Anyone who’s traveled from one country to another has been faced with a country’s filter department–Immigration & Customs. Where you can go, under what rules, varies with place and time and the country in question. People get refused entry for all sorts of reasons. They get deported for all sorts of reasons. They may need a visa to get in; they may be deported if a visa expires, or if someone in that country’s government decides to deport them under some obscure corner of regulations that the visitor never saw. (Wore mismatched socks on a Tuesday…seen muttering to self while standing at an ATM machine after 7 pm while it was raining.)
I’ve had fun with entry requirements before, because…well…they exist, and any complication that exists in our world can make useful story complications in just about every story setting. Ordinary people–people innocent of any criminal or terrorist intent–are, like the rest of us, forgetful, sometimes careless, make mistakes, lose things, don’t realize they’ve lost things until days later, and so on. Bureaucracies behave as if innocent people never make mistakes, never forget which three items they bought in the grocery store they visited at 10 am on Tuesday the nth, three months ago (so if they state apples, cream cheese, and a bottle of aspirin in the first interview, and but the store’s receipt says peanut butter, apples, and aspirin…clearly they lied, a felony offense.) I could not name in detail anything I’ve bought in a familiar grocery or pharmacy–one I visit habitually when I need groceries or pharmacy items–more than a week ago. Yeah, I usually buy some produce, some bread, and…um…sometimes cheese and sometimes sausage or maybe chicken thighs or a chuck roast. The produce was whatever I was out of that week/month: carrots, celery, onions, garlic, bell peppers, potatoes, apples, parsley, zucchini…and one or more of those, and maybe something I don’t get often (strawberries, limes, avocados, leeks). The bread might be sandwich bread, or one of the specialty breads. Maybe I also picked up a can or several of Ro-tel, or a box of barley. I don’t remember.
So for a story…one can play with bureaucratic insistence that humans can be, and should be, perfect in their memory and behavior, and the inevitable clash between theory and reality. There are plenty of real life stories (just hang out on the internet to be led to a whole bunch of them) of people who have ended up on some Immigration system’s sh*t list for reasons they can’t understand.
In Cold Welcome, Ky returns to Slotter Key for what should be a simple, short visit, punctuated by a couple of legal procedures relating to the family business, and (inevitably) by a publicity opportunity for her home government to welcome the returning hero who has brought renown on Slotter Key. But no one is universally beloved. And bureaucracies are incapable of loving anyone, being impersonal by design. So now that I’m well into the sequel, there are Consequences of what happened in Cold Welcome that were not anticipated (even by me) but definitely suit the strict interpretation of the laws of Slotter Key. What if no one told you you need a visa until you got somewhere (it’s happened. It even happened to me once: a change in rules between a first visit somewhere and the second. My experience was benign–caught at the departing airport and fixed there; others have been deported upon arrival.) What if…well, you’ll have to read it when it comes out.