Go Farther: Economy And Fiction

Know what I want to see more in science fiction, fantasy, and heck, a lot of geektastic stuff?  I want to see more about the economy.

Now don't assume this is my bizarre love of statistics and economics.  I just think it's something ignored way too much in genre fiction, which means it's an opportunity for smart authors to explore some territory.

When I see most fiction focusing on economic issues, it's often boring, preachy, and based on justifying the author's given economic theories.  Usually this is science fiction, which makes the grating forcing of economic theories into the stories even more obvious.

I think it's time to get beyond the preaching and focus on the fact that economic issues, properly portrayed and understood, are pretty fascinating.  Economics is about the flow of wealth, about the relations between people.  Economics has started – and ended wars.  Economics is about movement.  Economics is a big part of worldbuilding.

Consider the ways economics come into classic genres:

  • In science fiction what is the economic flow of your setting – independent worlds that have to have their own economies, a far-flung empire where cheap galactic transport allows for the flow of goods and riches, or something else?  Good science fiction explores the impact of technology on our lives – and how we eat and make a living is a big part of lives.
  • In fantasy what do magic, present gods, and fantastic creatures do to economics?  Can that drought that's destroying trade be repaired with divine intervention?  What is the economy of people who supply strange reagents for wizards (how much is Dragon dung worth on the free market?).  How do you earn a living when wars with orcs are normal and wizards are tossing fireballs around?
  • In superhero stories what are taxes like to repair buildings damaged in the inevitable battles?  What are insurance rates like?  How do superheroes pay for their costumes?

Looking to write?  Consider the economic elements of your world and stories as well.  You might find a lot of fascinating opportunities and interesting ideas to explore.

(And economics may seem less dull!).

Steven Savage