The Cambist and Lord Iron

by Daniel Abraham

[rating:5/5]

This short story was originally part of a collection of short stories titled Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories, a collection of stories based on winning words at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. It was also published in The Years Best Fantasy and Horror 2008. “The Cambist and Lord Iron”, of course, was based on the word cambist. A cambist is a person that exchanges money from one exchange rate to another (franks to pounds, yen to dollars). In this story the cambist is approached by a rich man (Lord Iron) who wants to make trouble and exchange some very rare and practically unknown type of bills for pounds sterling. By English law the cambist must legally exchange the money in 24 hours. In this both Lord Iron and the reader learn an interesting lesson about economics that begins about money and ends about far greater things than that.

I really enjoyed this story, both it’s fairy tale take on the “fantastical” world of economics, and it’s approach to an economist as fairy tale hero. And, anyone that knows me and money knows that I really do think it’s all fantastical. The “quests” he was sent on and the difficult riddles he had to solve were very interesting, and apparently the conclusions the cambist comes to have caused flame wars in economist forums, with people coming down on both sides of the debate about the worth of money, items, time, freedom and life itself. It was all fascinating to read about and I enjoyed reading about the cambist and the sheer nerve and brains he used throughout the story. A lot of people were disappointed with the ending but, it being a fairy tale after all, I really couldn’t see it ending any other way. But, don’t take my word for it, read it for yourself. It is available online below, as this short story has been nominated for a Hugo award. I believe it deserves it!

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