Got a Job in Magicland? - Tor/Forge Blog

Got a Job in Magicland?

By L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

While I always wanted to be a writer, I didn’t start out writing either science fiction or fantasy. In fact, my first published works were poems, and my primary collegiate fields of study were politics and economics. For the record, writing was third. But when I left the Navy, after a tour as a pilot and after the realization that the life expectancy of wartime search and rescue pilots was less than optimal for a man with a wife and children, I returned to the boringly practical and became an industrial economist, followed by other fields required by economic necessity, until I ended up in Washington, D.C., still dealing in economics and politics. By then I was writing science fiction on the side, and my first published story was about, naturally enough, a junior economist in Washington, D.C., followed by more stories and then novels, all with characters who had what I’d call “real jobs” and no desire to be heroes.

Several years later, after attending my first SF convention ever, I came to the realization that very few SF writers dealt with economic structure in their stories and that, at that time, almost no fantasy writers did. So when I began to write The Magic of Recluce, I made a deliberate decision to continue the approach I’d used in my science fiction, and I centered all of Lerris’s problems on his need to fit into his society economically.  That is, Lerris needed a job! Yes, he’s exiled from Recluce, but he still needs to make his way, to pay for what he eats and where he lodges, and even to pay for that mountain pony he needs.  And, as is the case with most successful people, the key to his eventual understanding of life and success in it comes from his mastery not just of magic but of the skills and understanding required in learning how to do a meaningful job well and professionally.

More than twenty years ago, when I wrote The Magic of Recluce, my “economic” approach to fantasy was anything but common, but readers liked it well enough that the book has been continuously in print, and they’ve bought fifteen other Recluce books over the years.  I’d like to think it’s at least partly because I required Lerris, and all the characters who followed, to have a real job in magicland.


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