I believe there are two different ways Cascadia, my newest novel, is being read. It’s dependent, I think, upon where the readers live.
When I do a presentation on Cascadia in the Southeast, where I reside, I’ve discovered I need to do a little extra. I have to set the stage for the drama, because most people outside the Pacific Northwest don’t understand the existential threat this thing featured in the novel, the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ), poses. They aren’t knowledgable about the acute danger that lurks in Washington and Oregon, as well as in southern British Columbia and northern California.
Thus, when I speak to folks in my neck of the woods, I have to explain where the CSZ is, what it is, and why it’s a geological powder keg, before I talk about the story and the characters.
For audiences in the Northwest, I don’t need to set the stage. People there are on the stage. They’re well aware of the sleeping giant beneath their feet. They are, as the 1977 Doobie Brothers’ song says, livin’ on the fault line.
So when Northwesterners read Cascadia, I get the sense they’re more interested in the event itself—Cascadia’s inevitable rupture and the megaquake and tsunami it will unleash—than they are the fate of the novel’s characters. I suspect readers in Washington and Oregon are perhaps thinking as much about their own fates as they are of those in the book.
Readers in other parts of the country, I’m guessing, are more into the novel’s story arc than they are the details of the catastrophe. For them, Cascadia is exclusively fiction, not futuristic nonfiction. Not something that will happen.
It makes a profound difference whether or not you’re living on a fault line.