Villagers With Pitchforks

The flaming torches were delayed in transit, sorry.

Monday, September 13, 2004

A Thousand Fires

Being silly, I am taking a cruise off Hawaii in mid-October. This is hurricane season in the central Pacific, so naturally I'm following all of the hurricane reports I can get my hands on.

In the process, Hurricane Ivan has made me nostalgic for an unfinished project.

I started to write a novel about fifteen years ago.

In A Thousand Fires, a powerful hurricane destroys a Chernobyl-styled nuclear plant on Cuba, then carries the fallout cloud up the Mississippi. Doing the research, I found out that there is one nuclear power plant in Cuba. It's in the southwest of the island at Cienfuegos (literally "a thousand fires"). It is not, repeat not the same design as Chernobyl - it's much safer - but for dramatic purposes I put a fictional Chernobyl-style plant at Cienfuegos and started work.

Then Cuba imploded financially. Russia all but pulled out and the economy tanked. The novel would have taken two to three years from start to publication, and I had no idea what Cuba would be like in three years. And the bottom began to fall out of the techno-thriller market. So I shelved the project and went on to other things. Time proved me right - there aren't as many technothrillers being published these days.

Hurricane Ivan is the hurricane from A Thousand Fires. It's category 5; it's passing near Cinfuegos - the latest maps I saw (before I disappeared last week) predicted the direct hit I had in the novel, but it's staying to the west. It's going due north across the gulf and it's staying strong.

And last week I read this interview with a Chernobyl survivor - this guy avoided death by inches because he happened to be blocking a door from closing.

In my book, Havana and Key West would be evacuated. The Cuban government would be in peril; the American government caught off guard - this was way before 9/11, but I wouldn't change too much today. Thousands would die in the panic alone. At the end, we get a final look at Havana - a ghost town forever, as America and Cuba are united by disaster.

In the meantime, I'm simply hoping for a light hurricane season in the mid-Pacific.

And some common sense about Cuba, which should no longer be our enemy.


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