This St. Patrick’s Day morning when I sat down to write my post, an earthquake once again rocked Los Angeles. 6:25 a.m. and I’ve got the coffee brewing when this bad boy hits. As if reacting to an underground explosion, our house bucks and sways, the windows rattling and glasses clinking. There was an initial jolt then the earth roiling, then another round of tectonic plates sliding and grinding. When a quake happens, and being a native I’ve experienced more than I care to recount, you start thinking about getting everybody together for safety. I flashed on the notion that unlike as I’d been taught years ago, don’t get everyone under a doorway. If the doorway falls away, the collapsing ceiling would kill us.
Considering where to locate ourselves, I yell for my wife and our grown son to get up – he would usually be on his way to work this early but was going in later for a company meeting – the quake subsided. Reports later quoted Robert Graves, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, who said the earthquake was the most significant one in the Southern California area since the magnitude 5.5 earthquake in Chino Hills in 2008. The quake was felt all the way from Perris, out in Riverside County to San Clemente, down in Orange County.
Odd but a quake had been on my mind the day before while I signed a few of my books and browsed at the Paperback Collectors book show. This is an annual gathering of used book sellers with an emphasis on paperbacks where various writers are invited to sign as well. Being a fan of ‘70s and ‘80s eras paperback vigilant series, I was reminiscing about one in particular featuring a rough and ready chap called the Warlord.
The premise of the series was thus: Vietnam vet (they were all Vietnam vets then), ex-Special Forces soldier turned history teacher Eric Ravensmith (you gotta love that name) leads a band of survivors in a California which has been torn away from the rest of the mainland by a massive earthquake. Additionally there’s some sort of radiation belt surrounding the state and Ravensmith also draws on his training (including using a crossbow which you see used by characters in the horror TV series the Walking Dead and the dystopian, neo-pulp Revolution — replete with swords and machine guns), by a Native American shaman-type, his foster dad Big Bill Tenderwolf. The six book series was primarily written by Raymond Obstfeld, with Rich Rainey penning the last one, all under the house name of Jason Frost.
In the movie Escape from L.A., it’s also a quake that has made So Cal a Mad Maxish-like breakaway land mass. Mercenary Snake Plissken is coerced into service once again. This time he’s to penetrate the bizarreness that is the Island of Los Angeles to retrieve a remote control of an orbiting electro-magnetic pulse satellites that could, pre-dating the nanobots who do this in Revolution, wipe out all electrical apparatuses in a targeted area. In the 1974 big budget, all-star cast Earthquake disaster movie, Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, Lorne Green, Richard Roundtree and various other A and B listers scramble to survive with their chins up when the big one decimated Los Angeles.
IMDB succinctly sums up the film Demolition Man; two men—one, an evil crime lord; the other, a risk-taking police officer—who are cryogenically frozen in the year 1996 and reawakened in 2032. Following a massive earthquake in 2010 that destroyed much of Los Angeles, it merged with San Diego to form a planned city called San Angeles in which all crime has seemingly been eliminated from mainstream society. And in the sci-fi novel Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, a giant comet plunging toward the Earth causes all manner of mess including earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes exploding. In one memorable scene, a surfer shreds the ultimate gigantic tidal wave to his death as it sweeps in to level the beach town of Santa Monica, California
As Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson tweets about readying his quake pic, San Andreas, I’m going to have some more coffee and contemplate how I can transform my jitters of the Big One into genre gold.