Hey Scalzi, Do You Have an Opinion on Brexit?

Why, yes! Yes, I do!

Bear in mind that the United Kingdom is not my state, and there may be some subtleties to the arguments for and against the UK leaving the European Union that I don’t get. Nevertheless I’ve been following the back and forth for a few months, not only out of my own interest, but because a great number of my friends are British and it’s of interest to them as well — not to mention the UK moving out of the EU would have repercussions that would would likely reach to the US, primarily economically. So, just as UK folks might have an opinion on the US presidential race, so too do I have an opinion on Brexit.

And it is: Were I voting in tomorrow’s referendum, I would vote for the UK to remain in the EU.

Much of that vote, I would note, is based on negatives out of the leave camp, more than a great affinity for the EU. One, the leave camp seems to be playing rather fast and loose with facts, regarding the benefits of leaving, and it’s the sort of obvious lying and exaggerating that doesn’t even allow one to admire the craftsmanship of the effort. I dislike this both as someone who likes his facts truthful, or at least with effort put into their spin.

Two, while not everyone who might vote “Leave” is an appalling racist and/or low-information nationalist, it’s pretty clear that nearly every appalling racist/low-info nationalist is voting “Leave,” and that the people engineering the Leave vote are perfectly happy to leverage those folks to get what they want. If you find yourself on the same side as appalling racists/ignorant “patriots”, you might ask yourself why, and additionally whether you might be more appalling and/or ignorant than you’d like to admit.

Three, it seems to me that near the heart of the Leave vote is an internecine struggle for the soul of the UK’s Conservative party, which, while probably important to David Cameron and a few other folks, is also almost certainly not important enough to have created this particular referendum. The Brexit vote solidifies my opinion that Cameron is not especially canny as a politician; he’s likely to have to resign as Prime Minister if the “leave” vote succeeds, and it’s not entirely out of the question he could be made to resign even if “remain” wins, but only by a small margin.

Fourth, and most significantly, it does seem that even if the UK wants to extricate itself from the EU, it will still have to deal with the EU and conform to EU standards and practices if it wants to trade with the EU, which it will, because the EU is one of the largest single markets on the planet. So essentially the UK gains nothing with respect to the EU, and the EU still gets to dictate to the UK, with the only difference being the UK no longer gets a hand in making the EU policy.

There are other things to think about as well (the possibility of the UK breaking up as Scotland decides to stay in the EU, the Brexit encouraging other EU defections, possibly destabilizing Europe, what happens to the millions of UK citizens living in Spain, France, etc), but the sum up is: Leave seems dishonest, courts bigotry, and doesn’t actually appear to have any real benefit to anyone whose name is not Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson or Michael Gove. The fact that the latest polls show the UK population evenly split on it is a little frightening.

That said, Donald Trump is the presumed nominee for president for the Republican Party, so far be it from me to cast any stones.

And of course, both Trump and the “Leave” initiative seem to be two strains of the same virus, i.e., a few massively entitled folks harnessing for their own benefit the furious yawp of a group of people for whom things are not currently going well, who want to find someone to blame, and who just want things to go back to a time when they are certain things were better — if not in general, then at least for them. In both cases this larger group is very unlikely to get what they want, even if they get their way at the ballot box.

In any event: Remain would be my vote, if I got a vote, which I do not. Hopefully enough folks in the UK will vote that direction anyway.

The Big Idea: E. Catherine Tobler

Family. Most of us have them, does that mean we do well with them? Sometimes we don’t — and as E. Catherine Tobler explains in this Big Idea for The Kraken Sea, that can offer an interesting area to explore in writing.

E. CATHERINE TOBLER:

I’ve never been good at family.

My parents divorced when I was three and when I was older, joint custody meant summers spent with my father and his new family—including a brother I saw no need for. Who was this person? These visits were like marches through enemy territory; I never knew exactly where I was, and never managed to make a reliable map. Likewise, my brother thought I was there to capture his space and his father, who I still thought of as my father. Of course he was—even if he never felt like that, because we remained strangers to each other. Family gatherings contained a plethora of cousins who always knew their place and who they were to each other. I was someone from far away, someone from a branch of the family tree that had been severed.

When I started writing The Kraken Sea, it wasn’t my intent to explore family, though I quickly realized I had been doing that from the start with my circus stories (the first of which appeared in Sci Fiction, in 2005).

Still, I’d never told the story of the man who started the circus, the enigmatic and strange Jackson. He’s in the business for the profit, but beneath the greedy exterior, there’s a curious kindness that he won’t readily explain. His story has been glimpsed on a smaller scale in every short circus story I’ve written, but The Kraken Sea is the first place I actually take it apart and explore. The more I look at it, the more I see pieces of my own childhood.

Maybe it’s something a lot of people do—waiting for your proper family to show up and carry you away. Maybe plenty of people feel like aliens within their own family and think well this is a mistake, my people will be here for me soon. Maybe it’s something speculative fiction writers do more than most.

I’ve always known Jackson was separated from his birth family, having been left on the steps of an orphanage as an infant. The priests and nuns did not hesitate to take him in, despite all evidence that he was Not Quite Right. The priests were certain with the right guidance, Jackson would grow up proper and not at all bizarre. Or evil. Sister Jerome Grace takes a special and specific interest in Jackson: she knows what he cannot, that he is destined for inexplicable things, but that he will also come to make his own family, just as he makes his own fate.

Jackson’s never been very good at family, either. The priests were never fathers to him, and Sister Jerome Grace was never quite a mother. The orphans always maintained an Other quality to them, though for them, Jackson was the outsider. Jackson never wanted to invest in anyone—he likes penny dreadfuls and his personal space because these are both easily defined within the world of the orphanage. Outside those walls, he’s staggered when the whistle of the orphan train feels the same way. Books and my room did the same for me; they gave me a guaranteed place where I knew I could escape, safely.

The Kraken Sea is less about a person finding their place, and more about a person making their place. Of course, this place is never completed, but remains in a constant state of being created. Everywhere Jackson arrives, amid a flurry of new people, there’s a mental map to assemble; there’s territory to navigate and treaties to negotiate. How does he fit, given all he’s stuffed deep under his skin? Metaphorically and not.

How do we fit into the spaces we visit? How do we fit with our families and peers? Are we forever Outsiders, or do we find ways of fitting into circles and society, no matter our perceived strangeness? Or are we forever the child waiting to fly away into lands unknown where our own brother thinks we mean to conquer his people?

It’s no wonder I keep writing circus stories.

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The Kraken Sea: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|iBook|Nook

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s blog. Follow her on Twitter.

Brazilian OMW Swag

Old Man’s War recently came out in Brazil as Guerra Do Velho, and is apparently doing pretty well there, I suspect in no small part thanks to the efforts of publisher Editora Aleph, who made some nice swag for it, as you can see here along with the books itself. I especially like the poster.

Fun fact: The artist for Guerra Do Velho is Sparth — who you may recall is also doing the art for this book of mine. This is pretty nifty. Also, if you want to see the full cover artwork, here you go.