Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Real life more epic than any fantasy novel

Earth is an astounding place that provides my active imagination with endless bounty. Although I write fantasy novels, I am a firm believer in the adage that fact is stranger than fiction. Sometimes I am asked where I get my inspiration. I believe anything I experience or learn bombards my imagination and keeps it fertile. For example, just this week I was astounded by Michael Finkel's article "Volcano Next Door" in the April 2011 National Geographic magazine. His article about Mount Nyiragongo on the Congo Rwanda border informed me of a situation shaped by colossal natural forces and the serious potential to inflict a terrifying natural disaster on an epic scale.

The Doomed City of Goma

With a population approaching one million people, Goma is packed with refugees from the atrocious prolonged horror that is the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Rwandan genocide. Lava flows from recent eruptions of Nyiragongo have already overtaken tens of thousands of homes and displaced hundreds of thousands, and people are building shanties on the new lava rock. In addition to the near certainty of being overrun by violent rivers of lava, Goma is on the shore of Lake Kivu. Huge reservoirs of methane and carbon dioxide under the lake could be ruptured by a violent eruption of the nearby volcano and engulf Goma in clouds of toxic gases.

The facts of the volatile situation in Goma could make a riveting setting for a novel. You can surely imagine how such a story would climax with characters performing heroic deeds to save as many as possible from the expanding inferno.

Of course, I do not wish to minimize the plight of Goma. I'm well aware of the relentless and hopeless despair that has been inflicted on the Democratic Republic of Congo for years. Millions have died in its war fueled by child soldiers, systematic rape, and extraction of valuable resources. My point is that the real world offers more than enough dangerous drama to inspire any writer. I think we like our adventures in novels precisely because it's not entirely real and there's hope that someone will escape.

May Mother Earth be merciful to Goma.