Topicality: Swine Fever Pandemics and Fiction Prediction

Today the swine flu pandemic is major news. That’s a fact. Three years ago, I wrote about a pandemic threat to Darwin, via feral pigs. That was fiction. But so close to this week’s real life swine flu.

In my novel ‘Outback Ferals’ (the ferals were the pigs, not the locals!) infection details were carefully researched with quarantine authorities. The implications of a pandemic threat were woven into the plot. My facts were right, but the story about Kyle the young undercover, eco- scientist sleuth was fiction.

Why is my fiction prediction becoming nightly news? Perhaps it's the fiction writer's tendency to research, look at the possible conflicts and then say What if? It’s a reasoned guess based on possibilities.

Authors are often asked how they ’predict’ events in their fiction, and how close they write to life. I’ve had a few literary co-incidences.

While plotting the ‘Antarctica’s Frozen Chosen’ novel, I discarded my former anthrax plot as inappropriate after Sept 11 But now the bio-political issues of immunisation, quarantine and possible infertility are getting very close to the mutated bio contraception from animal to human in my novel of a rogue scientist and a quarantined Antarctic base.

I did my homework. As recipient of the Antarctic Division Humanities berth, I went on an expedition because I believe in participant-observer research. I consulted ‘boffins’ and ‘tradies’ on board and the medical ‘Doc’ filled me in on all the possible complications while the scientists told me about genetic crossovers. I had an ‘expert’ plot.

Now, It’s a bit alarming how fiction becomes fact. Literary coincidences have occured before, where life has mirrored my fiction, but none as extreme as recent pandemic news.

In the novel ‘ Fake ID’ (which has many hits on my website for the wrong reasons) on the day of Zoe’s grandmother’s funeral, Zoe discovers her grandmother had fake ID for years. I’ve had four people approach me since the book’s publication saying the same thing had happened in their family, but from different warzones, not Hungary as in my novel. That research I did with State Trustee genealogists during the first draft.

The fiction writer’s role is to entertain, but also to provide a different perspective. Maybe in their plots, authors gamble with probabilities rather than possibilities?

As crime writers, does fiction prediction worry you?

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Ever read The Odessa File by Fredrich Forsythe. The novel went a long way in explaining how to get fake ID's and disappearing into a crowd by exchanging money, passports. etc. Forsthye was a correspondent for Reuters, I believe. Did his research down in the gutters and alleys of professional hitmen.

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Chricton (sp?). Of course he was a doctor to begin with so he could extrapolate possibilities.

Good writers can and do research. And they've been doing it for years.
I thought it was freaky that the tsunami in Indonesia happened at the same time that Michael Crichton's State of Fear (which features a tsunami) was published.
I think we live in a bounded reality. Fiction writers tend to prowl the periphery, so we come across some fringe ideas that are far-fetched compared to core daily functions, but still experienced by a fair number of people. Also, there is the effect of "once you notice something, it seems like it's everywhere," an experience we've all had. Someone mentions cream cheese or painter jeans to you, and suddenly it seems like cream cheese and painter jeans are the latest crazes. We tend to see what we're primed to see. So, I think for authors, we tend to see weird coincidences (I love the phrase "fiction prediction") because we explore the periphery of our bounded reality and thereby prime our brains to see these coincidences. In fact, we create one-half of the coincidence by writing the fiction!
I agree we prowl the periphery, so we come across fringe ideas. Thanks for all the comments

I have put a research article about the pandemic research on my website under Outback Ferals.
Disasters make good plot material when the story sags. :)
I'm speaking of my own plotting, of course.


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