Path of The Blast: Behind the Scenes of Pink Hats and Burned Men

Explosions are terrifying.

A wildfire can spread until an area the size of a small country is burning.

An asteroid can hit just right, and create conditions that wipe out the dinosaurs—and just about everything else on the planet.

Tornadoes can be miles wide. And they can catch on fire, a phenomenon known as a “firenado,” or, slightly less commonly, “the stuff of Anthony’s nightmares.” In my 2019 short story “Wander Dreams of Fire,” a tornado in Kansas grows to 2 miles wide. Much of what I do is indeed fantastical… but that giant tornado was based in headlines. In 2013, a 2.6 mile-wide tornado ripped through part of Oklahoma.

And then there’s The Blast.

In the Rucksack Universe, The Blast started out in one small area. Over a wee hill, in fact, in the Irish west coast city of Galway. Yet the explosion burned so hot and big, it not only decimated the city but began burning farther and farther afield.

The Blast’s epicenter is an area of about 10 square miles. That’s about twice the size of the entire area of LAX airport, from the terminals to the runways and the perimeter fences.

And yet.

Due to a phenomenon known in physics and writing as “hand waving,” the fires of The Blast concentrated into four bands of flame. One shot north, one east, one south, and one west. More or less. Fire doesn’t exactly follow a compass, and directions would prefer to leap out of the way rather than try to direct fiery traffic.

A mile wide and a hundred yards tall, the bands of flame decimated everything they touched as they burned their way across Ireland. Eventually, the fires hit the sea, and in most cases that’s where they petered out. The eastern band of flame actually burned into the Irish Sea and created something rather unique (more on that in my 2018 book Wander), then continued blazing across England, razing London to the ground, scorching the White Cliffs of Dover black, and finally burning out in the English Channel. (Though some bits of coastal France got a wee bit singed.)

Some places, such as Ireland’s town of Clifden, in the western region of Connemara, were barely spared. The flames passed near, but didn’t blaze through the town. You’d think that’d be a cause to rejoice. Just because the town didn’t burn doesn’t mean everyone got away unscathed.

In some of my Great Challenge stories, I’m exploring how The Blast affected people who were there when the flames came. In this month’s new worldwide release, “Pink Hats and Burned Men,” we get to meet someone whose course of life wasn’t just impacted by The Blast, but was completely altered.

After all, the path of The Blast didn’t just change lives and geography, it changed the path of the world.

Pink Hats and Burned Men” is available worldwide as of Feb. 19, 2020. Spread the word and see you in the Rucksack Universe!