Friday, June 01, 2012

Economist Paul Krugman Is a Hard-Core Science Fiction Fan

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has been a fan of science fiction since he was a teenager.
Photo: Fred R. Conrad

If you follow the news at all, you’ve probably seen Paul Krugman — Princeton professor, New York Times columnist, and Nobel Prize-winning economist — championing the idea that government spending can lift us out of the economic crisis. What you may not know is that Krugman is also a huge science fiction fan.

Here is part of the interview with Krugman from Underwire:

Wired: Back in 2009 you appeared as a guest at the World Science Fiction Convention in Montreal. Was that your first science fiction convention?
Krugman: Yeah, it was. And I really went because I thought it would be fun — as it was — to talk with Charlie Stross. That was a really interesting experience, and I may do it again if schedules mesh. The science fiction world has a lot of people doing seriously imaginative thinking, and my usual world is one where, you know, I like to hope that my friends and the people whose work I admire are adventurous thinkers, but we do tend to stick pretty close to the ground on a restricted set of issues, and it’s great to get to talk to people … I mean, Charlie, of course, more than basically almost anybody on the planet, but people who are really willing to think outside of any box that you can imagine.
Wired: How did you end up doing that? Did you see that Charlie Stross was going to be there, and you got in touch with them? Or did they reach out to you?
Krugman: They reached out to me, because I’ve written about him. I’m actually somewhat involved with the guys at Crooked Timber, which is an interesting blog that’s a mixture of economists and political scientists and philosophers, and actually many of them science fiction fans, and they do book symposia, and some of them knew me and knew that I was a Charlie Stross fan, so I went in, they had a symposium on Charlie Stross, and I think things keyed off from there.
Wired: So how did you become a Charles Stross fan?
Krugman: I think I probably was just browsing in a bookstore. As I’ve often said, you can shop online and find whatever you’re looking for, but bookstores are where you find what you weren’t looking for. I think I stumbled across The Family Trade, but then discovered that there’s much more.
Wired: Yeah, I saw you described those books as “economic fiction worth reading.” What is it about the economics in those books that you thought was interesting?
Krugman: The Family Trade novels involve some people who, for reasons that are not entirely clear, are able to step between alternative histories and move back and forth, and the world they come from is actually one where basically civilization has not done too well, where North America is a collection of medieval kingdoms and pretty backwards. And they of course have access to 21st-century America, so they can bring back this technology and catapult their society into the modern world.
Full interview here.

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