marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

how poor do you want them?

It's a question about characters, but it's also a question about worlds.

Most people reading a fantasy novel are not aware that they themselves live in a post-scarcity world of utopian abundance.  If you told people living a century ago that the poor have a major health problem from obesity, and they would have thought you crazy.  There are people in the world today who still find it wonderful; one journalist was told by a boy in the Third World that he wanted to visit America -- to see a place where poor people are fat.

And then there's medicine.  Take Queen Victoria.  She was the daughter of the fourth son of George III, and the reason she succeeded to the throne was that her cousin the Princess of Wales died in childbirth, and her uncle William IV's legitimate children did not live.  It was thought little short of miraculous that all her own children lived to adulthood.

Then, leaving aside your readers, how much of it do you want?  When women gave birth every other year and nursed on the off years to have ten children -- that would mean, usually, two who lived to adulthood.  That would be No Fun At All, and would logically preclude many things she could do.  As Virginia Woolf put it, "Making a fortune and bearing thirteen children--no human being could stand it."

Not that her husband would be much to be envied, in the overwhelming number of cases.  Most would be doing field work.  Which is gruelling and exhausting.  Very exhausting.  And rather dull for a story, especially since he's not going to be up to much else.

Being a fantasy work, of course, there's always the option of magic.  But how much?  I read so many works where the magic would have to be shoved on to have the level of health and agricultural production that are displayed but in which magic is actually showed in much more limited use.
Tags: families: parent/child, world-building: economics, world-building: magic (effects), world-building: royalty, world-building: social classes, world-building: social structure, world-building: technology

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