January Fifteenth debuts tomorrow! This is my last post before it heads out into the world.
(ICYMI, check out some of my earlier posts about January Fifteenth, including my official announcement, the Debut Sampler, and meeting the characters. Preorders are available through several different online platforms, including Powell’s, Amazon, Indiebound, and Barnes and Noble.)
Here’s the author’s note I wrote for the beginning of the book:
January Fifteenth takes place in a near-future America with a Universal Basic Income (UBI) program. If you’re not familiar with the term, Universal Basic Income is a policy proposal for the government to provide an annual income to its citizens. Details vary—like how much that income should be—but every citizen would get it, without condition.
For me at least, any argument about UBI begins with one question: will it help people?
Practical assessment follows, of course, but that’s the first thing we have to know. In its ideal form, if everything went perfectly, would UBI improve people’s lives? I don’t have a definitive answer, although I pose a series of possible questions and answers in this novella.
During my research on American UBI proposals, most of the hypotheticals I saw concentrated on the traditional concerns of the right versus left political axis. Would UBI open new possibilities for society, or encourage a culture of laziness and dependency?
I became more curious about other questions. For instance, some people dislike that UBI goes to people of any social class—so whatever might (some) rich kids do with it? Some people are wary about the ways cults exploit contemporary welfare programs—what might they do with UBI, and how might others try to stop them? Pervasive, systemic racism has created an enormous disparity between the assets of Black and white American households—can and should we brush over that history as if White and Black communities have an equal starting point? Money can help someone escape an abusive relationship, but would Universal Basic Income change what happens afterward?
The characters in this book have gone through hard things, from being orphaned to domestic violence to forced marriage. Many of the scenarios in this book reflect situations that I or people close to me have gone through. Others evolved through research and talking to people. So many of us have gone through similar tribulations, whether the more common horrors like casual racism and sexual assault, or the more rarefi ed ones like cult exploitation. These things impact our lives. They affect our happiness. They certainly affect how and why Universal Basic Income could change our circumstances.
Although I hope January Fifteenth is true to the characters and emotions, I can’t claim it’s an accurate prediction. UBI could play out in lots of ways that are equally, if not more, plausible. For example, in January Fifteenth, the practical side of running UBI is relatively smooth and easy. As a world-building choice, that allows me to let fiddly details fade into the background while I focus on the characters. But is it the most likely scenario? Probably not—very few things seem to be easy.
Even within the world I set up, there are a ton of possible alternative and conflicting scenarios. I could have happily kept adding more. In fact, a fifth thread ended up on the cutting room floor during an early draft, when the word count kept relentlessly increasing.
If I can make any “true” predictions, I suppose they are these:
- Money can make life easier, but it can’t solve everything.
- Adding money to a system with underlying problems won’t fi x those problems on its own.
- After any massive change, some people will be better off, some people will be worse off, and many people will be both better and worse off.
- However the future unfolds, it won’t go according to my values. There will always be outcomes I don’t expect. Some of them will contradict my beliefs about the world.
- I’m definitely wrong about something.