There’s world building. That’s when a writer tries to create a tangible story world. In science fiction, the process is more involved because rather than relying on the world we actually live in–or a reasonable facsimile thereof–the writer creates an environment in space or on an alien planet. For fiction set in the near future, the writer finds the task much easier. Still, research is required.
When I wrote my novelette Far Flung, which is set somewhere between five and ten years from now, with “now” always being today, I had to research how to renounce U.S. citizenship. It made me feel sad. I love my country and its founding ideals. In Far Flung most of the seasteaders who make up its original settlers come from the United States, so I learned all about the process of renouncing U.S. citizenship and how you have to go in twice to show you really mean to lose something so precious.
Then this morning I found this list. For my day job as a lawyer I check the table of contents of the Federal Register every day. I check the three space regulatory agencies–the FAA, the FCC, and NOAA–and I also check a few other agencies with space responsibilities like DOD, NASA, and the State Department. It turns out that the Treasury Department publishes a quarterly list of individuals who have chosen to expatriate. As Treasury explains:
This notice is provided in accordance with IRC section 6039G of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) of 1996, as amended. This listing contains the name of each individual losing United States citizenship (within the meaning of section 877(a) or 877A) with respect to whom the Secretary received information during the quarter ending September 30, 2017. For purposes of this listing, long-term residents, as defined in section 877(e)(2), are treated as if they were citizens of the United States who lost citizenship.
The list goes on for twenty pages, with maybe 75 names per page. That’s a lot of people. It makes you wonder what the stories of all those people are. Long term residents who are not citizens may just want to go home. Others may have married overseas. Several people share a last name. Is that coincidence or are they a whole family leaving? Or, are they leaving families behind? They do leave behind the protections and rights of a great country. In my imaginary Far Flung world Betha Tenney’s name would appear on that list. Her father would see it and hate it being there. How do the families left behind feel about that list? Do they know it exists?
It’s a big decision, renouncing one’s citizenship. How did they make the call? And why? It seems like there are a lot of stories there, at least twenty pages worth, of leaving one’s world behind.
Correction: The original post stated that the list was published by the State Department. That was wrong.by