After reading the latest Egan’s work, I got thinking about the Caribbean Islands. I understand that the Caribbean Islands were discovered by successive explorers from Europe. I understand that Slaves from Africa were taken to these Islands as were White Indentured Workers, a polite name for White Slaves, by the people that had purchased Estates on these Islands. In this process the Indigenous peoples of these Islands the Carib Indians were to all intents and purposes wiped out, so for people of African descent to claim that they have a right to present day Islands is a nonsense. Drawing a parallel with the two factions in Egan’s work, I do not deny it benefited some people, but don't kid ourselves that it boosted the living standards of the ordinary people. This myth was invented back in the 50's or 60's by some Caribbean professor to give those of African descent a sense of grievance against those that imported their ancestors, mind you he stopped short of saying that it was their fellow Africans that enslaved them in the first place. I suspect the feeling of distrust is true of all Countries, it’s well known and it’s called Xenophobia. That’s what a stake in Egan’s piece using the trappings of SF. I’m not familiar with the immigration's issues regarding Australia (Greg Egan’s home country), but I’m sure they must not be very different than the ones facing the Caribbean back in the day. The Sivadier minority on Vesta in Egan’s work is just a metaphor for other minorities trying to access better living conditions. I don't go a day without a negative news story about Muslim people in the news. It is constant. There is a definite issue of race at the moment, though I do agree that is not all of it. People seem to prefer EU to non-EU, and an American non-EU to a Pakistani non-EU person. Though it’s true that the hostility has widened now and it seems to be going towards other countries even in Portugal. Questioning whether the volume and strategy of immigration is the right one, is very, very different from saying go home. I think the saddest part of the last 60 years in Europe is the flux that most families live in. Everyone is moving around, unless you are too poor or move or rich enough to stay put. No-one has roots, and if they did they’d be unrecognisable now compared to, say, 30 years ago. I think the oldest trick in the book is claiming that people are 'scapegoating' immigrants when really the concept of immigration to the European country as understood now, only really began post war and has always been unpopular. People don't really care whether immigrants are Polish or Bangladeshi, black or white, are coming to work or live on benefits, in all honesty it's never been that popular an idea. People didn't want their neighborhoods transformed, they didn't want to have their noses rubbed in diversity, they didn't want the white population of a major European city to become a minority and they didn't want middle class entertainers and journalists who have joined the white flight exodus to excoriate them, almost simply for being white. Everyone who has been a student of European history knows that’s not the way to go. Nazi race ideology, master race and all that. They classed Poles and other Slavs as “untermenschen”, close to animals.
Obviously there is precious little to be done about it now, because the elite were never prepared to act on the public concern that was expressed and for a long time people hoped things wouldn't get worse much like the frog in a pot of cold water over the fire.
What Egan did was to put this theme into an exceptional science fictional milieu and make it work. It’s not your usual Egan mind you. His other books have been some of my favourites ever, but his short stories are the hardest science fiction around. Nobody else has explored ideas of quantum mechanics intersecting with biology and humanity like he does. I think in this story what we have is Egan going just for the Humanities and also making it work.
Greg Egan remains one of the few writers doing exceptional SF in this day and age.