This week: Immigration in FantasyEdited by: Dawn Embers
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Fantasy Newsletter by Dawn
First look at the over-reaching topic of immigration within fictional stories.
Fantasy is a good way to both escape our own worlds and a way to hold our lives up to a mirror to examine how things are (not) working. Often times, in fiction we find ways to look at humanity, to examine different aspects and problems we are facing in a sort of neutral, or sometimes not even close to neutral, frame of reference. Through the use of fantasy and science fiction in particular, we can view many different issues, one of which is the topic of immigration. This is a quick overview looking at immigration in the frame of fiction. I will delve more into aspects of immigration in fantasy in future newsletters. First, we must understand the basics and how we can use the concept within these fictional stories.
What is Immigration?
In the broad scope of the term, when trying to define it, immigration is viewed as the international movement of people into a destination location in which they do not have residency or citizenship with the purpose of settling. This can be for a permanent settlement or on a temporary basis, such as the case with migrant workers. When it comes to fiction, the possibilities for showcasing immigration are vast due to the nature of the worlds we create and the methods in which the characters inhabit them.
The question is how will you use the concept of immigration in your stories. It can be a plot point or just a part of the background in how the world was created. At the very least it's something to think about when setting up the world whether using something similar to our own or with ones that are quite different. Consider how did the people get there? Are there others trying to relocate? Is the travel across lands or galaxies? Did it happen many years before the current setting of the story or is it an important aspect of what is going on during the same time frame? Many options exist.
One big question to ask when dealing with immigration in a story is Why? You want to consider the reasoning behind the characters relocating, whether it's for the protagonist or just a minor character who happens to come along the way. What reasons do they have for the move? You could have an approach like that of Men In Black where the aliens have settled on Earth for various reasons, including seeking political refuge from their home planets. Lands could have been destroyed by nature and unnatural means, causing for a shift in a large population needing somewhere new to settle. The why can be very personal, going down to the individual story, or it can be a mass sweeping concept.
Another question or set of questions deals with locations. Is there an iconic location where people often migrate too or have to go through before they can find a place to settle? This could be someplace iconic like Ellis Island or it could be a subtle location. Where they go can be a big factor but there is also the issues of how they get there. Method of transportation, in particular with a big move, can be tricky and will also depend on how large scale the move is in particular. Tiny little alien getting into a ship or a different city is going to be a different story compared to a mass population having to seek asylum due to natural (or unnatural) disasters forcing them from their previous places of origin. If it's intergalactic, space ships might be involved or other methods created that might or might not follow the rules of physics. On land or by sea, within a planet there are options for how they travel along with the actual destinations involved.
Then there is the question of legality. This is a topic for a newsletter on its own but for brief mention, one thing you have to consider when putting immigration into a story is also going to be the question of legality. Are the aliens entering the ship or planet through legal channels or are they settling in ways that technically are not following the laws of the lands they now inhibit. The politics behind immigration, the legal aspects, these can be part of the plot or as a backdrop in creating the climate of the story and worlds developed.
How immigration is used in a story, whether it's mentioned within the presented pages or simply a part of the backdrop of worldbuilding, it's an aspect that we should remember to consider. How did your character or their ancestors come upon the world they inhibit? Do they come upon others who are in the process of migrating to a different home? How will you use immigration within a story and what message can that give a reader?
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How do you handle immigration in your fantasy and sci-fi worlds?
Last month, the topic I rambled about involved Witches as characters. Here is the comment sent in on the topic:
Comment by Derrol Edwards- Fantasy Writer
Heya Dawn, interesting newsletter. In my current project my witch character, Freina Le Fay, isn't really a hero but definitely a good person.
Also I had an idea for a newsletter I could write, about the process I use to decide on the type(not like fire/water etc.) of spells/powers/abilities I want my characters to have. I would assume I would have to submit it to someone for approval or give a more detailed summary of the idea but I was just thinking about it yesterday and thought it would be cool to do one.
- Thanks. That would be interesting to read, the process in coming up with aspects of characters. I know I have my own and am always curious how others come about theirs. You should write it out.
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