Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fantasy and economics

Reading forums is a dangerous business, you step into the wrong thread and if you don't keep your feet, there is no telling how high your blood pressure will spike.

The current topic is one "Fantasy and Economics" where in all of the forum attacks how Unrealistic The Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time, et al are for not endlessly discussing economics, but brushing aside the problems inherent in the Song of Ice and Fire.. but then it is a forum dedicated to fawning over how marvelous GRRM's Masterpeice is... *gag*

The important question isn't how the economies of these FANTASY worlds work, but Why is it important enough to question? Why does it matter how the Dwarves acquire their food? (though its explained in the Hobbit that they bought their food from the men of dale, and had no need to grow it themselves) It's another example of people not being able to shed modern ways of thinking about geopolitics, religion, race, gender etc. If your book set in a fictional pseudo-feudal construct dosen't match my 21st century mores.. then its clearly wrong!

I could understand it perhaps if your main character is a King's exchequer and uncovers a plot to secretly fund a shadow army to overthrow the barons or something similar.. a real Tom Clancy sort of Fantasy novel.. it could be filled with Tallies, divisions, and sums of all sorts.. so long as it was important to the plot..

However, If the issues of economics are not central to the plot or characters being developed in the story, who would want it? Examples such as I've made in the past about the ludicrous size of the D'haran armies are minor quibbles. I don't really care how they can maintain a force that large.. I'm well versed enough in how real armies function not to need Goodkind to explain it to me again. Just as I'm fairly well versed in the functions of the Feudal system not to need the bulk of Fantasy economics laid out bare for me. My contempt for that particular book series is that the very idea of having a massive army is counter to the authors own economic philosophy, not that he didn't explain how it worked.

If, and this is a stressed if, the economics of a specific fantasy book are based on something, for instance, womens undergarments, like the Xanth books.. then I could understand perhaps wanting a teensy weensy bit of clarification.. on the other hand it's so silly already that I don't really want the explanation.

I've really got to stop reading forum posts..

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