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Why The Scorpion Rules is set in Saskatchewan

People are often curious about why The Scorpion Rules—which is after all a high concept science fiction political thriller—is set in (of all places) Saskatchewan.

Let me tell you a story. When I was a teenager, I lived in Omaha, Nebraska.

Now, Omaha was—probably still is—the most important nuclear target in the United States. That’s because it’s home to the Strategic Air Command, the military base in charge of waging nuclear war. Unlikely as it sounds, Omaha was scheduled to be a crater. A deep one.

I didn’t grow up in the duck and cover era; I grew up in the 80s. Some of us were terrified, and some of us were oblivious. I was one of the terrified ones. I thought we were probably doomed and I didn’t understand why people couldn’t see that; why they didn’t do anything.

It didn’t help that we lived in the flight path of the airbase. Fighter planes used to blast over the back yard, which was spooky—there would be a flash of shadow, and then you’d look up and the plane would be streaking away. And only then the sound would slap you. But the spookiest part of the whole business was a not a fighter or a bomber, but a plane called The Looking Glass.

The Looking Glass was the airborne command center for America’s nuclear weapons—the place where they’d get launched from in case the ground command was knocked out. It circled the city, 24/7. It was a big plane, so big that it was always further away than you thought it was, which meant that the way it moved looked strange. It seemed to hang on the horizon as if from a piece of string. It was silent, and strange, and to my overwrought teenaged mind impossibly threatening.

So why Saskatchewan? I think this is why. It’s because Saskatchewan has the same sight lines as Nebraska. It’s for that first scene, in which a small classroom full of hostages pretending to discuss history, while actually watching the slow approach of a horseman who’s coming to kill one of them. It’s so that the narrator can see, on the distant horizon, a faint plume of dust.

PS: I went to Saskatchewan and eastern Alberta before the book came out. I traced out the journey for The Swan Riders. And I found the right spot for the Precepture. Here it is.

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