Let’s Trade in Obs

At the 2015 Worldcon, I attended a panel on worldbuilding that covered the aspects of making sure your fictional world’s monetary system made sense. Everything from the historical way a feudal system worked to barter to gold-based (or some other resource-based) currency, and the political systems that harbored socialism and capitalism was covered.

What was oddest of all were the Obs.

Obs were a monetary equivalent, and it was short for “obligations” in the novella-length story “…And Then There were None” by Eric Frank Russell–not to be confused with the Agatha Christie novel by the same name. It was published in Astounding Science Fiction and I’d never heard of it before, but the gist of their system was “I do you a favor, so you owe me a favor.”

It reminded me very much of the “Good Old Boys” network I’ve seen here in the Deep South. Not the “Old Boys’ Network”: that’s a hotbed of privilege, favors, and exclusionary tactics. The “Good Old Boy network” (lowercase N) is a system that rewards regular men (and women) for being a person your word, reliable, dependable, and having a good reputation.  In the same way the fictitious characters in Eric Frank Russell’s story would be outcast for not fulfilling their obligation(s) the Deep South runs on reputation. Just as in the science fictional short story, in the American Deep  South’s culture if you are proved to not be reliable or not keep your word, you’re ostracized.

Really, in a lot of ways, it’s a rural code. When it might take the county sheriff an hour or two to get to your place, you look after yourself and your neighbors–and they look after you. There is a moral, and practical, obligation to do so.

In the same way we look out for each other in the genre. We pitch in on each other’s medical bills when we can and support Kickstarters, plus we’re generous in helping each other learn our writing craft, navigate navigate Indie publishing and contracts, and find markets. We’re a community, and it shows.

However, quite a few of you read this magazine for free: we have 11,000 to 12,000 unique viewers per-month and very, very few financial supporters. So let’s trade in Obs. If you enjoy reading Abyss & Apex please bear in  mind that I’m not independently wealthy and most of this comes out of my pocket. If you want the magazine to thrive and for me to eventually pass it on to a new keeper, it needs more supporters. I rarely ask, but here are the links to support us on PayPal via an annual subscription or one time donation, or via Patreon where there are several monthly levels of support.

If you’re receiving value here, please give back. And thank you.


– Wendy S. Delmater and the Editors at Abyss & Apex Magazine

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