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[Comments] (7) The Problem Is: The problem with splitting California into two culturally symbolic states, North and South, like you were planning to do in your post-cyberpunk novel, is that there's this great big valley running right down the middle of California. You can't really split it down the middle, nor can you split around it without creating a jigsaw puzzle. You're stuck!

This has been The Problem Is.

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Posted by danny at Fri Apr 16 2004 19:05

Ursula le Guin solved that problem in Always Coming Home with that cause of, and solution to, all California's problems: earthquake!

Posted by Leonard at Fri Apr 16 2004 19:41

I wrote and deleted this big thing about how you could divide California east and west, at the cost of the SF/LA dichotomy that is the reason people want to divide up California in the first place. Don't know why I didn't think of having nature split it along the San Andreas Fault.

Posted by Leonard at Sun Apr 18 2004 11:41

Incidentally, the (not used yet) companion mini-feature to The Problem Is is called Why Don't You Just. I'm glad to see we've combined the two mini-features in one entry.

So, as to your question. My gut feeling has a couple reasons. One, Americans just don't do that. The terrain has to be pretty uniform all along the state line--obviously rivers make good borders, but so do deserts, mountainous regions, and undifferentiated plains. I don't know of any state boundary that cuts through a big valley.

Also, the people who live in that valley are more similar to each other than the people who live in the major metropoles are different from each other, so the location of the line would be purely arbitrary. Since the valley is where all the farmland is, in an amicable split each half would try to grab the whole valley and the people in the valley would start wanting a third state. In a civil war of secession, any line drawn across the valley would be hard to defend.

Posted by Pthag at Mon Apr 19 2004 14:49

Your first point I grant you, although I also chide Americans a little for their lack of enthusiasm in their Great Experiment that we old, tired nations cannot perform.

As for your second point, if you draw an arbitrary line, people are going to develop similarities most likely. And I suppose it doesn't have to be a straight line in the middle. Jot around important features. And wouldn't a third state just be even more interesting?

Posted by Adam P. at Mon Apr 19 2004 15:29

We could circumvent this problem entirely if we split California not into North and South, but into the Bay Area and Everything Else. (Areas contiguous and sympathetic to the Bay Area, viz. Mendocino and Santa Cruz, would be invited to join the Bay Area state as well.)

Posted by Leonard at Mon Apr 19 2004 18:46

Personally, I think a third state would be a lot more interesting. If I were to write a post-cyberpunk epic about a California split, it would involve the greater LA area and the greater SF Bay Area seceding into their own tiny states, leaving a rump California behind that held most of the territory but only half of the people and maybe a third of the GDP. Resentments that currently go unexpressed would bubble to the surface as the more conservative valley state would decry the corrupting influence of the more liberal city-states, and the richer city-states would be glad about no longer having to subsidize the poorer valley state. I think there's some good material there.


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