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Teaser Tuesday: To Dance, Perchance to Dream

Tuesday, October 11, 2016 - 06:00

I'd lost track that the Gaylactic Spectrum Awards were being announced this past weekend at Gaylaxicon. The announcement has been moving around a bit in recent years due to the Gaylaxicon schedule. Last year and on a number of previous occasions they were announced at Chessiecon/Darkovercon. So it took me by surprise Saturday when Catherine Lundoff started live-tweeting the results. According to the website, 36 novels were submitted for consideration from 2015. The winner was Luna: New Moon by Ian MacDonald, a book I'm not familiar with. The shorlist of nine "recommended books" includes The Mystic Marriage. When you look at that list of authors, you might have a hint at how pleased I am to be in such company.

  • Planetfall by Emma Newman
  • Ebenezer by JoSelle Vanderhooft
  • My Real Children by Jo Walton
  • The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley
  • Chaos Station by Jenn Burke and Kelly Jensen
  • Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
  • The Mystic Marriage by Heather Rose Jones
  • The Bastard’s Paradise by Kathe Koja
  • Cherry Bomb by Kathleen Tierney

Note that the Spectrum Awards website hasn't been updated yet at the time I'm posting this but I assume it will be as soon as folks have had a chance to recover from the con.

* * *

When Margerit and Barbara decided to share their lives openly, rather than making more discreet arrangements, Margerit entered into a delicate dance with her Fulpi relatives in Chalanz. To be sure, there's nothing inherently unacceptable about two unmarried women in a close friendship deciding to live under the same roof. (This is the era of Romantic Friendship, after all, as can be seen in the LHMP material I'm currently blogging.) But it looks a bit odder for it to be two women who are young enough (and wealthy enough) to have good marital prospects. And Barbara's history and habits are such as to raise more than the usual suspicions.

The provinces tend to be more conservative than Rotenek society and, unlike Margerit's Aunt Bertrut, the Fulpis have no direct financial or social stake in turning a blind eye to Margerit and Barbara's relationship. Furthermore, they have daughters whose own reputations need protecting until they're safely married. It would break Margerit's heart to cause a complete rupture with the Fulpis. She has a genuine affection for the family, despite everything, but most especially for her youngest cousin Iulien. We've seen glimpses of Iuli in previous books as she grows from a child to a wayward teenager. And now she's on the brink of the first step into womanhood: the start of her dancing season.

In case readers are wondering, I completely invented the concept of the "dancing season"--a period of a year or two when a young woman is out in society but is explicitly not on the marriage market yet. She is expected to go to dinners and balls, to socialize and to dance, but neither to entertain nor to encourage the attentions of particular suitors. There were a few logistical reasons for inventing it, but partly it was just one of those ideas that came to me and was a way of turning Alpennian culture into its own thing, and not just an imitation of English Regency society.

Once I'd conceived of it, a number of consequences emerged on their own. Letting a girl have a dancing season must be a mark of a certain level of wealth, because it extends the period of time (and therefore the investment of money) when she's "on display" before she might be married off. For families where marriage alliances are serious political business, it provides a neutral period when the prospective parties have a chance to size each other up before making approaches. There's always the danger that the young people will form attachments despite all that (though it is very much Not The Done Thing), but keep in mind that this is a culture where love is never the only deciding factor in a marriage. And in that context, a dancing season also provides the opportunity to get puppy love out of one's system without taking any irrevocable steps. (This is also where the elaborate system of vizeinos and armins come in, especially for important families.)

Margerit had originally planned to host Iulien's coming out ball at Fonten House, her mansion in Chalanz, as she had for Iuli's older sister Sofi. But plans change.

* * *

Chapter Fourteen - Margerit

And now there was no putting off the letter to Iuli.

My dearest cousin, I hope you and your parents are well. I greatly enjoyed the verses you sent with your last letter and I have taken the liberty of having them set to music by the talented Luzie Valorin, whom you might have heard of even in far-off Chalanz. I enclose the music with these letters and hope to hear you perform the song some day.

It pains me to tell you I will not have that opportunity this summer, even though you learn it in time for your coming-out ball. As you know, I have decided my college must be ready in time for the fall term, and I will have no chance for travel this summer, neither to Chalanz nor to Saveze. I would very much have loved to host your ball at Fonten House as I did your sister’s, but our lives move on and Fonten House is no longer part of mine.

Margerit paused, chewing on the end of her pen and thinking what more to say. She couldn’t tell Iuli the truth: that Uncle Fulpi had suggested in the strongest terms that her presence would be unnecessary. He hadn’t gone so far as to say unwanted. While she had owned property in Chalanz, the prestige of hosting Sofi’s ball in the mansion on Fonten Street had more than balanced the Fulpis’ concerns for the family reputation. The abstract family pride in an absent relation who was an heiress and the Royal Thaumaturgist was always put in peril by her presence. Her presence brought with it an inconvenient baroness who had a habit of wearing men’s clothing, not to mention an affection between the two of them that couldn’t entirely be excused by the conventions of friendship.

With Fonten House sold, Uncle Fulpi was happy to accept her offer to underwrite the expenses of Iuli’s coming-out, but had expressed his strong preference that only her purse and not her person attend. Iuli would be disappointed, but there was no help for it. Her cousin’s parents had the power to forbid their continued correspondence entirely and Margerit knew how much it meant to Iuli to have at least one person in the world who encouraged her writing and wanted her to continue dreaming beyond the future that Chalanz offered.

Perhaps I will be able to visit next year at floodtide. I know it seems so long to wait! It would have been an eternity when I was your age and I will miss your entire dancing year. Write to me when you have time and make sure to save up all the memories from your ball to tell me.

Your loving cousin, Margerit Sovitre.