My last update on the brainstorming process for my story came a few days ago, and I have some new material! I won’t actually write it, let alone release it, for a while, since it’s bulging into a novel-length concept, and I’ll be busy with traveling in less than a month (annular eclipse and thence to New England!), so it won’t be until November when I have a good long period of time without anything else going on to write it up. Assuming I even want to by then; after all, I nursed “Orphans of Opry” Tower for like a year (see here, my first post on the general concept; I finished writing it up this summer).
The Diamond Baron fits in like a Glove…
I’ve basically decided that this Christmas perfect storm, which takes place in 2045, will be set 16 years or so after the events of “Orphans of Opry Tower”; it’s retroactive continuity, but that story doesn’t have a definitive dating that’s contained in-text, so whatever. The reason for this is that the patriarch of the diamond fortune Katenka and Kolya inherited, who I’ve provisionally named Dobrynya, will be age 96 and still alive, but at the age where my plans call for him to die.
So why not have him join the expedition in the story and die as a result? He has experience in harsh winter conditions, has the motivation to help Decca (she is, after all, a friend of his family), and may well provide the funding for procuring the special vehicle they’ll take. His death will add a note of peril to the story, and will, as per my plan, catalyze his two living teenage descendants (Fintan and Katenka’s child plus Fia and Kolya’s child) coming closer romantically in gloriously gothic fashion. I’m thinking “she loses her virginity on top of his grave”, that sort of gothic: full Mary Shelley (yes, really).
I was thinking of naming Fintan’s and Katenka’s child Anastasia Aoife, with Fia’s and Kolya’s child being named Anastasius Aoifan; direct masculine and feminine equivalent, almost as if they’re twins, even though they’re only half-again first cousins. The double-barreled names honor both their Celtic and Russian heritage.
Music Artists Galore
This helps to tie together another aspect of the story: there’s supposed to be a male pianist character in the eye of the storm in Ocean City, but it seems a bit gratuitous, not to mention redundant with Katenka being a pianist in just the previous installment; but if it was a close relative that explains it. Indeed, Anastasius is Katenka’s nephew, so he fits in perfectly; all I need to is characterize him as a storm watcher…which is too a tendency he could have inherited, considering storm-chaser Hernando is his grandfather!
There’s also supposed to be another music artist in the mix, who I’ve decided to site in Maine. Whereas the Ocean City pianist will be streaming ominous Christmas music on a piano, this artist will be streaming live New Age jazz music that appears on the default configuration for the Weatherscan software (named in homage to The Weather Channel’s Weatherscan service, but it’s from a different entity in this timeline). In homage to Trammel Starks, who made the Weatherscan music in real life, I’m naming her Tassel Stark, and she’ll be streaming from her home on Ragged Island, Maine (the one off Harpswell, Maine; it is a real place and was the home of Edna St. Vincent Millay in real life), which gets the full brunt of the storm surge but otherwise nothing extraordinary, just a top-tier windstorm with some snow. The place is characterized by white-colored rock cliffs between the rolling hills of the forest atop and the ocean below, making for a striking backdrop.
Expanding the Family…or: who exactly lives in that big House in Abingdon, Virginia?
I’ve also done some brainstorming for the people in the Abingdon house, who are much older than 46-year-old Decca and especially 21-year-old Georgia. I’m thinking they might all be siblings, ranging in age from 86 (Decca’s mother, who had her when she was 40) to 66 (Georgia’s mother, who was 45 when she was born). Decca’s father could easily have died from old age, whereas I’m thinking Georgia’s was never in the picture in the first place; perhaps as of when she was little they were divorced, explaining the family’s protective tendencies toward Georgia and how Georgia is so circumspect about motherhood and men.
Fitting this crowd into the narrative took a bit of work, but I think I’ll arrange it like this: Decca at first goes to her vacation home in the Sipsey after her Christmas party in Nashville (which she has on the solstice, so as to let the partygoers spend the actual day with their families and so forth), but then when the family refuse to evacuate from the storm she drives to Abingdon to help them before it strikes at full strength (this enables us to still get the drifting snow and all-time record low temperatures from the previous cold wave), and she wants Georgia to come home, but Georgia refuses, being enthralled by the storm of a lifetime coming right for her on Christmas. This makes Decca nervous, but she figures it’s best if she sticks with her family instead of going to cousin Georgia, a decision she soon regrets, because she let her husband do the same thing and he ended up killed by an ice-wrapped tornado in New York on Christmas Eve!
“Decca! Something’s happened in Washington”
Another angle I wanted to work into it was, in homage to “The Day After Tomorrow”, a plot thread involving the Library of Congress, where we get an up-close look at Washington’s experience in the heart of the storm. Then it hit me when I rewatched the movie again: in the movie the characters get trapped in New York because they were there for a competition (namely the Academic Decathlon) and didn’t make it out in time due to the storm being more intense than forecast. Why not a similar setup for Fintan and Fia? They have nothing to do in the story otherwise, and they’re competitive dancers! Of course there could be a dance competition right before Christmas in Washington! And the same scenario could play out: the storm is worse than expected, and their train tickets (they expected air and road travel to be impossible) are cancelled as the snow overwhelms the intercity system much faster than anticipated.
As for the Library of Congress, why couldn’t they just hang out there for the duration? Well, most of it. The subway system is still fully operational, along with the critical infrastructure, which is also underground; it’s just that inter-city travel, which uses not-entirely-underground infrastructure is virtually impossible.
Anyway, the metro system enables them to visit other landmarks in the city, including the Washington Monument, where I’m plotting that they will be the final visitors before the park ranger receives the order to close the monument because of its structural integrity starting to become questionable, even witnessing the monument crack open down to its foundations (killing said ranger in the process).
They’ll be stunned by this, wondering if the apocalypse is nigh, especially considering that there’s a great comet still in the sky (a rogue, no less), all right after the United States government was reorganized by Rapunzel Reinhardt. They take the metro to the Lincoln Memorial, which is still open, where they can contemplate his giant statue almost ensconced in snowdrifts, the whole scene lit up by lightning, taking in a surreal and apocalyptic atmosphere (and providing me a chance to show off some more politically-themed worldbuilding in the process).
True to their southern Democrat heritage, they then take the metro to a memorial of a president they hold in considerably higher esteem: Jefferson. The memorial is open enough so that most of the snow blows straight through, with only modest drifting. When they get there, they see none other than Rapunzel Reinhardt herself, communing with Jefferson’s statue as if it was his ghost.
They’ll be stunned to meet her in person, and will converse with her amid the storm there, providing more color to the situation in Washington and tying it in further with my great comet story.
Eerie Dusty Haze over the Bathtub-warm Atlantic
I’ve also worked some more on the backstory and prelude. Record-warm sea surface temperatures drape the tropical Atlantic, fuel for the December hurricane that transforms into the Christmas monster storm, but it would just be too obvious for this to be associated with a record-active season.
Inspired by the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, I’m thinking there will be the strongest Saharan Air Layer anybody’s ever seen over the Atlantic for the duration of the summer (in 2022 it was strong enough to totally inhibit tropical cyclogenesis for the whole month of August!), and even into September, only dissipating after then and permitting explosive hurricane formation starting in October, the latest start to an Atlantic hurricane season on record.
Another contributor is an extremely rapid transition from a super El Niño just the previous winter (i.e. at the beginning of calendar year 2045) to a super La Niña Modoki (where cold anomalies are strongest in the central Pacific, contrasted to the usual locus in the eastern Pacific) by the end of the year, which only makes hurricane formation conditions more favorable when the dust inevitably clears in autumn.
This thick dust haze combined with the bathtub-warm waters will make for an eerie and slightly creepy atmosphere as they wait for hurricane season to begin. This will be accentuated by a total solar eclipse taking place in the Bahamas in August, which Decca and Georgia will see.
The dust haze will also irritate Decca and Georgia, because both of them have dust allergies. This thick layer extends well into the United States, and Decca copes by taking corticosteroids for the duration, but Georgia’s not so bound to a specific location like Decca is with her dance studio, so she leaves the region altogether for the summer, to somewhere with no dust in sight. I’m thinking Georgia goes to Japan; her introverted and bookish nature might find it a friendly environment, and it’s not a place any of my characters have gone to before. She might make a project to study the history of the samurai, the art of being a geisha, Japanese calligraphy, metal-working, and the like, coming back to Decca enriched by her experience. That’d be nice…
“They’ve just issued a Blizzard Warning in Los Angeles!”
I’m also thinking about what’s going on on the other coast, namely the West, where Katenka and company live: the beaches of Malibu, California. While one cousin, namely Aoifan, is playing his piano at Ocean City, the other cousin, namely Aoife, will be at Anacapa Island, getting a makeover and following in the footsteps of her mother Fia. Aoife from childhood so wants to be pure Malibu as far as girls go (going so far as to make surfing her passion), and she so wants to be just like her mother Fia and her aunt Katenka, and by the age of 15, when she completes her Christmas-present makeover at Anacapa Island, she’ll have been more or less successful!
Her desire to belong to her family and community takes her some interesting places, like losing her virginity to her cousin in a diamond collar over the grave of her great-grandfather who mined those very same diamonds!
But before that happens, she’ll get a whole different Christmas present from what she expected: a blizzard. Yes, on Anacapa Island. Off the coast of Malibu. California too has experienced a massive arctic outbreak in December, albeit not as severe as the one in the east; they’ve gotten the edge of the continent-wide trough. But it’s enough to kick their temperatures below freezing, near record lows for that time of the year, and the pattern is stormy.
There’s a trough over California by this point, a dip in the jet stream, but it’s snaking well north of the eastern United States now, leading to the great storm becoming a cut-off low. This helps underline just how weird the weather pattern is that Christmas.
According to my research, this is just the sort of West Coast weather pattern that leads to sea-level snow in southern California: “a powerful upper-level low sliding down the U.S. West Coast and retrograding just far enough offshore to enhance the flow of moisture from the Pacific inland and atop the low-level cold air”, precisely what’s happening on Christmas 2045. So with heavy precipitation and strong winds both givens (the latter especially true at Anacapa Island, up on a big cliff and surrounded by the ocean), the already snowcapped coastal ranges might experience blizzard conditions, with Los Angeles and even San Diego experiencing a White Christmas even at the beach in Santa Monica and Malibu.
Snow events of this type often penetrate deep into the desert, so given the setup even sites like Badwater Basin at Death Valley might receive accumulating snow. With the simultaneous ocean-effect blizzard in Miami (!), not to mention previous storm activity elsewhere, almost the entirety of the United States could be snow-covered at dawn on December 25, 2045.
That’s shaping up to be a year like no other in my universe. And given the extreme and anomalous setup that’ll remain even after the Great Blizzard dissipates on the East Coast, even more weird weather will prevail worldwide for some time to come.