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The ultimate escape: a parallel universe or a micronation?

Grand Duke Travis of Westarctica

Reviews of my book, The Awakening of Artemis, have been very complimentary (4.7 stars out of 5 on Amazon). And, I have begun work on the sequel—book 2 of a 3-book series—another escape thriller with global consequences. A critical element of writing speculative fiction is world-building. I am very pleased that readers and reviewers have praised my efforts in that regard. One reviewer commented, “the world-building in this book is supreme.” A beta reader was more colloquial, describing it as “F---ing awesome!”

Naturally, as I have begun writing the next volume, I feel as though I have to live up to my own hype. “Can you top this?” is the question I ask myself. As part of my research, I’ve read “The Simulated Universe” by Rizwan Virk, Ph.D., an MIT physicist who explores the concepts behind the various theories that parallel universes indeed exist. The physics most of us learned in school—deterministic physics—was based on concrete laws from Newton and Archimedes to Einstein. More recently, quantum physicists from Heisenberg to Schrödinger have observed the behavior of atomic particles that doesn’t conform to the deterministic rules we all learned.

What we know about quantum physics is that we don’t know how it works. Hence, there are a variety of proven and unproven theories about the behavior of the universe. Some reputable physicists have speculated on the existence of parallel universes. If you believe that the universe is infinite, it’s not too difficult to grasp this concept. In the infinite universe, there “would be an infinite number of me and an infinite number of you, each of which has a different history,” according to Dr. Virk. While it’s difficult to find physicists who would claim there are parallel universes, many of them don’t deny the possibility.

And, so, I might build a world in which not only are there parallel universes but also there are opportunities to escape from one to another. This last part, of course, is not supported by any reputable scientist. But, then, I’m writing science fiction not science.

If this turns out to be too fanciful, I could take a more down-to-Earth (this Earth) route for my escape thriller. I have always been fascinated by mini-nations like Luxembourg or Monaco. How are they viable? Why haven’t they been swallowed up by large European powers like Germany, France or Spain?

My research led me from mini to micro. Prominent among micronations is Westarctica, the unrecognized nation that exists in the previously unclaimed area of the Antarctic continent between 90 degrees west and 150 degrees west. I said previously unclaimed because Pennsylvania native Travis McHenry staked his claim in 2001, declaring himself its ruler, Grand Duke Travis. As it turns out, this stretch of uninhabitable land is about 500 thousand square miles, much bigger than Monaco whose 499 acres are less than one square mile.

Nevertheless, the prospect of using it as a refuge for escapees is appealing. It is, after all, as challenging an environment as George Lucas imagined in “The Empire Strikes Back.” As that story begins, Lucas’ heroes are hiding out on the planet Hoth, a frozen planet with every bit as adverse a climate as Westarctica (although I doubt Earth’s southern-most continent is infested with Wampa-like creatures that were nearly the undoing of Luke Skywalker).

There are other micronations. The oldest is Elleore, founded in the aftermath of WWII on the Danish Island of Zealand. And, in 1967, a British military officer founded The Principality of Sealand, seven miles off the coast of Great Britain. But, none are as ambitious as Westarctica, now a 501(c)(3) charitable entity dedicated to the global effort to fight climate change.

I will need to decide which of the many available escape routes is the best fit for my new book. The easiest—if most far-fetched—is a parallel universe. However, it may be too facile to have the hero step through an easily available escape hatch every time she finds herself in deep doo-doo. The better story line might be an escape to Westarctica, although it would be challenging to figure out how to transport her nine thousand miles from the U.S. to the frozen continent down under.

Last year, Westarctica celebrated the 20th anniversary of its founding at the Hilton Garden Inn in Charlotte, NC. That’s a bit more convenient. She could just take an Uber. Will they still have Uber in 2054? Who knows? It’s only a work of fiction.

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