There is no denying it: Hurricane Sandy is one of the biggest disasters that we as Americans have ever had to face. This past week, I've watched as friends, family, and fellow residents of the Tri-State area lost their lights, their homes, and even their lives. It has been a tragedy for everyone involved.
From my apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side (where I luckily did not lose power), I anxiously watched news coverage that showed streets, cars, and homes underwater--all lost to the surges of Sandy. Eerily, I was reminded of my novel, Mystic City, which published last month, and its strange prescience in this devastating time.
Mystic City takes place in an alternate version of Manhattan, where magic is real and--thanks to global warming having gone unchecked--the streets are flooded. The city has become a sort of skyscraping Venice: poor people live in the Depths, traversing the watery avenues by gondola and raised walkways, while rich live in the very tops of the skyscrapers, called the Aeries, and move around via a super fast lightrail system.
Many people have asked how I came up with this vision of a future Manhattan. My answer is that I was inspired by a recent trip to Venice, when I saw the streets full of water and wondered, What if Manhattan were like this? How could it possibly get this way? The writer in me concocted a novel full of magic and romance. But the sad truth is that, thanks to Hurricane Sandy, we've come far too close to this "imagined" version of Manhattan being authentic.
One of the great things about teen literature is that the genre provides young readers with opportunities to see themselves on the pages. Most contemporary stories feature characters dealing with the same issues that today's teens face: overbearing parents, unrequited love, the trials and tribulations of high school.
Where do dystopian and fantasy novels fit in? They provide escape. Werewolves and vampires replace typical teenage boyfriends. Settings run the gamut from outer space to completely invented worlds. Part of the reason that readers love fantasy novels is that they are just that: not real. Made up places that we can leave our every day lives to visit.
This week, I found myself wondering: what happens when fiction becomes fact? When I invented the setting for Mystic City, the flooding of Manhattan streets didn't actually seem probable to me. Rather, I thought the idea was far fetched enough to make for a great dystopia. And yet, Hurricane Sandy has provided a glaring truth--sometimes, even our wildest, most dangerous dreams can come true.
In this time of need, it's important for us to band together as a community and help one another. It will take time to rebuild our homes and recover from all that has been lost. But we will survive, and we must do our darndest to ensure that we protect ourselves as best we can from tragedies like this in the future--lest Mystic City become a reality.