Why I Destroyed Los Angeles
They say you always hurt the one you love. That must be why I chose to destroy Los Angeles in my debut novel, Struck. Because I love this city! L.A. is my haven. I’m passionately defensive of L.A. and all it’s eclectic, shallow randomness.
But if you want to scare other people, you have to write about what scares you first, right? And the idea of losing my city to an earthquake scares the bejesus out of me.
I’ve lived in Los Angeles for nine years, and every time I feel a tremor, or that kind of rolling sensation of the ground dropping out from beneath me––the same feeling you get when a rollercoaster starts its first drop––my mind screams, “Panic! Run for your life! Hide! We’re all gonna die!” Actually, that’s not true. If I’m writing, I hit SAVE first and then I panic.
Over the last couple of years, with natural disasters growing increasingly more severe and more frequent, the idea that my beloved L.A. could be next on Mother Nature’s hit list seems more and more plausible. And after spending two years writing about a fictional version of L.A., and what it would be like post-disaster, I’m almost tempted to jump ship before it’s too late. (Shh. Don’t tell L.A. I said that. Our little secret).
In imagining my post-apocalyptic version of L.A., I tried to create as realistic a setting as possible, even though I was dealing with a fantastical situation. L.A. has some of the worst traffic in the world, so I played heavily on that factor for cutting the city off from the outside world. The freeways have all either crumbled or been closed down. The few roads that do lead out of the city are parking lots for miles as people attempt to flee. There are 20 MILLION people living in L.A.. That’s one massive mass exodus.
The people who remain in the city have to contend with food, water, power, and medicine shortages. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes or been wounded, and many suffer from a fictional illness caused by fungus that’s in the air after the ground having been disturbed. Looting and rioting is commonplace. This is L.A. we’re talking about, not Japan. We’re not that well-behaved.
I focused the action of Struck on two areas of the city: Venice Beach and downtown. Venice Beach because, A. it’s where my protagonist, Mia Price, lives, and B. because it’s one of my favorite parts of L.A. If you’ve ever seen a movie set in Los Angeles, you’ve probably seen footage of the Ocean Front Walk in Venice Beach. Take a stroll down this particular boardwalk, and you’ll feel like you stepped into an alternate reality where hippies, homeless people, gang members, princesses, hipsters, carnies, gypsies, pot heads, skaters, surfers, body builders, Barbies, and tourists all co-exist in perfect harmony. Well, maybe not perfect, but they co-exist pretty well.
I decided to designate Venice Beach as the area where those who were displaced by the earthquake migrated after they lost their homes. I imagined my beloved Venice transformed into a vast tent city that stretched for miles up and down the beach. My protagonist, Mia, has to venture into this tent city to procure the black market meds she needs to sedate her traumatized mother, who was downtown during the earthquake and was buried under a fallen building for three days.
Which brings me to my other favorite L.A. location in Struck: downtown. Also the epicenter of the earthquake. Most people don’t know this, but the fault line I write about in Struck––the Puente Hills fault line––is actually real, and it runs right beneath downtown, where the majority of the city’s high rises are located. Perfect city planning, right?
During the earthquake in Struck, all of the downtown high rises crumble except for one, the Tower. And downtown becomes the “Waste,” because it’s basically a wasteland of destruction and empty buildings. Now, a lot of people think that downtown L.A. is currently a wasteland, and I must admit it has it’s scary parts––lots of them––but it’s also got history and culture, great restaurants, classic architecture, and glorious galleries full of freaky, disturbing art.
Los Angeles is my favorite city in the world. I want to take this opportunity to tell L.A. I’m very sorry for destroying it. I promise I didn’t enjoy it, L.A. . . . much.
|Jennifer Boswoth (from her website)|
About Jennifer Bosworth
Jennifer Bosworth lives in Los Angeles, California, where lightning hardly ever strikes, but when it does she takes cover. She is the writer half of a writer/director team with her husband, Ryan Bosworth.
Publication Date: May 8, 2012