LIVING ON THE FAULT LINE
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.
After living most of my life in Southern California and being always mindful of the San Andreas Fault and the inevitable “Big One” in our future, I moved to Astoria, Oregon in 2018, having fallen in love with the town and the area on a vacation trip years before. When I moved here, I was unaware of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, had never heard of it, and thought the only risk to living in Astoria was the slide zones. I learned about the CSZ from a local geologist and have since become dedicated to learning all I can about the subject. Like Alex in the book, I have a go-bag, and I have an app on my phone that tells me the elevation of whatever location in which I find myself, just in case. Anyway, I just finished reading Cascadia and really enjoyed it, both the earthquake/tsunami aspect and the characters and their storylines. It was obvious that Mr. Bernard is familiar with Clatsop County and the surrounding areas, which made it even more enjoyable. I hope he reads this and I can say thank you for an entertaining and informative read. Jane I, Astoria