When real life overtakes you

Well, this month in Falling's alternate reality, a fire badly damages Shanghai's Jin Mao tower and kills several hundred people inside.

Several points in the story mention various natural and industrial disasters in relation to the Sydney Harbour Bridge collapsing. Among them are the 2001 terrorist attacks against the US, the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami across the Indian Ocean, the 2011 earthquake and tsunamis that struck the coasts of Japan in 2011 and several fictional disasters I made up.

One was a huge earthquake in the Mediterranean Sea that causes killer tsunamis across the coast of North Africa in 2027, but much closer to us temporally is a devastating fire that breaks out in the iconic Shanghai office and residential tower.

I wanted to finish and publish Falling long before I eventually did – my original hope was to have it available just after Christmas 2017 – and the reason is because I wanted it to be out in the cultural firmament before the actual bridge collapses in the world of the story in October 2019.

The end of 2017 was in fact originally supposed to give it a year before the collapse. The last very minor rewrite that luckily didn't break the timeline completely was to move the date of the disaster forward by one year to give me more time between the publication and the fictional event. In other drafts since I embarked on the last major rewrite (the LMR) it happens in 2018, which seemed so far in the future back when I started not just writing it but rewriting it.

Of similar but lesser importance was to have Falling out in the world before the Jin Mao fire, only because to read about a deadly disaster in a story built to give you thrills and chills a few months before it's due to happen has more dramatic urgency than it already having happened. If it's over, all that does is remind you you're reading about a fictional universe where the stuff in it is made up.

I'm still a little bit worried it'll take too long for Falling to make any impact and the date of the bridge collapsing will come and go (okay, I'm a lot worried). But to change it now and move everything forward three or five more years would require another major rejiggering of times, dates, days and events, and frankly by the time I finished doing that I'd have to do it all over again because I'd be on top of the date of the disaster once more.

I'd have to make it ten years hence, which would change a lot of the technology and historical backdrop and mean an ever more in depth rewrite, and so on...

All of which is a way of asking you to forgive me for published Falling so close to the events depicted and not giving you enough time to wonder what it might be like if it actually happened.