Accountants don’t get nearly enough love in the genre world. Despite holding the purse strings of plenty of fantasy kingdoms and far-flung galactic empires, they’re often dismissed entirely or worse, used as comic relief. From the Bursar of the Unseen University to Westeros’s Master of Coin, we’ve rounded up some books and television shows that give them their proper due!
Baru Cormorant, The Traitor Baru Cormorant—Seth Dickinson
Seth Dickinson has woven his heroine’s love of accountancy directly into her adventures. In The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Baru vows to avenge her father’s assassination by bringing down the oppressive Empire of Masks from within. She goes to their school and excels there studying puzzles, riddles of coin and account-books, geometry and calculus. When she takes her final placement exam, she hopes to go to Falcrest, and begin her true campaign against the Empire, but instead shes assigned to Aurdwynn, a chaotic land that has never fully submitted. Now she must prove herself as the Imperial Accountant, while plotting against the Empire, and hiding a secret that could destroy her.
The Bursar, Discworld Books—Terry Pratchett
Unseen University’s Bursar (full name: Professor A.A. Dinwiddie, DM (7th), D.Thau., B.Occ., M.Coll., and that’s “Dinwiddie” with an “O”, please.) was quiet, and loved numbers, and took the position after the previous Bursar was killed, and no one else wanted the job. Since the normal way to inherit a UU post was to murder your predecessor, simply asking for the job seemed ideal. Unfortunately, the new Archchancellor, Mustrum Ridcully, has a deeply abrasive personality, and chipped away at the Bursar’s sanity until it was, well, nonexistent. Now his colleagues keep him stable though a steady diet of dried frog pills, which make him hallucinate that he’s sane. Occasionally the dose is a little off, and the Bursar tries to fly; this isn’t too much of a problem since he’s also a wizard. His condition has entered the local slang, and in Ankh-Morpork “to go Bursar” means “to go insane.”
Leland Owlsley, Daredevil
“The numbers are like tea leaves. Nobody reads them like I can.”
Owlsley makes the list on sheer audacity and snark. (Mostly snark.) He allies himself with Wilson Fisk, Nobu, Madame Gao, and the Ranskahov brothers to raze/improve/evilify Hell’s Kitchen, and while the others all seem to have some sort of (possibly cosmic) long game, Owlsley seems to be in it purely for that sweet rogues gallery money. He moves money around as he needs to, and maybe goes one step too far in trying to get Fisk’s focus back on the bottom line. Unfortunately, this does not sit so well with Fisk…
Master of Coin, A Song of Ice and Fire—George R.R. Martin
This position is obviously a powerful one in Westeros, since running the treasury of the Seven Kingdoms carries a terrible responsibility. When A Game of Thrones starts, the position is being held competently by Petyr Baelish, who seems to produce money from thin air. But since Baelish is fairly reprehensible, we’ll give the bad ass accountant crown to the much more likeable and sympathetic Tyrion Lannister, who begrudgingly takes over after his father Tywin becomes the Hand of the King. Tyrion soon realized that Baelish’s main strategy for keeping the Iron Throne in the black was, um, borrowing lots and lots of money from the Iron Bank of Braavos. We’re sure that won’t have any negative consequence AT ALL.
The Number Man, Worm—J. McCrae
“Money was the blood of civilized society, its currents running through everything and everyone. Where money was insufficient, things withered. People starved, sickened and died, constructions eroded, even ideas perished. Where funds were plentiful, the same things blossomed with new life.”
In the webserial Worm, J. McCrae tells the story of Taylor Herbert, who wants an escape from her civilian life, and accidentally becomes a supervillain. Among the cast is the aptly named Number Man, who is basically an accountant-hero who works for the top-secret world savers of Cauldron, managing their funds. He also uses his ability with numbers to measure the world around him and calculate odds during fights. Since he literally sees the world as numbers, he can manipulate them to his own ends…to a point. Worm started in June 2011, updating twice a week, and finished in late November, 2013.
Cithrin bel Sarcour, Dagger and the Coin Series—Daniel Abraham
When we meet Cithrin bel Sarcour in The Dragon’s Path, she’s a young orphan, raised by the bank, and entrusted with moving her nations funds through a war zone. Simple, right? As Daniel Abraham’s The Dagger and the Coin series continues, she gains power and cunning, becoming a banker for the Medean Bank, and coming closer and closer to the truth behind the war of the Free Cities – the truth that will reveal her destiny.
Tehol, Malazan Book of the Fallen—Steven Erikson & Ian Cameron Esslemont
Tehol Beddict uses his accountancy for the good of the people in Reaper’s Gale. After hiding his personal wealth through the purchase of islands, which he then turned into refugee camps, he is persuaded by Shand, Hejun and Rissarh to strike at the Letherii Empire in a more direct way. He uses his financial knowledge to borrow giant amounts of money, which he then abruptly spent in order to crash the market and create chaos, which the Malazans used to their advantage. Plus, Tehol and his manservant, Bugg, reach nigh-Archer and Woodhouse levels of comedy in an otherwise fairly grim series.
Cyril Figgis, Archer
And speaking of Archer, no list of
bad kick-ass accountants would be complete without Cyril Figgis! He tries his best to keep the accounts straight for what is, essentially, an illegal espionage operation run by some of the least functional alcoholics in television history, before barely keeping the accounts for one of the most incompetent drug cartels in television history. Cyril isn’t the greatest field agent in the world, but he tries hard, and he usually doesn’t let his sex addiction get in the way of his work. Usually.
Howard Clinkscales, Honorverse Series—David Weber & Eric Flint
The Honor Harrington series features plenty of military tactics and tense action, but it also makes time to honor its accountants! Howard Clinkscales recognized Honor Harrington’s worth after she came to the planet Grayson, and supported her until she was able to be their first female Steadholder, as well as one of the few off-worlders to hold the position. He acted as Regent of Harrington Steading whenever she was off-world (which was often) and oversaw the first extraplanetary colony of Sphinxian treecats. After his death, his funeral mass included a ritual called The Memory, in which people stand and share memories of the departed. While this is usually a short ceremony, Clinkscales’ Memory lasted over three hours.
Dockson, Mistborn: The Final Empire—Brandon Sanderson
As a skaa on Scadriel, he worked on a plantation until he saw his lover attacked and murdered by Lord Devinshae. He flees the plantation, and, despite not being an Allomancer, works his way up to being Kelsier’s right-hand man. Dockson is an all-around administrator, not just an accountant, but his skill for organization allows the crew to work far harder against The Lord Ruler, and makes him a vital part of the resistance even after Kelsier’s death.
Arthur, The Tick–Ben Edlund
And finally, the greatest of all SFF accountants: The Tick’s sidekick Arthur! Arthur is a normal, slightly overweight, easily frightened human male who decides to leave accountancy for the life of a superhero. While his former life doesn’t come up as often in the comics or the cartoon, the first episode of the criminally underrated live-action series spends a good amount of time on Arthur’s arc, showing his life at the office, and his first real heroic confrontation, when he tells his boss (Christopher Lloyd!) that he’s going to quit even if he does end up like fellow accountant Metcalf, who’s needed a machine to poop ever since he was pummeled by a supervillain. Really, is there any more noble action than saying no to Christopher Lloyd?