It’s All a Matter of Time and Distance
Both my Husband and I turned out to be the footloose members of our sibling assemblies, except if you look back a generation, we’ve more the norm, and our siblings the oddball stay-close-to-homers.
Our kids have continued, and often bettered, our example and it used to not matter. You can always hop on a plane and visit them, right?
Now, as a science fiction writer, I’ve had to deal with the fact that traveling to visit relatives on another world is time consuming.
I never thought I’d have to consider it the real world.
But the last year and a half . . . the real world is rubbing my nose in the things I’ve glossed over or completely missed in the fiction.
Number Two Son lives in Taiwan. I am delighted that when we last visited (for Chinese New Years) in January of 2020, we arrived home on February 2, 2020. Yeah, two days ahead of some serious flight restrictions and quarantines. Mind you, we took the better safe-than-sorry route and drove home from the airport to self-quarantine for two weeks (hurray for hurricane supplies!)
But to visit Taiwan now? Anyone coming in from abroad faces a mandatory two week quarantine before they can go anywhere. Kinda makes tourism and family visits tough.
So . . . with diseases of various sorts in mind . . . How should a writer handle travel between worlds?
In some cases the length of the trip would take care of the problem (as an infectious disease works through all the passengers and crew and hopefully dies out before they reach Mars!) But, say, ground-to-orbital habitat would require . . . what? A health check and a few days isolation before liftoff? Mandatory vaccination for everyone on the habitat and visitors as well. And hope for the best?
Well . . . fiction, so I can handwave really, really good medical systems, unobtainium antibiotics and so forth. So I can get on with the story without two weeks of the Hero climbing the Quarantine Hotel walls. Messes with the pace of the story, you know.
And since I have dimensional portals instead of spaceships, I have no way to use the trip as the quarantine. So I go the easy route and mostly ignore the problem, other than throwing in a rare “What do you mean you imported four horses through three cross-dimensional worlds and you have no idea if any of them have ever had a single vaccination!” just because even I can’t entirely ignore the problem.
But there’s another issue. An older one. When a family member moves to another world, well, you might get an occasional letter, or vid recording. It’s not even like today’s “Well, I guess we won’t get to El Paso, Sacramento or Seattle this year to see everyone. Maybe late next year . . . and who knows when we can get back to Taiwan.”
It’s more like a few centuries ago where moving across an ocean meant you might never see your family again, ever.
And I really haven’t put much effort into the angst involved, nor the difficulty in adjusting to cultural changes, a new language or even the local differences in usage in the new place.
Leaving fiction behind and taking a dive into the dumpster of current events . . .
Sarah Hoyt, being an immigrant, has spoken about the difficulty of assimilation.
And I’m starting to wonder if we’re all facing something like that, but facing not simply adapting to a new-to-us culture, but to a culture that is new to everyone and still changing.
It’s a bizarre place where we can be anything we want to be online, so why not in the real world? Where we judge people by external characteristics and mentally (and sometimes publicly) assign them to a group we think they belong to. But we have a right to invent new genders and pronouns unique to us and insist every one use them.
It’s a baffling place where we’re accused of denying science when we demand a scientific basis for political policies claiming to be based on science.
Where a philosophy of economics and governmental structures to that end, that has failed disastrously and led to huge death tolls every time it has been implemented . . . is the goal of Nations that were built on the model of the most successful style of economics and govenment ever seen on Earth.
It’s as if a huge portion of the population has ceased to believe in the real world.
And reality is going to hit hard.
You know that hierarchy of need? Air, water, food, shelter, family, friends, books, internet, rock n’ roll . . . well, the way I’ve written the most recent characters there’s no telling what sort of music they’d like . . .
I’m think I need to secure and protect as much of that pyramid as possible while I figure out what the heck it is I need to adapt to.
But my reality, right now, involves these seven, count them! Seven stories that need to be finished, edited, covered, and published.
Maybe what my Hero needs to do is find a balance between an unstable cultural/governmental in the midst of a huge change . . . and the new reality. If it works out in the book, maybe I’ll give his method a try. (Not really! I think he’s going to have to fake his death and disappear.)
The above picture is Number One Son, who took a four day drive down from Seattle for a visit, starting to forge an axe, or perhaps a future. Who knows? Some times when you heat things up and pound on them you just wind up with a mess.
And below, a Time Traveler who’s having a terrible time saving the world.