Monday, June 2, 2008

Money in science fiction

I started out wanting to be a science fiction writer. There are still days when I dabble in it, mainly those days when I am sitting in class trying to figure out how I am going to get hired by anyone with a degree in literature.

A few years ago, I read an article about what you named the currency in science fiction indicated a lot about the economics of your fictional world. (I would love to be able to cite the author and title of the article, but it has slipped my mind completely.) The example from it that sticks in my head was the "Golden" which indicated a world that went back to the gold standard.

Today while reading the financial articles on MSN, I came across a term that a columnist has been using to describe our own monetary system: Xera.

The exact quote is:

Xera: The dollar is in need of a name change. Xera is a combination of: (a) Xerox -- for the piece of Xerox paper that it is, (b) lira, which in the past was one of the world's chronically weak currencies, and (c) most importantly, the fact that it sounds like zero. Which is ultimately where the Xera is headed.

The scary part is that it is true.

But I digress; it got me thinking about naming money in science fiction. What you name your money in science fiction says a lot about your world.

For instance, in Star Trek we do not hear much about money, at least in classic Star Trek. We know that flame gems and tribbles can be traded, and once we hear Scotty making a joke about his pay, but it was not until the Ferengi come along that we learn of latinum (something that can not be generated by a replicator; ahhh, no printing money for the Federation). There is something to be said about a society (Starfleet Command) where its members care more about starships than they do their paychecks.

In the TV series show The Prisoner, they had work units. The most important inhabitants of the Village, including Number Six, did not seem to work---exactly what that means is unknown to me.

Of course, we must not forget the most commonly used fuctional currency: the credit. Fictional is the sense that it really does not exist, despite the fact that we use it all the time at the shopping mall. Nevertheless, when it comes time to write my next science fiction story, I think that I am going to use the Xera. I hope that Bill Fleckenstein doesn't mind.


Melissa said...

Sometimes I just dabble in reading my favorite SF books to get ideas, because you are right, there is good money in this genre. One of my fave reads at the moment would have to be Some Kind of Angel.

Morgan Drake Eckstein said...

Ok, I don't think that she actually read the entry.