[LMB] OT: Social structures, was Build your own Emperor

Gwynne Powell gwynnepowell at hotmail.com
Fri Sep 29 07:00:14 BST 2017

From: Marc Wilson <marc.wilson at gmx.co.uk>

>Gwynne: Totally agree! I love history, especially particular periods or cultures,
>and I find it almost impossible to read books set in those times. That's one of
>the big pluses for fantasy and SF, for me - the rules are whatever the writer
>says, so I don't spend the whole book muttering '...but no woman would say/do
>that in THAT culture, it wouldn't even be considered!  And THAT was against the
>law... and that's not a concept they even thought about....'  By which time I've
>lost all sympathy with the characters.

Having said all that - stories about people who do exactly what's
expected of them and have no conflicts are going to be pretty dull.
And there have always been those who did kick against social
conventions, and in some cases persuades enough others to their cause
that things actually changed.  Otherwise, we'd *still* be doing things
that way - and I'm aware in some cultures, they still more or less are.
But there is push-back.  We see in the UK, for instance, that young
Pakistanis and Indians are increasingly resisting arranged marriages -
though often the compromise is a sort of hybrid arrangement.
And stuff being illegal never stopped theft, murder, adultery, and women
signing on for soldiers.

Gwynne: Of course, but it's all about what rules to challenge and how
to challenge them. And, sometimes, why.  A character in a book set in
medieval times may be dissatisfied with some decision or action of a
local priest, or even with a religious rule, but they're unlikely to loudly
proclaim atheism. Look at Chaucer's riotous characters - he points out
a few social injustices, breaks a few rules, but they all work within their
times and mindset. And there's certainly enough action and interest there.
And society does change as rules are challenged, but generally it works
best in small increments and steady continuity, rather than shattering
everything and trying to build from the ground up - which is always
a recipe for disaster.

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