The story in my debut novel, The French Revolution, takes place over thirty years, beginning in 1989 and ending in 2019. This put me in the unenviable position of envisioning the future. As I wrote the book from 2005 to 2008, I had to update several storylines—replacing DVDs with web video, adding the Obama campaign, reducing the influence of newspapers. And as much as I tried to keep the story timely, after the book went to press I knew my educated guesses would wind up making me look like a bozo. After all, the weather guy can’t tell you if it’s going to rain with the aid of the world’s most sophisticated technology; how the hell am I, a lazy, research-inhibited, professional liar, supposed to prognosticate anything past breakfast?
To my amazement, soon after publication a few news events occurred which mirrored the novel’s plot. And recently, I’ve been alarmingly, bewitchingly hot. In a showing that puts my 401k, fantasy football league and OTB record to shame, I’ve already predicted most if not all of five notable world events in just six months since the book was released in July. Sure, I’ve selected examples that are proven wins, and a few are a bit of a stretch. But you gotta admit, the body of work is pretty impressive, especially when you stack me up against recent botched predictions by leading experts (the housing market, WMD in Iraq, the resilience of the Marc Anthony-Jennifer Lopez marriage, etc).
In my novel: A homeless man becomes famous for his impressive vocal abilities when a reporter chances upon his voice in public and broadcasts a video to the world.
In real life: This week, a homeless man named Ted Williams was offered announcer jobs by the Cleveland Cavaliers, MSNBC and Kraft mac & cheese after the Columbus Dispatch chanced upon his impressive voice in public, then posted an online video which landed nearly ten million views in three days. The story prompted this column after several readers contacted me to point out the eerie, unprecedented similarity. I contend that no other novel has predicted such a specific and strange national phenomenon. (Please attempt to prove me wrong in the comments.)
In my novel: The San Francisco Giants win the World Series.
In real life: OK, call the homeless guy thing a longshot once-in-a-millennium beginner’s-luck fluke, but come on, the Giants? Over the Invincible Yankees, the Vaunted Phillies, the Holy Red Sox? That’s like picking the Generals over the Globetrotters, Grenada over the US Army, Lindsay Lohan over Meryl Streep. Today, it’s easy to cavalierly contend that the Giants always had diamond-level pitching and that winning it all was a reasonable expectation, but a year ago I was routinely ignored by anyone in the Eastern time zone when I premised that the club looked decent. Boo-yah.
In my novel: Iran continues to provoke the world with its ridiculous anti-American and anti-Semitic claims, culminating with the Iranian president setting the podium at the UN General Assembly on fire and drawing the US into war.
In real life: This fall, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proverbially set the UN General Assembly podium ablaze when he announced that most people believe that the US orchestrated the 9/11 attacks, provoking the American delegation to walk out on his speech. Ahmadinejad continues to deny the Holocaust and foretell the destruction of Israel. I like to think we’ve learned our lesson about fighting stupid wars, but this guy is kind of asking for one. Here’s hoping I’m only partly right.
In my novel: The San Francisco mayoral selection process leads to unprecedented strife. (No spoilers, sorry.)
In real life: This week, San Francisco’s mayoral selection process has induced California’s Lieutenant Governor to delay his inauguration, sparked a legislative insurrection and incited full-on combat among the Board of Supervisors, with Supervisor Chris Daly telling Supervisor David Chiu that he would “haunt” him for the rest of his career. In a wacky political city, that somehow manages to be a first, though it admittedly doesn’t reach the goriness of the Harvey Milk/George Moscone assassinations.
In my novel: A world-class pastry chef crafts increasingly ridiculous desserts, freezing fondue into popsicles and encasing insects in butterscotch and baking jalapeño chutney pie.
In real life: Just last week Adam Gopnik ran a piece in The New Yorker describing leading global pastry chefs developing “truffle-hazelnut-toast cream pudding…cucumber-ginger-pineapple-tarragon sherbet, then olive-oil cake with San Simón cheese and a perfect white-peach sorbet…[followed by] green-apple granita with bay leaf, as fresh and acid as a winter morning.” We are fully ensconced in an age of culinary complexity. I didn’t predict the trend, but I’ll take credit in nailing that it’s here to stay.
Still to come: Get your insurance premiums in, load up your go-bags, refresh your bottled water stores and send the kids to stay with grandma: I also anticipated a major Bay Area earthquake in the next eight years.
They say truth is stranger than fiction, but as a novelist I can assure you it’s decently freaky when your fiction shows up in the truth. Stay tuned for my forthcoming, more profitable publication, Lottery Tickets 2011.