I have always believed that science fiction writers are prophets and sometimes wonder if the same can be true of anyone who pens a fictional story. Perhaps they are connecting to the universe in some strange and mystical way that we can’t fully comprehend resulting in a vision of the future.
Take for instance The China Syndrome. The film, starring Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas, tells the fictional story of a reporter and her crew who discover safety coverups at a nuclear power plant and witness an accident that narrowly avoids a nuclear meltdown.
It was released by Columbia Pictures on March 16, 1979, just 12 days before the partial nuclear meltdown at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island. In one scene, a nuclear safety expert even says a meltdown could force an area “the size of Pennsylvania” to be evacuated.
It also seems like Morgan Robertson was prophesizing in the 1898 novel Futility that tells the story of an “unsinkable ship” that hits an iceberg and meets its doom, but it would be 14 years before the RMS Titanic met that fate.
Although written before the Titanic had even been designed
1. Robertson’s ship sank in April in the North Atlantic. The Titanic sank April 15, 1912, in the North Atlantic.
2. Both ships did not have enough lifeboats for passengers. The Titanic had 16, while the fictional ship had 24. That was less than half needed for both ships’ crew and passenger capacity of 3000.
3. Both ships were nearly equal in size. While the fictional ship was 800 ft. long, the Titanic was 882 ft. long.
4. Both were traveling at a similar speed when the ships hit their respective icebergs – 25 knots for the fictional ship and 22.5 for the Titanic. (Both struck an iceberg 400 miles from Newfoundland.)
5. While the Titanic lost more than half of its 2,200 passengers and crew, the fictional ship lost lost more than half of its 2,500.
6. And, if this doesn’t send chills up your spine, the name of the fictional ship was the Titan.
* (Book info from various Internet reports.)
Could it be that doing your homework and putting in endless hours of research on a topic to make your fictional work as convincing as possible created these coincidences?
When I heard about the latest school shooting in Connecticut, I immediately thought about the 2011 film We Need to Talk about Kevin, starring Tilda Swinton. It was based on a 2003 novel written by Lionel Shriver about a fictional school massacre set in England.
Written from the perspective of a boy’s mother, Swinton has a child with a terrible disposition from birth who behaves like a sociopath from an early age. He clearly hates his mother, but in the end, kills his father and sister at home before using his bow and arrow to attack teachers and students at school.
While many have said copycat killings could result from the media saturation of the most recent school tragedy, I began to wonder if the Connecticut massacre was, itself, a copycat killing influenced by this recent film.
After researching more about it, I was surprised to learn that it was filmed on location in April of 2010 in Stamford, Conn., of all places.
In October of 1997, Luke Woodham, 16, killed his mother and two students at Pearl High School.
A year later, Kip Kinkel killed his parents at home and went to Thurston High School, where he shot two students and wounded 22 others in the cafeteria.
Then Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, killed 14 students and one teacher before committing suicide at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. They kept journals and plotted a year before carrying out their attack.
People have said the Connecticut attack was the most deadly schoolyard attack in history, but that happened May 18, 1927, in Bath, Mich., in another massacre that shares commonalities with the others.
School Treasurer Andrew Kehoe killed his wife before detonating dynamite in the basement of Bath Consolidated School, killing 38 people, mostly children age 7-14.
He later pulled up to the school and set off a truck bomb, killing himself and four other people. At least 58 others were injured.
It is believed that he had collected explosives for more than a year with plans to carry out the explosion.
It may not always be possible, if ever, to predict tragic events, or even stop things from happening that we suspect may occur, but it doesn’t hurt to study the commonalities in an effort to better understand what is happening and see if there are ways to prevent future incidences by being quick to recognize the signs of someone mentally ill and on the verge of violently losing their minds.
While I have no way of knowing whether or not Adam Lanza was influenced by We Need to Talk about Kevin – whether art influences life or life influences art – the writer of the book obviously did her research, constructing a character who aptly resembles many of those misguided, violent individuals we have learned about in recent years who take their anger out in schools.
And Adam Lanza did have ties to the area where the movie was filmed. According to reports, his father moved to Stamford several years ago before filming began and still resides there.