Fantastic beasts and the ecosystems to sustain them

(((Greg Camp)))
3 min readAug 16, 2020
A good pet if you can feed it

In speculative fiction — and among a variety of interest groups on YouTube — organisms unknown to muggle science proliferate. Dragons, elves, Big Foots, and Klingons are taken as given, since one of the main appeals of the genre is an exploration of worlds that are not ours. For what are called soft magic or science fiction systems, this works. The characters or the adventure occupy our attention enough that we are not troubled by questions from ecology about how such things can work. But if realism is a concern, things are not so simple.

This is addressed in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, despite his focus being more on characters and on the grey nature — between black and white — of human action. Early on, Daenerys acquires and hatches dragon eggs, which plants the story in fantasy, though raising the worms is atypical. But in later books as Daenerys grows into political power, the reality of having three carnivorous and growing beasties is brought to the readers as her subjects come to her to demand compensation for lost sheep and children. The people featured in the Tiger King travesty should take note.

This bureaucratic reality — powerful weapons require a supporting infrastructure and will cost money — is a valuable corrective to the presence of whimsical beings with no consequences. I do not mean to be a killjoy. A fairy tale needs less in terms of logistics, and The Flintstones can get by on cartoon rules. But Martin is striving for a different level of fiction. And his realism is one that would benefit more than his fellow writers. The number of cryptozoologists and producers for the SyFy Channel should consider whether Mokele-mbembe, Nessie, or Big Foot have enough territory remaining to sustain themselves. And the carrying capacity of a region is only one question. As rarely as these individuals are sighted — presuming that they actually exist, of course — they appear to be at a population bottleneck in which the total of breeding adults is insufficient to provide the genetic diversity necessary to maintain the species.

The Witcher series deals with these problems by showing communities such as elves that have been forced by humans away from arable land into the mountains and are suffering a decline as a result. A similar solution is found in J.R.R…

(((Greg Camp)))

Gee, Camp, what were you thinking? Supports gay rights, #2a, #1a, science, and other seemingly incongruous things. Books available on Amazon.