State of Fear
In this speech Michael gives an interesting account of how he came to write the book:
The book really began in 1998, when I set out to write a novel about a global disaster. In the course of my preparation, I rather casually reviewed what had happened in Chernobyl, since that was the worst manmade disaster in recent times that I knew about.
What I discovered stunned me. Chernobyl was a tragic event, but nothing remotely close to the global catastrophe I imagined. About 50 people had died in Chernobyl, roughly the number of Americans that die every day in traffic accidents. I don’t mean to be gruesome, but it was a setback for me. You can’t write a novel about a global disaster in which only 50 people die.
Undaunted, I began to research other kinds of disasters that might fulfill my novelistic requirements. That’s when I began to realize how big our planet really is, and how resilient its systems seem to be. Even though I wanted to create a fictional catastrophe of global proportions, I found it hard to come up with a credible example. In the end, I set the book aside, and wrote Prey instead.
The fact that his impression of what had happened at Chernobyl, moulded by the media, was so strikingly and incredibly at odds with the reality, made him think about the value of disaster prediction in general, and the particular disaster that we are being asked to believe we face today. Could it be that these predictions may be just as wrong, and will go the way of the predictions of every other "disaster", from the new ice age to global famine, that have been given (ahem) some prominence over the last forty years?