Canadians tend to be weirdly proud of living a stone’s throw (for most of us) from “the world’s longest undefended border.” It was one of those stock phrases I grew up with. I also grew up with the notion that it was normal to expect to cross over that border without much difficulty. It’s so utterly normal to me that I can’t even tell you the number of times I have crossed the border into the United States of America, in my life. Maybe about a dozen, at a guess? Maybe more.
When I was a teenager, I took the Greyhound bus from Winnipeg to Houston and back again, crossing through the American heartland, washing my hair in America’s sinks. It feels like almost my own country, something like the way my nieces and nephews feel like almost my own kids.
I have a lot of friends (and family) in the United States. A lot of those friends are fellow writers of science fiction and fantasy, and seeing them is one major reason I try to go to conventions when I can. The last one I went to in the U.S. was World Fantasy, in Saratoga Springs, NY, in 2015.
I drove with my family to New York City in November, 2016, a few days after the presidential election. We did tourist things and spent a lot (by our standards) of money on a great family holiday. That will probably be my last visit to the U.S. for at least the next couple of years, maybe longer. I’m not boycotting, exactly, but I’m not currently planning any travel there if I can help it.
Here are a few of my reasons. I have others; these are the main ones.
- My main reason for visiting the U.S. in the next few years would be to attend a SFF convention, such as WorldCon or World Fantasy. I can’t in good conscience attend a convention where other professional writers are unable to attend by virtue of their nationalities.
- I think it would be good for SFF fandom to have a greater presence around the world and be less concentrated in the U.S., anyway, so I’ll support conventions elsewhere for the time being.
- As I was born in Canada, I have little reason at the moment to expect I’d be barred from entering myself. But given the capricious behaviour of the current U.S. government, I have no way of knowing who might be affected by a new order, from one moment to the next, and an overall change in the climate of border controls might make for a long and arduous border crossing for, say, former journalists. I’m certainly not going to risk that hassle for the sake of a family vacation, or risk having to cancel travel plans and lose money at the last minute. It’s a big world and there are lots of places to go.
- The possibility that all travellers going into or through the U.S. might have their plans changed at any time by the chaos caused by a capricious decree seems very real. Again, not a risk I want to take when I could go elsewhere.
This has nothing to do with being angry at America or at Americans – I’m not. I love you all, and I’ll see you soon.