So my new novel is going to take place in Miami, an alternate Miami from the near future where a great calamity has befallen the city. In order to achieve as much verisimilitude as possible, I’ve begun to study maps, maps of all kinds, from census maps to demographics, trying to visualize what the city will look like in my novel.

And let me tell you, it is both fascinating and fun. For example, yesterday Grace and I were driving to a Thai restaurant to celebrate Wednesday night and as we took a turn of I-95 onto 167th ST, I was struck that in my alternate Miami this broad avenue would be completely different; in my version, a massive wall of the kind that separates the US from Mexico would run along its length, with vast coils of barbed wire facing the southern side. All of a sudden I sat up and started gazing about me with new interest, trying to picture it–what would happen to the area as a result? That Honda dealership, the pawnshops and gas stations, the Indian curry house and porn video stores? Would they be razed and the area before the wall flattened, or would they simply be abandoned?

I’ve discovered Miami-Dade’s official emergency reaction plan, and browsed it last night. Browsed it very superficially, because it’s over 200 pages long, but it’s a wealth of information. I dug up maps to help me visualize what the demographics were, and discovered that the Hispanics live here, the non-Hispanic white people live here, and the blacks live here. After Hurricane Katrina nobody can deny the role race and class play in how a city responds to a disaster, so these maps are fascinating.

And on it goes. The government chain of command. Population density, and projections through 2030. The location of a nuclear reactor to the south of county on Turkey Point. And on and on.

Absolutely fascinating. I’ve never set a novel in Miami, but now, living here and with this wealth of information around me (and with plans to get out there and walk and drive around and explore further), I’m damned eager to try. Wish me luck!