I Dreamed the Bridge Fell Down

This photo of the West Seattle Freeway Bridge shows you two things: 1. It’s a marvel of modern engineering, a huge construct of reenforced concrete that crosses the Duwamish River in a single arching high-rise span. 2. It’s empty of cars, trucks, or even a bicycle.

That’s what happens when such a modern marvel suddenly develops a profusion of cracks at mid-span, threatening to plunge the whole thing into the river along with any vehicles and people unfortunate enough to be crossing at the time.

So it’s closed for repairs, or for demolition, if repairs can’t be made solidly enough to guarantee public safety. This closure has altered the commute from West Seattle to downtown from easy compared to other commutes, to a routine nightmare for those needing to cross the river daily.

So what’s all this got to do with me and my novels, you might ask. The answer is pretty simple: I predicted the demise of the West Seattle Bridge in The Great Seattle Earthquake. I dramatized just what it would be like if you were driving across the bridge when disaster struck. A scary ride, to say the least, with your survival in serious doubt. And all this written several years before anyone noticed that the bridge had begun to develop cracks at midspan–for real.

Now, I don’t claim to be clairvoyant—just a thorough researcher when getting background information for my stories. But this isn’t the first time my fiction has touched upon things that later became fact. This sort of prognostication seems to be a hallmark of my writing these days. My publisher’s website describes me this way: “Thomas P. Hopp routinely imagines the unimaginable.” And that’s definitely true in this case. No one had seriously considered what might happen if the bridge split in the middle and fell—no one except me, it seems.

While researching my stories, I tend to uncover obscure factual details that stimulate me to think through the worst-case scenarios. I portray these in my stories and let the reader follow characters whose lives are shattered or at least radically altered by the new threat. The Great Seattle Earthquake is the latest in a series of disaster novels—natural or otherwise—that I’ve published. Previously, there was Rainier Erupts, in which the characters will either live or die depending on minute-to-minute—or second-to-second—decisions made when our local mega-volcano blows its top. Then there’s my medical thriller, The Neah Virus, in which a brand new virus arises out of nature to spread contagion and death, precipitating a desperate quest for a vaccine. That ought to sound familiar. In The Smallpox Incident, the viral nemesis is a laboratory creation of bioterrorists. Does that sound like fears being voiced about COVID-19? For me, none of these ideas are new. I’ve thought them through and published them years ago.

Click the links if you’d like to learn more about my stories. Given the darkness of our times, you’ll be happy to know I tend to follow survivors, not victims. And I’m an optimist who avoids apocalyptic doom and gloom. I try to offer good, scary stories for these tough times, with positive outcomes and even some happy endings scattered amid the wreckage.

About Tom Hopp

Thomas P Hopp is a scientist and author living in Seattle. He writes medical thrillers, natural disaster novels, and the Dinosaur Wars science fiction series.
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