The Dumb Crimes I Want To See In Fantasy And Sci-Fi

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 4.824% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

In speculative fiction, there are only three objects, moved from place to place, to commit nonviolent crimes:

  • Bread, stolen to feed your family;
  • Drugs, smuggled to demonstrate your ability to evade the law;
  • Gold and/or jewelry, removed from their vault in a fantastic heist and/or bank robbery.

That’s it.  That’s all the nonviolent crimes there are in fiction.
But when Robert Bennett and John Chu recommended the fantastic Planet Money podcast to me, they forgot to tell me that this podcast’s secret name was “The Fantabulous Compendium Of Immensely Stupid Crimes.”  I’ve only been listening for a few weeks, and already I have heard the hubbub over the following crimes being committed:

  • The man who defied the Raisin Administrative Committee to illegally box his raisins, which triggered a Supreme Court case;
  • The man who told the mayor of Boston “Fuck you, I can too auction off parking spaces,” and promptly discovered why telling Boston politicians to go fuck themselves is an unwise maneuver;
  • The man who went to jail for not watering his lawn, in perhaps the best episode title ever: “Lawn Order.”

And the more you listen to The Fantabulous Compendium Of Immensely Stupid Crimes, the more you come to realize that a) there are a lot of ways to make money by selling things, and b) there are a lot of businessmen and lawmakers who want to stop people from selling things, so c) there are a stupendous amount of absurd crimes involving obscure edge cases that people’s lives literally depend on.
And yet I can’t remember the last time I read a fantasy novel that revolved around something as simple as smuggling (perfectly legal) cigarettes to avoid taxes.  Or growing yams in your basement because the King’s Yam Council had seized all your spare yams.  Or even escorting illegal elves across the border.
Point is, the world is filled with such a variety of bizarre crimes, and yet our templates in fantasy are so goddamned small.  Where are the money-washers?  The illegal slakemoth-breeders?  The guys who sell chimera pelts to sad old men who think sniffing the pelts will help them get it up?
I want so much more from fantasy, and yet we’re always returning to the same three scenes and a mugging.  Think big, fantasy. Think big.

2 Comments

  1. Eric James Stone
    Aug 26, 2015

    Cold City, a Repairman Jack novel by F. Paul Wilson, has cigarette smuggling as a major element of the plot.

  2. Dawn
    Aug 27, 2015

    Challenge accepted!

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