May 16th, 2009

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Immigration in Speculative Fiction

Recently fayanora and ranka have been discussing how immigration is not a common topic in speculative fiction.

One example that springs readily to mind is an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in which several million alien refugees wanted to immigrate to Bajor. The Bajorans were highly resistant to that idea.

And that got me thinking, refugees are a more common motif in speculative fiction than a steady flow of peacetime immigrants. Invasions are also more common; and I mention that because one person's invasion is another person's immigration. Just look at American history: to the Europeans, moving to America was immigration, but to the Native Americans, it was invasion with a side order of genocide.

Some writers are intrigued by the idea of immigration, migration, exodus, and related issues. You can see this in the works of Octavia Butler, particularly across the Africa-America gap. haikujaguar has the Pelted, who left Earth in a great Exodus. shadesong has a story arc, Shayara, that is all about home and exile and the migration of souls. Dystopic SF has a particular penchant for refugees and immigrants, often focusing on one family's struggle for survival or freedom.

In my writing, let's see ... My main SF setting has a pretty good flow of immigration between planets. There are rules, but if you hate where you are, you can usually find a way to get somewhere else. They just finally figured out that letting people leave is a good safety valve for maintaining local culture the way you want it. Sometimes that makes for a good story. My main fantasy world, Hallelaine, also has some flow of people from one place to another. Looking at the Whispering Sands desert alone maps some shifts in population over time, where tribes have moved into a different area, or groups have conglomerated, that sort of thing. One of my recently published stories, "Peacock Hour," is kind of a post-immigration story: it takes place shortly after the founding of the empire, and touches on some of the issues that arise when different groups are pressed together before they've merged completely. You can still see some of the tribal lines before they melt away into what will become the urban population.

What are some stories you have read or written that deal with immigration or related issues?