Cascadia. If you live on the West Coast, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, the name will register with you. If you live elsewhere, it probably won’t, unless you happened to have read the article in the July 20th issue of The New Yorker titled “The Really Big One.”
Turns out L. A. is off the hook. The Really Big One, geologists and seismologists have come to the conclusion recently, now looms for the Northwest, not Southern California.
Cascadia, you see, is the fault underlying the coasts of Washington and Oregon. More formally, it’s the Cascadia Subduction Zone, where two of the earth’s crustal plates meet. Specifically, it’s where the Juan de Fuca Plate is subducting, or sliding underneath, the North American Plate. (See image below.)
For over three centuries, this has been happening with the subducting plate dragging the other plate along quietly as if the two were superglued together. It’s when they become “unglued” there’s a problem–BIG PROBLEM–as the North American Plate attempts to snap back into its original position. It’s anything but quiet. It happens violently, and the result is a massive earthquake and huge tsunami. It also happens with no warning. Think Japan 2011. Sumatra/Indonesia 2004.
As the sub-headline for The New Yorker article states: “An earthquake will destroy a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest. The question is when.”
So what we have, as one of my Facebook friends pointed out, is a novelist’s field of dreams. In contrast, residents of the Northwest probably view it more as a sea of nightmares.
At any rate, the potential for high drama and acute danger became an automatic draw for me, a novelist, especially since I grew up in Oregon and still visit there. Thus, I began work on a novel a little over a year ago. Its working title, TSUNAMI.
No more. It’s now, with a first draft completed, CASCADIA. Maybe with a subtitle SLEEPING GIANT.
The one-sentence description of the work, known in the business as a tagline, is this: Set against a massive earthquake and tsunami in the PacNW, a respected geologist must make two gut-wrenching decisions; one could cost him his reputation, the other, his life.
The tagline, by the way, doesn’t account for the subplots in the novel, of which there are several, including a search for a long lost love and a hunt for buried 17th century treasure (based on an enduring Oregon legend).
The bottom line is that TSUNAMI has become CASCADIA, and I’ve become thoroughly obsessed with poking a stick into the eye of a sleeping giant.