Fictional story imagines post-apocalyptic Portland after earthquake

Post-quake Portland fiction rattles nerves

PORTLAND, Ore. – The frightening possibility of a 9.0 earthquake in the Pacific Northwest is becoming a pop culture phenomenon.

Is a San Andreas-style movie next?

On the heels of “The Really Big One,” a through article by New Yorker staff writer Kathryn Schulz, comes a five-part series from Vice’s online science and technology magazine, Motherboard.

Related: New Yorker writer discusses ‘terror reaction’ to earthquake article

This version is billed as “reported science fiction.” It imagines a 9.0 magnitude earthquake striking off the coast of Newport.

After the Big One,” written by Portland resident Adam Rothstein, describes what could happen in Portland after the earthquake comes to pass.

Like Schulz’s article, Rothstein's piece describes in detail how the quake could shake Portland. But Rothstein takes a different approach by playing out some worst-case scenarios. 

In the first installment, a landslide takes out the West Hills, masonry buildings crumble and trap people inside, and the wall holding back the Willamette River gives way.

Rothstein's account also imagines fuel tanks in Northwest Portland rupturing, causing a fire that ignites the North Portland neighborhood of St. Johns. 

Q+A: Author, geologist discuss 'Vice' earthquake story

It’s that worst-case world that allows Rothstein to build from a post-apocalyptic landscape. Gone are the twee trappings of the Portland we know now. In its place, a city full of “dangerous, groaning, smoking terrain.”

It’s a scenario terrifying to many Portland residents but a perfect landscape for a fiction writer to build upon.

As part of the Vice coverage, Rothstein discussed the imagined world as one where people must work with one another to survive.

“Maybe we escape this nightmare together, in one way or another,” Rothstein said.

POLL: What's your reaction to earthquake reports?

 

 

 

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