My mind once again turns in recent days to brainstorming for my ever-sprawling Great Christmas Blizzard story. I was wondering what sort of festivities Decca and company might have in Nashville for Independence Day 2045, and then it hit me: while it’s an obvious idea to have Sasha, Draža, and Tallulah, The-Suite-Life-of-Zack-and-Cody-esque triplets of the Grand Ole Opry Tower, give a rock concert for the niche of partygoers, why not have them throw a concert on the previous day instead? Why the previous day, you might ask? Why, because that’s when the derecho strikes, that’s why.
Imagine a special concert, a one-time event given on short notice, that features the triplets playing some of the hardest-charging rock music they have in their repertoire to a live audience perched atop the Highland Rim. Or, better yet, at an outdoor amphitheater built into, and blending into the natural landscape of, the northwestern-facing slope of Short Mountain, the Rim’s most prominent peak, located 23 miles east of downtown Murfreesboro. Today the place just hosts a Bible camp, but in the secular New Age timeline they live in where these naturally spectacular sites tend to be better developed the area might have an entirely different character (though I’m sure more than its fair share of seeker types will be drawn to the peaceful environs and the beautiful views when there’s not a big noisy gathering going on).
The concertgoers are on the slope of the mountain looking downward at the rockers, who are on a stage located at a lower elevation, so from their point of view they’ll see the towering derecho clouds climb up from the horizon and behind the singers as the shelf cloud and gust front approach ominously. Perhaps this moment will be accompanied by the band switching to big drums in a waltzy pattern resembling a heartbeat in tempo but still very much in the rock tradition. A prelude to when the storm finally washes over them with hurricane-force winds, causing the crowd to erupt in thrilling cheers as they experience the rush and the band continue playing and singing in the full force of the 100 mph winds.
Reckless? Dangerous? Perhaps. But it’ll be tame by the standards of this universe’s 2045, for as the greatest tornado season in American history sets in, it becomes first fashionable then a craze for people to gather within viewing range of active tornadoes and have parties, breaking out into dances, concerts from any musicians there, and even weddings, engagements, dates, and…well, shall we say, more overtly erotic activities.
The trend starts as the record-active beginning of the tornado season in winter gives storm chasers an unprecedented high profile in the public mind, but only really reaches full flower during the series of “super outbreaks” that sweep the country throughout the month of May 2045. May sees the season reach a crescendo as the record-active tornado activity at last reaches into the Plains, wide-open flat terrain offering 360-degree views of tornadoes that don’t tend to be rain-wrapped, a far more enticing venue for a tornado party.
People in this universe tend to be much more risk-tolerant, so although, as any storm chaser will tell you, it is safer to have a tornado party on the Plains, the primary draw is the better views.
Well, for a given value of “safer”. Tornadoes tend to be unpredictable and these crowds lack the mobility, experience, and expertise of an actual professional storm chaser, contributing to 2045 becoming by far the deadliest year ever for tornadoes, not only because of the twisters sweeping through already populated areas with unprecedented ferocity and in unprecedented number, but also because of people actively putting themselves in harm’s way!
People pour in despite that risk, with perhaps a decisive factor being how a majority are pumped up high on amphetamines, cocaine, anabolic steroids, and corticosteroids at any given time. Social conditions make the go-go-go I-am-invincible sorts of chemicals the drugs of choice, with all the attendant consequences; human accomplishment may be enhanced, and the men might be buff, but a lot more people will turn violently aggressive and take stupid risks. For tornado parties in particular, coca wine becomes a craze, de rigeur for many to go bottoms-up on before going, enhancing the experience of going out to meet the funnel cloud, breathlessly hoping amid the wind, the music, and the flying debris hypnotically swirling before you that you’ll see your first F5.
Creepy, almost gothic. But you know what would be the most gothic and fitting concept of all? If Draža met his dream girl not at some random concert in the backstory but rather in the thick of this first year of La Niña del Diablo at one of these tornado parties, where the triplets are giving a rock concert. They’d be among the better-suited people in the music industry to do this, considering that they’re close friends with Hernando McThurston, Decca’s husband and longtime professional storm chaser. Advisement and technique from him could enhance both safety and their chance of organizing a successful concert: one where the partygoers will see a strong tornado right behind the performers in full glory. It might be enough to convince them to join the bandwagon and head out to the Plains.
Theodora being a tornado-crazed girl who effectively comes out of the storm and right onto the stage, capturing Draža’s heart as soon as he sees her with a supercell thunderstorm swirling right over them, is exactly the sort of vibe this story needs in its earlier stages, and it makes everything so much tighter with the plotting and backstory. So yes, my brainstorming yet continues in new directions, and I think it just keeps getting better and better as the story forms in my mind…