That time I predicted that refugees would walk to Germany: UPDATE
September 6, 2015
UPDATE: Author and humanitarian Neil Gaiman, who has toured Syrian refugee camps, has posted information about how you can help these refugees.
One of the cool things about being a science fiction writer is coming up with really odd stuff. Events, characters, surprises that give readers whiplash as they do a double take. We writers think hard about this stuff, tossing aside the mundane, the easily predictable, the merely surprising. We’re writing in the future, with sentient dogs, aliens made of rock, people switching bodies, and predicting the future. I like to think that I set the bar high.
But it gets a shit ton weirder when life imitates art, when imagined stuff happens in real life, right in front of the author while he noshes on tortilla chips. Especially when it is only less than a year after the novel with said fictional tragedy is published. And then it becomes downright sad when a real-life tragedy copies it.
In my novel Crashpoint, 24th century Earth has civil wars, local disputes, and fragmented governments. Kind of like Syria, but all over the world. And these conflicts and genocides vomit up refugees streaming out of their home cities and countries to look for a better life. Masses of humanity, carrying whatever they can, simply walking down highways and roadways. They come out of southeastern Europe and head for Germany. Berlin in particular. Some greet them with aid and open arms, others open up on them with arms. Some bad shit goes down. And the fate of those refugees changes the world in the novel, for better and worse.
And right now, in the real world, Syrian refugees are hoofing it to Germany, where they hope to find sanctuary. They’re pushing strollers and wheelchairs. They’re dying in boats to escape the miserable refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon. It is a human catastrophe. Hungarian people are lining the streets to help them, ashamed that their local semi-national government has treated the refugees like crap.
I hope this real-life refugee cloud fares better than the ones in my book. When I wrote those scenes about the refugees, I took a page that has been repeated throughout recent history, where humanity woke up to the plight of refugees only after their massive misery, suffering, and tragedy. Hurting fictional refugees in hopes that readers won’t permit such in real life was one of the reasons I wrote it. I also felt like the time was coming for a cautionary tale about not watching out for the the helpless and defenseless.
Also, good on Germany for taking them in. Good on Pope Francis for calling on Catholic churches in Europe to take in one migrant family each. I wish every country would let people come and go as easily as they let capital and business travelers. It would be hard for the asshats in Syria on all sides to keep fighting (especially Assad) if all of the country’s civilians up and left.