (with C.S.), 2004
The Mislaid Magician (with C. S.), 2006
Fantasy a la Georgette Heyer, a wizard is assumed to be a gentleman unless he proves himself otherwise by his actions.
Mairelon the Magician, 1991
Magician’s Ward, 1997
Fantasy a la Charles Dickens, magic exists, everyone knows that magic is real.  (Same universe as above, but with a different slant.)
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The Marriage Spell, 2006
Fantasy a la Georgette Heyer, magic is real, but not entirely respectable.  (Honestly more fantasy romance than fantasy of manners.)
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Swordspoint, 1987
Haven’t read this one myself.  Swashbuckling.  Aristocracy.
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Stephen Brust                                                                                                                 The Phoenix Guards, 1991

Dumas-esque.  Royal court, vendettas, duels, political intrigue.  Non-humans.

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Barbara Hambly is supposed to be Fantasy of Manners, and there are certainly elements of it in her work, but every single one of her books also fits into other categories.  Those Who Hunt the Night is horror, the Darwath trilogy and the Silicon Mage series are portal fantasies, Bride of the Rat God is urban fantasy/historical fantasy, and The Ladies of Mandrigyn I’d call more heroic fantasy or given Sun Wolf’s character, maybe anti-heroic fantasy.  I’m not sure how to classify Dragonsbane.
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Fantasy of Manners  A Fantasy of Manners book is heir to Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, P. G. Wodehouse, Walter Scott, and Anthony Hope as much (or more) as J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard.  Magic and magical creatures have a smaller role.  The story takes place in society, often High Society, where duels of wits with a boorish baron are more likely than a fight to the death with an axe-wielding dwarf or hungry dragon. Events are small in scale:  if the protagonist fails, it may be a tragedy to her personally, but the world will not end.  It may not even change enough for anyone else to notice (or it may mean the wrong rump sits upon the throne).  It is always witty, and set in a low-tech, hierarchical society.
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Sub-Genres of Fantasy

The late Lin Carter once said of fantasy that any genre so broad as to include both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Dracula needed to be redefined.  My writing mentor suggested that instead of attempting to divide my attention and skills between romance, westerns, SF, and fantasy, that I choose one genre and concentrate on that.  Since Dean Koontz said the same thing in Writing Popular Fictionit seemed sensible to listen to her.  (No sense getting expert help if you ignore it.)  When I told her that I preferred fantasy, she then instructed me to choose one sub-genre of fantasy.  So I sat down and considered what the sub-genres of fantasy were.  The borders between the various sub-genres are usually fluid.

Epic Fantasy  The prime example of this would be J. R. R. Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings.  The story is epic in scope and length.  The fate of kingdoms, possibly the world, rests on the shoulders of the mighty heroes.  There is a large cast of supporting characters, each with their own sub-plots.  Magic is an integral part of the universe.

Sword & Sorcery  When one thinks of Sword & Sorcery, one thinks of Robert E. Howard and Conan.  Husky barbarians wielding swords too large for other men to lift, fighting for treasure, vengeance, or a fair damsel (who as the late Marion Zimmer Bradley put it, would at the end of the story be awarded to him as a “bad conduct prize”), or clever thieves or mages using their brains to solve a problem.  Sword and Sorcery is shorter than Epic Fantasy, and is just as likely to be a short story or a novella as a novel.  The setting is one “where magic works and the gods are real.”

High Fantasy  This is “defined as fantasy set in an alternative, fictional (“secondary”) world, rather than “the real”, or “primary” world.”  Dragons, elves, and other magical beings are at least in the background, and often part of the main story.  In modern publishing High Fantasy is nearly always written in series form, generally a trilogy.  Examples would include Robert Jordan‘s Wheel of Time series and David Eddings‘ The Belgariad.

Low Fantasy  Brian Stapleford defined Low Fantasy as  “nonrational happenings that are without causality or rationality because they occur in the rational world where such things are not supposed to occur.” Low Fantasy stories are generally (but not always) set in the real world: Lynne Reid BanksThe Indian in the Cupboard, Mary Norton‘s The Borrowers, the TV shows Supernatural, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, etc.

Heroic Fantasy  This falls somewhere in between Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, and Sword & Sorcery.  As I said, the borders are fluid.  Protagonists are strong, brave, and clever, often of royal or noble birth.  L. Sprague de Camp said “‘Heroic Fantasy‘ is the name I have given to a subgenre of fiction … a story of action and adventure laid in a more or less imaginary world, where magic works and where modern science and technology have not yet been discovered …Such a story combines  the color and dash of the historical costume romance with the atavistic supernatural thrills of the weird, occult, or ghost story… It is escape fiction wherein one escapes clear out of the real world into one where all men are strong, all women beautiful, all life adventurous, and all problems simple, and nobody even mentions the income tax or the dropout problem or socialized medicine.”  Mercedes Lackey‘s Valdemar books and her Obsidian trilogy collaborations with James Mallory would fall into this category, as would Christopher Paolini‘s Inheritance series.

Urban Fantasy  Technically, Urban Fantasy is any fantasy story that takes place in an urban environment, be it ancient Rome, medieval Paris,  modern Chicago, or Osgiliath in Gondor.  For practical purposes, most people think of Urban Fantasy as fantasy set in contemporary times in a modern city, such as Emma Bull‘s War for the Oaks (Minneapolis), Mercedes Lackey and Ellen Guon‘s Summoned to Tourney (San Francisco), and Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill‘s Beyond World’s End (New York City).

Dark Fantasy  Combine horror and fantasy, and you’ve got Dark Fantasy. Beyond that criteria, few readers or authors agree on the definition.  Charles L. Grant says it’s “a type of horror story in which humanity is threatened by forces beyond human understanding.”  Dark Fantasy has a gloomy atmosphere, a sense of dread, and may often approach the plot from the monster’s point of view, allowing for a more sympathetic portrayal of werewolves or vampires.  Examples would include Mercedes Lackey‘s Jinx High, Karl Edward Wagner‘s Bloodstone, Anne Rice‘s The Vampire Lestat, and Dean Koontz‘s Odd Thomas and Darkfall.

Portal Fantasy  If characters from our world fall  down a rabbit hole, step through a mirror, or walk through a wardrobe to get to a magical realm where they have adventures, it’s Portal Fantasy.  Examples include Lewis Carroll‘s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Andre Norton‘s Witch World, C. S. LewisThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Neil Gaiman‘s Coraline.  The heroes may return to our world in time for tea, before anyone knows they’re missing (as in the PBS show Dragon Tales) or stay in the new world for the rest of their lives, with sequels written about their descendants.

Fantasy of Manners  A Fantasy of Manners book is heir to Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, P. G. Wodehouse, Walter Scott, and Anthony Hope as much (or more) as J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard.  Magic and magical creatures have a smaller role.  The story takes place in society, often High Society, where duels of wits with a boorish baron are more likely than a fight to the death with an axe-wielding dwarf or hungry dragon. Events are small in scale:  if the protagonist fails, it may be a tragedy to her personally, but the world will not end.  It may not even change enough for anyone else to notice (or it may mean the wrong rump sits upon the throne).  It is always witty, and set in a low-tech, hierarchical society.  Examples of Fantasy of Manners include Lois McMaster Bujold‘s The Curse of Chalion,  Ellen Kushner‘s Swordspoint, Kage Baker‘s The Anvil of the World, and Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer‘s Sorcery and Cecilia. 

There are, of course, more sub-genres and sub-sub-genres, and many books fit into more than one genre.  Ask three readers to define different types of fantasy genres, and you’re likely to get five answers.  YMMV, as they say.

Working on an E-Book

My name is Susan Murrie Macdonald and I am a wordsmith, a rejection slip collector, a ghostwriter of other people’s blogs, and like almost everyone else, a would-be novelist.

After ghostwriting nearly 1,000 blog entries for other people, it occurred to me, now that I’m working on an e-book, that I ought to start blogging myself.  I am preparing a collection of western short stories for self-publication as an e-book.  I hope to have it ready by Burnsnicht 2016, although I make no promises.  I am outlining a romantic thriller, although I have no ETA on when it will be completed.  However, when done, I intend to e-publish it rather than submit it to Harlequin.  They have a reputation for not overpaying their writers, and in theory, e-published romances have a higher financial yield for their authors than traditionally published romance books.

One of my writing mentors has been providing me with information on e-publishing, and right now, I’m drowning in information overload.

This website had a lot of good information:  https://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/basics/

So did this one:  https://janefriedman.com/how-to-publish-an-ebook/

And this one:  http://www.veranazarian.com/goodies/author-utilities/

This one was highly recommended:  http://www.kboards.com/index.php/board,60.0.html

Naturally, every link leads to ten more links, and each of those links leads to more links, until you’ve got too many links to think.

As for cover pictures or illustrations (and what is the use of a book without pictures or conversation?) Pixabay says:

“Images and Videos on Pixabay are released under Creative Commons CC0. To the extent possible under law, uploaders of Pixabay have waived their copyright and related or neighboring rights to these Images and Videos. You are free to adapt and use them for commercial purposes without attributing the original author or source. Although not required, a link back to Pixabay is appreciated.

Since Pixabay does not require a written Model Release for each Image or Video that shows identifiable people, We cannot guarantee that You will be able to use the Content for any purpose You like.  Certain Images or Videos may be subject to additional copyrights, property rights, trademarks etc. and may require the consent of a third party or the license of these rights. Pixabay does not represent or make any warranties that it owns or licenses any of the mentioned, nor does it grant them.”

So you’re free to use their pictures, but they won’t guarantee that the photographer (or the model) may or may not sue you later.

At the moment, researching HOW to produce an e-book seems a lot more difficult than the actual writing.