There's the scene towards the end of the fourth Hitchhiker's book, So Long and Thanks For All the Fish, in which Marvin reads God's Final Message To His Creation ... which turns out to be 'We apologize for the inconvenience'. Given Douglas Adams' sudden death from a heart attack, leaving the sixth book unfinished (and eventually written as a posthumous sequel called And Another Thing... by Eoin Colfer), that message takes on a whole new meaning.
From Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency is the line, 'I think a ghost is someone who died either violently or unexpectedly with unfinished business on his, or her - or its - hands. Who cannot rest until it is finished or until it is put right'. Between the unfinished nature of The Salmon of Doubt and the author's own dissatisfaction with the Downer Ending of Mostly Harmless it seems terribly apt.
There is also a bit in the same book about Dirk and the police officer experiencing 'a chill as the dead man's voice filled the room' while listening to an answering machine message. Not too bad... except when the author reads those lines on the audiobook.
His final Hitchhiker's Guide book Mostly Harmless introduced The Guide Mark II, an effectively omniscient and omnipotent version of The Guide, existing singularly in the entire multiverse. (The rest of this entry is a spoiler for Mostly Harmless, Harsher In Hindsight, and Fridge Brilliance all rolled into one. You have been warned.) The device is revealed as a Vogon plot to destroy Earth once and for all, and prevent its resurrection in any parallel universe by the expedient of collapsing quantum timelines so that its final destruction is truly final. Anyone that The Guide Mark II can use to further its goals will think their life to be going swimmingly until the Guide has finished using them, at which point they'll probably be killed. The author's most spectacular example is Agrajag the Ever-Murdered, who trapped Arthur Dent before Arthur Dent visited Stavromula Beta (actually Stavro Mueller's "Beta" nightclub) and ducked an assassin's bullet which slew Agrajag yet again. This ensured that Arthur Dent would survive anything the universe threw at him until this event happened. This was orchestrated by The Guide Mark II to ensure Arthur Dent was on Earth when it actually blew up. Did The Guide Mark II ensure Douglas Adams would complete and publish this and then ensure Douglas Adams would not alter the fate of Earth?
In the final chapter of Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, a novel about a soldier's experience during World War I, the protagonist, Paul Bäumer, reflects on how miserable the rest of his life is going to be if he does manage to survive the war. One of the reasons he gives is that the next generation, having not known war, will not be able to understand what he endured.
Jake is shown a Bad Future in which the Yeerks have taken over Earth. The only part of the New York skyline left standing? The World Trade Center.
In the last book of the series (published in May 2001, set in 2002 or thereabouts) Jake mentions that since the war ended there's been a rise in terrorism, particularly religiously motivated terrorism.
And then of course there's the book where they get into the Yeerk pool by ramming a plane into a building (the building is hollow, so they put it on a collision course with the roof, bailed out as birds, and flew after the wreckage).
In the last several books, there's a lot of musing that America isn't ready to defend itself because it doesn't have any enemies. The books in question were published in the Spring of 2001, just before The War on Terror began, and since then the idea that America has no enemies has come to seem rather naive. For example, in Book #46, Marco gives a rant on the state of events. Tobias concurs with an unintentionally sad comment.
Tobias: Marco has a point. Particularly Americans. I mean, we've got no enemies at sea, not many on land, and those aren't exactly real scary. The country's just not ready for war. Maybe it's arrogance, maybe a combination of things, but the average person on the street just doesn't think another World War is possible.
Then there's the famous open letter the author wrote to fans who didn't like the ending, where she pronounces that she always wanted her story to reflect that War Is Hell and that if fans don't like that her fictional war ended with unhappiness and not a lot of back-slapping and chanting of "We're number one!", they ought to remember that real wars ruin the lives of many of the people who participate in them, and that often the end of one war seamlessly transitions into the start of another. Her letter ends with the reminder that her fans will soon be of voting and drafting age.
Reading Piers Anthony's references to his family life in his early works' Author's Notes, and especially the dedication to his daughter Penny, "Heaven-Cent", becomes a Tear Jerker when you know that Penny died of respiratory distress following brain surgery in 2009.
John Fante's Ask the Dust for two reasons. The main character, Arturo Bandini, didn't see what the big deal was about up-and-coming Adolf Hitler. This book was published in 1939, two years before America entered World War II against Germanynote World War II itself began in 1939 — the same year Ask the Dust was published — when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, but America didn't directly get involved until December 1941, though they did provide military support to their allies before then, and English editions of Hitler's Mein Kampf had overshadowed the book, contributing to the book and author's obscurity.
P. G. Wodehouse has one tucked away in Bachelors Anonymous. This book, written in the seventies, includes this throwaway joke:
Mr Llewellyn's plane was on its way. A complete absence of hijackers enabled it to reach New York...
This happens in (of all things) Dave Barry's Guide to Guys. While talking about a mechanic he knew who was deeply into fireworks, Dave writes, "If those radical Muslim fundamentalist terrorists had had Ed on their team in 1992, the World Trade Center would now be referred to as the World Trade Pit." This was probably funnier in 1995, when the book was written, before a pair of precision-aimed airplanes created a World Trade Pit. Hey, those skyscrapers collapsed all the way down — and had underground levels and a subway connection. Their footprints are now filled by two sunken pools with water fountaining down the sides, an enduring memorial to where the Twin Towers once stood.
Another moment based around the same event: The movie Big Trouble, based on another of Dave Barry's books, was one of several that had their release delayed because of 9/11, due to the plot involving hijackers breezing through airport security. With a bomb. And the Air Force being sent to shoot the hijacked plane down. Did we mention that it was scheduled for release on Tuesday, September 11th, 2001?
Dave predicts the future again, albeit on a smaller scale, in his 1991 book Dave Barry's Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need. He talks about how on a road trip through South Dakota, there was a hyped store called "Wall Drug", advertised on the side of the road for hundreds of miles on billboard after billboard ("153 miles to go", "146 miles to go", etc). His wife, Beth Barry, wanted desperately to go there, but he drove right past it, much to her chagrin. At the end of the story, he laments jokingly, "You know how certain incidents become permanent sore points in a marriage?...That's the status that the Wall Drug Incident has achieved in our marriage... If she ever files for a divorce, this is the first incident she'll mention to the lawyer." Dave must have a jinx or something because they divorced in 1993. Whether she did, in fact, bring up "The Wall Drug Incident" to the lawyers is unknown.
At one point in Alex Garland's The Beach, Sal (the only character who keeps a calendar) mentions that it's the 11th of September, and several other people are surprised at the news. Why? Because it means there's a big annual party a few days away! The book was written in the mid-90s, and the date was presumably picked at random.
Double whammy for Sylvia Plath. "How did I know that someday — at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere — the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn't descend again?" In the month following the publication of The Bell Jar, she killed herself. For the same reason, Lady Lazarus, a poem about her previous suicide attempt and foreshadowing her next attempt, is just heartbreaking when she writes: This is Number Three./What a trash/To annihilate each decade.
Genesis 8:7-12 talks about Noah's Ark during the time when the whole earth is already submerged in floods. On August 7, 2012, much of Manila, Philippines was submerged in floods due to heavy monsoon rains.
Given the Bible's enormous length and scope, there is almost always a passage somewhere that relates to contemporary events — people see analogues to the Roman Empire in the European Union, to "the four horsemen" in Genghis, Subotai, Kublai and Ogedai Khan, etc.
In The Black Book and Schwambrania, an autobiographical novel by Lev Kassil, the narrator and his brother write down some documents for their imaginary country, which are later accidentally discovered by police detectives inspecting a theft and thought to be evidence of an anti-Soviet political plot until the narrator's brother Os'ka (Joseph) explains the matter. This is one of the most comic and lighthearted moments of the book… unless you know that the real-life Joseph Kassil was shot almost two decades later, accused of involvement in an anti-Soviet political plot.
"The Veldt" features two kids using a virtual reality playroom to create violent fantasies about man-eating lions on an African veldt. When their parents try to stop these gory fantasies after the family therapist tells them they need to live a low-tech lifestyle, the kids trick them into getting trapped in the room and eaten by the lions. In The '50s, when it was written, it served as a critique of mindless and often violent TV. Nowadays, with concerns that video games can potentially become addictive and encourage youth violence, the story is even more chilling (even though a good deal of the allegations surrounding video games are dubious).
In Fahrenheit 451, Clarisse McClellan tells Montague how her teenage peers are extremely violent, and how her grand-grandfather told stories about a time where teenagers used not to kill each other, "but this was long, long ago". Given the rising level of school violence, including school shootings, this is almost prophetic.
The Reality Subtext behind Broken Gate, as Amoridere wrote the story to cope with an abusive situation in which she endured some times prior and its aftermath, which makes the Downer Ending to the story worse, as Nezumi dies in the end and said author's note implies that the authoress contemplated suicide.
The Lincoln Rhyme novel The Broken Window has a plot that revolves around intrusive government surveillance that can reach into every aspect of a person's life and is abused by "God" the Big Bad of the story to put people through a living hell, which at the time it was written in 2008 was plausible but still firmly in the realm of fantasy. Cue the revelations about the NSA's PRISM program and suddenly Jeffrey Deaver seems almost prophetic.
His book A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away describes an attempted terrorist attack on the 6th of September 2001. While the book was published on October 4th of the same year, the writing took place before the events of September 11th. To make this even more cringeworthy, the tagline of the book was "Terrorism, it is the new Rock'N'roll". Needless to say that some re-wrapping was needed after that. Brookmyre's universe tends to incorporate real-world events into the canon established by his previous titles; thus, more recent titles, such as 2008's A Snowball in Hell, consider the unfortunate coincidence of timing and the resultant impact this has on the characters involved.
In his first book, Quite Ugly One Morning, a character reflects that a doctor character who has quietly been killing elderly patients for years (and who is finding it hard to tell which of the doctor's patients have died naturally and which were murdered, or even for how long this has been going on) whose death toll is in the double if not triple figures is the worst serial killer in British history. And then, just two years later...
Bruce Coville's Book of... Magic: The protagonist's situation in Phoenix Farm, in which her father loses his job and leaves the family because of a recession, became this with the advent of the Great Recession about twenty years after the story came out.
An new Islamic caliphate gets established by terrorists mirrors ISIS — the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — which was a splinter group from Al-Qaeda that became its own independent militant group that declared itself a worldwide caliphate.
One of the main POVs is a Christian girl that endures repeated sexual abuse at the hands of Islamists. One of the most infamous things ISIS is sanctioning rape on religious grounds towards non-Muslims with their primary victims being the Yazidi (an ethnoreligious group regarded as "sorcerers" and "devil worshippers" by ISIS).
In the book, the US President declares Islam a "dangerous political movement that is only dishonestly a religion" and proceeds to put all Muslims inside internment camps. While this hasn't happened in America, something similar happened in China of all places, where they locked up 1 million Muslims in re-education camps and referred to Islam as a "contagious disease".
Mecca is destroyed by the US on September 11 in retaliation for the World Trade Center attacks. In 2015, a crane collapsed in the Great Mosque killing a hundred people and injuring 400. What really made this event qualify for this trope is that it also took place on September 11 and the crane belonged to Osama bin Laden's family.
There is an off-hand remark in The Candidates (based on a true country) about Bill Cosby being a good role model. The book was written in 2011 when Cosby was still considered to be the human embodiment of wholesomeness - you know, before fifty-odd women came forward to accuse him of having drugged and raped them...
Early on in The Catcher in the Rye, the main character Holden quips "This is my people shooting hat. I shoot people in this hat." This was a harmless bit of sarcasm for decades until the book became associated with Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley, John Lennon's assassin and the attempted assassin of Ronald Reagan, respectively.
Cinderella was finally identified when the prince fit the glass slipper on her foot. Several centuries later, the O. J. Simpson trial used a similar method (fitting a glove onto O. J.'s hand) to determine whether or not O. J. was guilty. Even worse, the saying "if the shoe fits" sounds eerily similar to a phrase used by one of O. J.'s lawyers: "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit."
The Spider novel City Destroyers featured a structure called the Sky Building collapsing. In the 1970s, a redacted version of this novel changed it to the World Trade Center.
In an earlier part of The Comfortable Courtesan, when Sandy brings Clorinda the digitalis for Docket (which he believes is for an unhealthy client of Clorinda's who might otherwise be in danger of going Out with a Bang), she jokes to him that she's sure Hector, her butler, wouldn't have any hesitations about disposing of a body for her. This will happen for real in the final arc of the novel, and it will be someone who she premeditatedly murdered.
Vlad Dracula and Elizabeth Bathory in Count and Countess, who write letters to each other across time and have been doing so since childhood. In this story, Elizabeth suffers from chronic epilepsy. When they are children, Vlad lists a number of ancient epileptics to try and cheer Elizabeth up about her disability. Vlad brings up Socrates, Caesar, and Alexander the Great. Elizabeth quickly retaliates with Caligula.
H. P. Lovecraft's horror writings weren't ever meant to be funny, but they were harmless thrills because of their obvious reliance on fantasy. Then you suddenly realise one day that Cthulu and R'yleh work quite well as a metaphor for the "methane clathrate gun". note It's huge, it's been "sleeping" deep under the sea for countless eons, and when it rises, it will cause The End of the World as We Know It through runaway climate change and a mass extinction possibly as big as the "Great Dying" at the end of the Permian era. And there are many people (climate scientists) who really do have nightmares about it, and at least a few particularly pessimist dark-green activists have developed mental illness (depression) and even committed suicide.
The Dancing Girl of Izu: The revelation that the titular character is underage makes subsequent rereadings of prior descriptions of her beauty uncomfortable to read.
Yet another 9/11 reference: Tom Clancy's 1994 novel Debt of Honor ends with a distraught Japan Air Lines pilot flying a 747 into the US Capitol building during a joint session of Congress, killing the President, most of Congress, the Supreme Court, and many others. Unlike the 9/11 terrorists, however, the pilot ensured that no passengers were on board (it was an empty ferry flight) and murdered his copilot prior to the attack so that he alone would bear the blame. The Capitol building was the most likely intended target of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in a rural Pennsylvania field instead thanks to the actions of its passengers and crew.
Crossed with Dated History, Raise the Titanic! has the Titanic in one piece and, aside from the iceberg gash, in good enough shape to be salvaged. When the ship was found in 1985 (two years before the date the novel is set in), it was in two pieces and falling apart, in no condition to be salvaged.
Treasure was written in 1988 and set in 1990 and imagines that Muammar Gaddafi died of cancer while Ayatollah Khomeini was still alive. By 1990, Khomeini had been dead for a year while Gaddafi would live until 2011.
Cuban Storm focuses on the death of Fidel Castro in June of 2016. Cussler was off by just five months.
In Valhalla Rising, the Corrupt Corporate Executive bad guy plans to have his goons blow up an oil tanker in San Francisco Harbor, thereby destroying the SF "World Trade Towers", making America revolt against imported energy, and increasing the value of his own domestic oil holdings. Wincing yet?
It gets better; one of his lieutenants leaks the plan, and the ship is boarded by special forces troops, who find it a perfectly normal oil tanker. The hero of the book realizes that the baddie had planned to say "World Trade Center" as a decoy, and had not gotten SF's WTC and the one in New York confused. Yes, that's right, the bad guy planned to blow up the base of the Twin Towers and a good portion of Manhattan. Thanks to the Freudian slip, the real ship being delayed, and the hero's submersible, disaster is averted. But barely.
Lords and Ladies has a segment where Esmeralda Weatherwax, strongest and most focused of witches, thinks she is losing her mind, remembering parts of the house that she doesn't have. In light of Sir Terry's... embuggerance, that was painful to read.
In Maskerade and The Truth, several characters agree that multiple exclamation marks are a sign of a diseased mind. In Thud!, the text uses them for Vimes's Punctuated! For! Emphasis! moment. As said above, Terry Pratchett later announced he had Alzheimer's, making reading the latter passage nearly physically painful. There are also the passages in Small Gods where Om worries about losing his memories (again), how it would feel to have the knowledge drain away and how a part of him would be there, helpless, as he dwindled. The despair of the Great God takes on an even more moving and depressing tone in light of the above.
Snuff is even worse for this. In Thud the multiple exclamation marks tend to be used with precision. In Snuff... less so. And other aspects of the style and technique show similar changes.
It's not as horrible as Sir Terry's current condition, but descriptions of the lack of rain in The Last Continent hit a little too close to home in certain parts of Australia of late. Like the towns that are completely out of water. Some inhabited places in Australia have not seen rain in six years.
Jingo was written in 1997 and, in addition to parodying Lawrence of Arabia, it contained a number of satirical observations on mindless patriotism and xenophobia against Arabs. Reading it after the start of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars in the 2000s feels a bit awkward in how accurate it gets.
In Guards! Guards!, Vimes nearly panics when he sees Constable Carrot is about to try and arrest the Patrician, Havelock Vetinari, for a minor traffic violation. Near the end of Jingo, several books later, Vimes is tasked with arresting Vetinari on charges of treason, for turning Leshp over to the Klatchians without consulting the guilds or the nobles, and Vimes has a whole dramatic Inner Monologue about how leaders can't be placed above the law. It somehow manages to be Hilarious in Hindsight at the same time when Vetinari insists that he be placed under arrest, including "being run out of town on a rail" and all that, and the whole business with Leshp turns out to be part of his plan.
Far more depressing is in one of the later books, Wintersmith when Roland reflects on his time in the world of the fairies and all its horrors. He makes the following statement, which just kicks you right in the teeth now: Roland hates things that make you forget who you are. Once you forget who you are, you lose everything.
A novel called The Dorset Disaster centers on a nuclear explosion caused by tampering with the reactor's controls due to problems with overly sensitive equipment. It was written in 1985, and has some similarities to the Chernobyl disaster a year later, though the novel was set in the US. Also somewhat eerie is the way everyone assumed the explosion was terrorism, much like fears today when a disaster occurs.
In Dragon Bones, Ward's mother is drug-addicted, and not quite there, mentally. She sometimes mistakes him for his father, and near the end of the novel, he stands beside her, trying to find her with his magical ability, and can't — her body is there, but she is gone.. Horrible enough as it is, but if you have a relative who suffers from Alzheimer's, you really understand how bad it is.
The Dresden Files as an unusual in-universe case. During a flashback to Harry first learning magic under Justin DuMorne, Justin rewards him with a baseball glove and comments that Harry might find baseball to be very rewarding. To young Harry, it seems an innocent enough statement, but a few books earlier, it was revealed that Justin had him practice his shield spell by throwing baseballs at him.
French writer and officer Emile Driant (1855-1916) wrote many adventure / war / science fiction novels (he's sometimes described as a Jules Verne focused on warfare). In one of them, L'Aviateur du Pacifique (The Aviator of Pacific), the Japanese attack the American fleet at Pearl Harbor in 1942. This had been published in 1910.
Averted in Dr Strangelove: They quickly dubbed over all mentions of "Texas" because of the Kennedy assassination.
Not just Texas. Dallas.
And of course, most people nowadays who've seen the movie know the line was dubbed, so YMMV on whether this is averted.
Spice, a ubiquitous drug from Dune and several other science fiction works after that, is one of the many genericized trademarks for synthetic marijuana which has far nastier effects & withdrawal symptoms than its natural counterparts and some death records to top it off (compared with natural weed which didn't kill anyone).
Buzz Aldrin's novel Encounter With Tiber has a Space Shuttle failing to make orbit and crashing. This is most assuredly a reference to the Challenger disaster of 1986, but in-story, the event takes place in a period of time that, in real life, saw the 2003 Columbia re-entry breakup happen.
In Isaac Asimov's short story "Evidence", Stephen Byerley is a candidate for mayor of NYC who is accused of being a robot, which would disqualify him from the election. The premise seems kind of silly and it's hard to believe that so many people would believe that Byerley is a robot based on such flimsy evidence. Fast forward to 2008, when people are arguing that President Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States, and it seems much more plausible.
It's a little more harsher than that: Quinn, the political boss who propagates the rumor, is a conservative Sleazy Politician who admittedly couldn’t care less for the civil rights of his people, and so his subordinates. Byerley is a liberal public prosecutor who really is doing things to stop crime and redeem criminals. Quinn only opposes Byerley liberal position because, well, he is a conservative. To be a robot is a rumor so incredible that when it proves false, only shows the extremely superficiality and stupidity of those who oppose Byerley.
Humorously, there, in fact, Ain't No Rule that says that a robot can't be mayor of New York.note " He or she needs to be 18-years-old and a resident of NYC on Election Day." The only legal leg to stand on would be arguing for or against citizenship of a robot. This is also the case for the US President, who has but three requirements, none of which refer to species.note be a natural-born citizen of the United States; be at least 35-years-old; have been a permanent resident in the United States for at least fourteen years.
For an In-Universe example, Van Houten insults Augustus' intelligence by saying his cancer must have spread to his brain. A Kick the Dog moment on its own, but then Gus later reveals that his cancer did in fact return and has spread to the rest of his body.
On the commentary for Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk comments that a friend of his named Bob ended up getting testicular cancer after he'd written the book, "and so the irony of that was just crushing."
The 2004 book Forty Signs of Rain ends with a massive tropical storm named Sandy hitting the Washington DC area. Fast forward to 2012, and we have Hurricane Sandy.
There's a long, long history of this. A novella called Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan was written wherein a drunken old captain has to fight for his life after the ship he pilots — described as "the largest ship in the world" — is sunk by an iceberg. The novel was written fourteen years before the sinking of the RMS Titanic under practically identical circumstances. The ship in Futility is like a slightly smaller version of the Titanic. Every circumstance surrounding the Titanic's sinking (number of lives lost, what started the sinking, lack of lifeboats, triple screw propellers, ship described as "practically unsinkable", ship length, and ship speed) matches something in the descriptions about the Titan. It was initially rejected for publication due to being "unbelievable."
In the 1935 Harriet Vane novel Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers, one of the staff at Vane's British alma mater claims that "What this country needs is a Hitler!" (Of course, a lot of Britons — including King Edward VIII — had similar feelings before the full extent of the depravity of the Nazi regime was known.) An ex-soldier who served under Wimsey, and is now working as the college porter, makes an approving offhand mention of Hitler doing "interesting social experiments" in Germany. There are also some mentions of German policies by the dons, especially the Nazi idea of keeping women “in their place”. note If you follow these references carefully, you’ll find that Sayers was (presciently) using lack of disapproval of the Nazis as an indication that a character is either naïve, or opposed to Harriet’s (and Wimsey’s, and clearly Sayers’s) position on gender relations. However, Sayers gets across her opinion that the last thing any country needs is a Hitler. None of the protagonists agree with this sentiment. Even in 1935, she saw him for what he was.
In The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest from Stieg Larsson's The Millennium Trilogy, there is an incident where a newspaper editor drops dead of a heart attack at his desk. It's very difficult to read the passage for anyone who knows how Stieg Larsson died.
One inspiration for The Giver was Lois Lowry's conversations with her son, a USAF fighter pilot, prior to the Persia Gulf War. Her son would later die in a plane crash after the novel's publication.
It gets harsher when you know the details. The novel opens with a plane flying low over the community. A few years after the novel was published, a USAF pilot, who was known for low overflights and showing off crashed his plane, killing all on board. Later in the novel, the Giver told Jonas of how wars had been started when planes were fired on by mistake. A few years later, two US fighter jets misidentified two US Army Blackhawk helicopters and shot them down, killing all on board. These two incidents resulted in a push for greater accountability among USAF personnel. On May 30, 1995, Major Donald Lowry's F-15 crashed. The cause: two airmen had misconnected two control rods. The Air Force sought to prosecute the two airmen involved, despite evidence that the Air Force knew of the potential for such an accident and had done nothing to fix it. They sought the Lowry family to testify for stiff punishment of the men involved, but the Lowrys wrote a letter asking for leniency. The day the court-martial was to begin, one of the airmen charged left the base and headed to a wooded location he frequented. The airman's father and other Air Force personnel joined a search. The airman in question was in a hunting shack. As his commander approached, he shot himself in the head. He left a note for the Lowrys, in which he stated, "I know I am going to heaven. And in heaven I cannot hurt anyone else, not even by accident."
In Messenger, a sequel to The Giver, the villagers, under the influence of the mysterious Trademaster, decide they want to stop letting any more people into the community (which was built by people from other communities, with one of the founding principles being that everyone is welcome), even proposing building a wall to keep out any additional newcomers. Messenger was written in 2004.
Diana from GONE gives a reason you suck speech/comfort talk to Caine in the first book...
Diana: (In response to Caine's angst over his mother abandoning him) Wow, it's a shame dr. Phil isn't here. Look, she was probably just a messed up teenager then.
This was hilarious until the 4th/5th book when Diana actually gets herself into this situation (teen pregnancy) with Caine. Only she's tortured by Drake for it goes insane from having to give birth in a mine whilst getting flogged and having horrible mind tricks played on her for hours.
An off-handed joke about even a demon not being cruel enough to turn someone into Freddie Mercury is now a lot less funny, knowing that at the time, he was dying a slow and painful death of AIDS. At the time of the book's publication, there were rumors that he had contracted the disease, but he had repeatedly denied them. The truth came out a little over a year later, shortly before his death.
In the book, Pollution replaced Pestilence, who retired in defeat after the invention of antibiotics. Fast forward 25 years, and we have scientists worrying about worldwide flu pandemics, there was a big Ebola outbreak killing tens of thousands that was barely kept from spreading to the rest of the world, an entire generation (and their young children) are dying of AIDS in Africa, and we are confronted with an increasing number of multiple-drug-resistant strains of bacterial diseases like tuberculosis. And there haven't been any real breakthroughs in finding new antibiotics in ages. Then, just a few months after the miniseries adaptation was released, a little year called 2020 happened...
There is the Jewish mobster Meyer Wolfsheim who works in an office labeled "The Swastika Holding Company." In 1922, when the book was written, Those Wacky Nazis had only recently adopted the swastika as a symbol and were still a decade away from coming to power.
In addition, upon (the possibly Jewish) Gatsby's death from a madman, the narrator ends the description of the scene with "...and the holocaust was complete."
Fitzgerald seems to be astonishingly unlucky with these. In The Beautiful and Damned, Anthony meets a disagreeable character who happens to be Jewish:
I detest these underdone men, he thought coldly. Boiled looking! Ought to be shoved back in the oven; just one more minute would do it.
The Great Pacific War by Hector Bywater has a major one of these because, even though it was written in 1925 and is set in 1930-1933, it contains a Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
The theocratic dystopia pictured in The Handmaid's Tale has many parallels with the Taliban, who seized power in Afghanistan barely a decade later.
In general, a lot of Richard Preston's work became much, much harsher after the COVID-19 Pandemic. Aside from The Hot Zone, a number of his other books discuss deadly diseases (The Demon in the Freezer is about smallpox and anthrax, Panic in Level 4 goes into further detail about Ebola and other viral hemorrhagic fevers, and The Cobra Event is a fictional but extremely realistic story about an outbreak of a recombinant virus based on nuclear polyhedrosis virus.) All of these stories were chilling when they were written, but they became an entirely new kind of terrifying after the world witnessed a real pandemic firsthand.
In Grendel by John Gardner, the work ends with the words, "Poor Grendel's had an accident. So may you all." Eleven years later, Gardner died in a motorcycle accident (days before his wedding, no less).
Many fans have been disappointed that Nymphadora Tonks became softer and more feminine by the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, compared to her wilder debut in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. In late 2019, author J. K. Rowlingtweeted in public support of Maya Forstater, a vocal TERFnote Trans-exclusionary radical feminist, a sub-group of feminists who argue that transgender women are men, and should be treated as such by laws regarding gender equality. On June 10, 2020, Rowling published an essay that was intended to explain her views on trans identity, but only ended up angering the LGBTQ+ community even more as it was full of offensive transphobic stereotypes. One of them was the idea that gender dysphoric teenagers will eventually "grow out of" their dysphoria. In the wake of Rowling's essay, this article on Vox.com by a non-binary writer bitterly concluded that Tonks' "taming" was not only a conscious rejection of trans identity, but had been planned all along.
And then there is the reporter Rita Skeeter in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, who is frequently described as having a "mannish jaw" and "large hands" (both things often used as "gotcha" characteristics that help people "spot" trans women). She's depicted as entirely untrustworthy, and it's later revealed that she uses her secret power as an animagus to turn into an insect and overhear what Harry and his friends say to each other in private conversations. She literally transforms herself in order to spy on children, a false accusation often levelled at trans people.
There's also Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, another villainous character who dresses in an exaggeratedly feminine style, while the author is always pointing out how "ugly" and "toad-like" she is. Rowling herself stated that this was inspired by an actual teacher she had, who had a similar dress style that Rowling found repellent. Nowadays these descriptions read a lot like the accusations of "performative femininity" that are levelled at trans women, or when transphobes mock them for not being "convincing".
Prior to the release of the fifth Harry Potter book, a filk of "Cell Block Tango" from Chicago that contained various fans' predictions on who would die in that book was posted on the Harry Potter Filks website. The irony of the filk lies not so much in the fact that the character that did die in that book was not among those listed, but that two books later, three of the ones listed did after all. Read at your own risk if you haven't finished the series yet.
Back in The Order of the Phoenix, Moody goes on and on about the possibility of death while flying to Headquarters, and is told nobody is going to die, and the whole thing is played for laughs. Guess what happens in Hallows while flying to HQ? Yeah.
Early in HBP, Ron and Harry are talking about hoping that the new DADA teacher, Snape, will succumb to the trend of DADA teachers leaving after only one year. Harry flippantly says something along the lines of "I'm hoping for another death". Well, Snape certainly leaves the post after another death...
Ron very often predicted future events with his jokes—more often than not becoming these.
Almost every scene with Sirius and Dumbledore.
Especially then scene with the Mirror of Erised in the first book. Warm pair of socks, anyone?
And, with Fred. "When I get married, I won't be bothering with any of this nonsense. You can all wear what you like and I'll put Mum in a full Body-Bind Curse until it's over." Except, he doesn't get married, does he?
Same with Cedric "That'll be something to tell your grandkids Ced. You beat Harry Potter!"
Everything Amos Diggory says to or about Cedric involves him living to a ripe old age. One can only assume Rowling did that on purpose.
In Goblet of Fire "If the Hogwarts Express crashed tomorrow and George and I died, how would you feel knowing the last thing we heard from you was an unfounded accusation?" As of Deathly Hallows, jokes about Fred dying are rather unfortunate...
Even worse, the last thing Fred heard from Molly before he died was her yelling at him for letting Ginny come to the battle... not exactly an unfounded accusation, but close enough.
For that matter, later on in Goblet of Fire, Fred and George temporarily grew long white beards when their attempt to fool Dumbledore's Age Line with an Aging Potion backfired. That's the closest Fred ever got to true old age...
One that wasn't even funny in the first place: Order of the Phoenix has Molly trying to face a boggart, which keeps turning into the corpses of her children. She sobs that she thinks of them dying all the time, and worries that it'll happen before they can reconcile with Percy. So of course, when Percy shows up for the Battle of Hogwarts in the next book, he makes amends to his family and fights alongside them... and then Fred is killed.
After the anthrax scare following 9/11, it's more than likely that more than a few insensitive fans have made at least one inappropriate joke about Rita Skeeter sending prank mail infested with anthrax spores to Hermione (kind of like that one "curse mail" incident from Goblet of Fire).
Near the end of Prisoner of Azkaban, while Snape is in a rage about the escape of Sirius Black, Fudge comments to Dumbledore that he seems quite unstable and that the Headmaster should watch out for him.
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, they're trying to figure out who Tom Marvolo Riddle is and why he won an award for Special Services to the School, and Ron jokes that it is because he killed Moaning Myrtle. At the end, it is revealed that Tom Marvolo is Lord Voldemort, and he did in fact murder Moaning Myrtle when he opened the Chamber of Secrets. It is also shown that he turned in Hagrid for the murder. In the penultimate book, it's discovered that he used Myrtle's death to create one of his horcruxes!
In Goblet of Fire, there's a brief scene before the Quidditch World Cup where a wizard named Archie is wearing a flowery nightgown meant for women and refuses to wear trousers meant for men, even with a Ministry official scolding him for not properly blending in with the Muggles. This little sequence becomes less funny in light of J.K. Rowling's transphobic comments twenty years after the book was published, especially with her infamous June 2020 essay where she claimed men would try to dress as women to enter female changing rooms and bathrooms.
Until the penultimate book, Snape was the head of Slytherin house, whose emblem is a snake. In Deathly Hallows, he dies by being bitten by Voldemort's snake Nagini.
I completed this manuscript in October 1994. At that time, I'd structured the events which occur in Chapter Nineteen because I could think of no more loathsome, despicable, and cowardly act any individual or group of individuals could commit. It is my belief that the sentence "The end justifies the means" — that suppression, repression, and/or murder become somehow acceptable if committed in the name of a "cause" or belief which reduces individuals to expendable pawns — is the vilest of human poisons, and that terrorism, regardless of the terrorist's "cause," is the ultimate act of dehumanization. I did not expect that between the time I wrote this novel and the time it was published a United States citizen in Oklahoma City would demonstrate an even worse contempt for human life and the fundamental values of his own society or prove capable of an act even more despicable than my fictional villains. That some human beings are capable of such atrocities is an inescapable lesson of history. That we cannot allow those acts to go unpunished or extend to those who commit them any shred of respect, whatever the "cause" which motivated them, is a lesson the civilized human community must teach itself.
The 2002 novel House of the Scorpion takes place in a fictional nation created and controlled by drug lords that is between Mexico and the United States. Seeing that Mexico's local governments (and national) are becoming more and more influenced by the drug cartels, this is becoming more of a reality.
Matthew Reilly's Hover Car Racer features two villainous Renault drivers who team up to put protagonist Chaser out of the race. Come 2008, and Renault would purposely arrange for one of their drivers to crash to give a significant advantage to another in real-life Formula One.
InCryptid: In "The Lay of the Land", Mary jokes that Thomas is "doomed" and should "just accept [his] fate now". We later find out that Mary brokered the Deal with the Devil between Thomas and the Crossroads, which led to him eventually being Trapped in Another World.
Ari Behn's last book Inferno was published in 2018, and detailed his struggles with mental health issues. On 25 December 2019, he died by suicide.
At the end of Emily Neville's It's Like This, Cat, troubled college drop-out Tom decides to enlist in the Army for three years as a way of getting his life back on track, finding stability and, with some luck, making money to continue his education and marry his girlfriend. He even speculates that he'd be drafted in a year or two, anyway, but seems very convinced, and no one contradicts this, that he can be stationed in New York throughout his three years of service. Well, the book was published in 1963, and guess what happened in 1965...
Debt of Honor, released in 1994 features at its climax a suicidally depressed Japanese Airlines pilot deliberately crashing his jetliner into the U.S. Capitol building during a special joint session of Congress confirming a newly appointed Vice-President, decapitating all three branches of government. One could say this predicted 9/11 to a certain extent, as Clancy went out of his way to illustrate how easy such an attack might be to carry out — the fact that the Capitol may have been the target of the 4th plane makes it even worse.
In Debt of Honor, deaths caused by faulty gas tanks in a popular model of Japanese car prompts the US government to enact punitive trade legislation against Japan. In 2010, major recalls of Toyota cars due to safety defects prompted a Congressional investigation.
In the novel Jumper, the main character drops a terrorist from the World Trade Center. He catches him before the man can die, but still... 9/11, anybody?
While editing her Kiesha'ra series, Author Amelia Atwater-Rhodes had a webcomic series called ihme* (Short for I Hate My Editor), which parodied the events of Kiesha'ra. It delved into possible alternative skylines, freely played with flanderization, and makes humorous events out of what would actually be traumatic and disastrous in the series' canon.
In Spider Robinson's Lady Slings The Booze a throwaway comment is made in connection with a terrorist plot to the effect that they "aren't going to blow up the WTC because that only impresses the people that live within sight of the WTC".
You'd think Robinson of all people would have realized that with advances in communications technology in the decade and a half after when the novel was set (1985), the entire world would live "within sight of the WTC".
The Last Lecture is the memoir of educator Randy Pausch as the final summation of his life's wisdom as he was dying of pancreatic cancer. It was co-written with professional author Jeffrey Zaslow. Only a few years later, Zaslow himself died suddenly in a car wreck, cutting his own life just as short as Pausch's, but without the opportunity to say goodbye or leave something behind.
In the YA book Legend, some people are protesting the state-sponsored execution of a poor teenager. Though they're pretty peaceful, they are quickly and brutally killed by the many soldiers standing by. If you don't check the copyright date (early 2011) and consider the book's political leanings you'd think it was a thinly veiled Ferguson allegory.
During Leia, Princess of Alderaan, Leia brings a shipment of vaccines to the ailing Chalhuddans in a charity mission. Their leader rejects them out of hand and says she must think they have no pride. Leia becomes furious and starts yelling at them - saying this disease is killing their children. If her people were dying and the only way to save them was to swallow her pride, she would do it, she would get on her knees in the dirt and beg and plead and do anything to preserve their lives. Anyone who would not do the same doesn't deserve to be a leader.
Victor Hugo, Les Misérables: "Citizens, the nineteenth century is great, but the twentieth century will be happy. Then there shall be nothing like ancient history: there shall be no more fear, as today, of a conquest, an invasion, a usurpation, an armed rivalry of nations, an interruption of civilization because of the marriage of kings, a birth of hereditary tyrannies, a division of peoples by congress, a dismemberment by the collapse of dynasty, a combat of two religions butting each other like two goats of darkness on the bridge of infinity; there shall be no more fear of hunger, exploitation, prostitution through adversity, misery from unemployment, and the scaffold, and the sword, and battles, and all the brigandage of chance in the forest of events." Ouch.
In the fantastic history book A Little History of the World it talks about how humanity has come a long way from mindless persecution and hatred of other cultures and at the end of the original print, which was about WWI, it had a message of hope for the future. This was in 1935; the German-born Jewish author added another chapter after WWII really lamenting some of the things he said in the book.
In the original German edition, the last chapter involves a scathing critique of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, accusing him of just letting France and the UK impose the Treaty of Versailles, and says "so this is how Wilson treats his opponents." In The '90s, when the book was finally translated into English, the writer includes a footnote explaining that many people in Germany really had no idea of Wilson's far lighter proposal for the defeated Central Powers, and bought into the "stabbed-in-the-back legend", and that he was horrified at the fact that he had just repeated Nazi propaganda without knowing it.
Anthony Horowitz wrote a short story called The Man With the Yellow Face, where a boy is frightened of a mysterious man he believes is coming to kill him, and worries that the man might be "one of those suicide bombers you read about in the Middle East." The story was published in 1998 ...
The climax of the story features the protagonist being injured in a train crash near Grantham (on the East Coast Main Line) caused by an object deliberately placed on the line. Three accidents took place on the East Coast Main Line between 2000 and 2002, one of which, at Great Heck, near Selby, was caused by a passenger train striking a car that comes off the motorway and fallen down the embankment onto the line.
The German novella Mario and the Magician written in 1929 and set in 1926, describes the changes happening to Fascist Italia, as seen by eyes of a liberal family from then democratic Germany, and repeatedly shows how the change makes Italian people intolerant, arrogant and aggressive. When Nazis came to power, they made the same to Germany, only much, much more worse.
Also in the end, Cippola is shot dead by Mario, whom he previously brainwashed into doing icky things. Mussolini (for whom Cippola was an obvious stand-in) was in the end shot by people of his own nation.
Terroristerna, the last novel in the Martin Beck novels by Mäj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö ended with the Swedish Prime Minister (An Expy of then-Prime-Minister Olof Palme) getting shot and killed due to horrendous police incompetence. In 1986 the real Olof Palme was shot and killed on the street in Stockholm, the killer escaped and was never found due to horrendous police incompetence.
Van Wyck Mason wrote a novel positing an attack on Pearl Harbor, written in the early 1930s. Actually, numerous works depicted this, such as the first Shield/Wizard meeting.
Mein Kampf by none other than Adolf Hitler himself was published in 1925, eight years before Hitler became Führer of Germany. The book exposits Hitler's political ideology, including his beliefs in "Aryan purity" and hatred for the Jews, but readers in the 1920s would not have taken his book seriously. After Hitler became Führer in 1933, gradually passed laws during his rule that oppressed the Jews to the point where their lives were made miserable, and the horrors of The Holocaust, Hitler's book is now treated as ominous foreshadowing, is taken dead seriously, and was banned in many countries until 2016 when it became Public Domainnote Though ironically not in Germany; instead, the Free State of Bavaria which owned the copyright refused to print it.
The Moviegoer has a series of crippling Take That!'s against the entire 60s counter culture movement, except that the book came out in 1961 when those things hadn't become popular yet.
Christie's detectives also take Jewishness as indicative of moral weakness or outright criminality — descriptions of eyes "lighting up" at the thought of money and "thick Semitic lips" become painful to read given what was to happen in the 30s and 40s.
The Neanderthal Parallax: In the last book, Mary lists Bill Cosby as one of the men who isn't evil while thinking about male violence. This was before the accusations against him were well known. It's especially ironic since she's a victim of rape, and this is a large part of her character's arc throughout the books.
The Zack Files book Never Trust A Cat Who Wears Earrings features a curse that is turning Zack into a cat that he can only break by performing a ceremony in the shadow of the World Trade Center. Reading it now, the Fridge Logic seems to be that he would keep turning into a cat, which now has some pretty dark implications.
No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy: The novel takes place in 1980, and in it, Ed Tom Bell mentions the recent murder of a federal judge in San Antonio, TX. He's referring to the murder of Federal Judge John Howland Wood, who was assassinated outside his townhouse by a contract killer named Charles Harrelson on May 29, 1979. In 2007, Woody Harrelson (yes, the son of Charles) would co-star in the film version of the novel.
Although the work wasn't published until the 2000s so no one could have read it, but J. R. R. Tolkien's story The Notion Club Papers, written in 1944, is set in 1987. The characters mention that six months ago in 1986 there was 1) a disaster involving a spacecraft, 2) a nuclear disaster, and 3) during the course of the book the greatest storm in history hits England. All three proceeded to happen inReal Life.
Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake has a passage describing several kinds of futuristic snuff sites. One of them is an assisted suicide site, founded for entertainment. It's sickening as it is, but then the main character Jimmy goes and compares the site to Alex the parrot saying "I'm going away now." A few years after the book was published, Alex died.
In Our Mutual Friend (written in the 1860s) Mr. Boffin mistakenly thinks The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is The Decline and Fall of the Russian Empire. During Dickens' lifetime the Russian empire still existed and was in relatively good shape, but over the next fifty-odd years it really did decline and fall.
Radar, who's black, getting a t-shirt with a confederate flag on it that says, "Heritage not Hate", was hilarious in Paper Towns, which came out in 2008. Fast-forward to 2015, the year the movie came out... and also the year when the controversy over the Confederate flag, and whether it stands for racism or not, has reached violent levels of protest and conflict. Suddenly the scene isn't so funny.
In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian blackmails a character Alan Campbell into helping him dispose of a body. While not stated outright, the strong implication is that Campbell was Dorian's ex-lover and Dorian was threatening to expose him as homosexual, thereby ruining his professional life and potentially exposing him to the threat of imprisonment. Later, of course, Wilde himself was ruined by exposure of his homosexuality, something widely considered unacceptable in Victorian England.
Place of Angels by Erika Fatland is a book about a terrorist attack of Beslan (happened on 1 September 2004). Erika Fatland, a Norwegian sociologist who studied terrorist attacks, went to Beslan in 2007 and then again in 2010 to study how the attack proceeded and what happened in the aftermath. The book concludes with the notion that it is important to learn about such tragedies, even for people living in "safe" Norway. The book went into print on 11. July 2011. Just eleven days after that, the book wasn't even sold yet, the Oslo/Utøya massacre happened, scarring Norway as severely as Beslan. The fact that many of Utøya victims stripped down to their underwear (albeit for different reasons than in Beslan) didn't help matters.
Her next book, The Year without Summer, which is about the Utøya massacre, makes it even worse. There Fatland describes how, after obtaining a publishing deal, she toured Norwegian high schools advertising her book, partially to boost sales and partially to get the students to study sociology in university. The students often asked her whether such a tragedy could happen in Norway and she confidently explained how the differences between Norway and Caucasus made such an attack extremely unlikely. Some of those students were later among the victims.
In Albert Camus' The Plague, Tarrou says, "In fact one might go farther; have you ever heard of a man with cancer being killed in an auto smash?" Camus had a life-long struggle with Tuberculosis. He died in a car crash.
The 2004 novel A Planet for the President talks of New Orleans being virtually wiped out by a category 5 hurricane. The book was published in 2004, a year before Katrina.
Another story is Emil and the Detectives, about a German boy in 1929. Around ten years later, he'd be old enough...Not just that, he'd probably end up shooting and killing the French boys that helped him.
In the semi-autobiographical The Provincial Lady in Wartime, published serially in late 1939, a tactless neighbor asks the narrator if her son is still too young to be drafted. (He is in his final year at school.) The following year, when he was drafted, the author’s real-life son killed himself during basic training.
The 1996 book Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre has a doctor character who is described as the worst serial killer in British history, with a kill count of about 30. And then, just two years later...
Insomnia, where an extremist (driven mad by the Crimson King) attempts to pilot a Cessna loaded with C4 into the Derry Civic Center.
His first book under the Bachman pseudonym, Rage (1977), which was about a boy shooting students and teachers at school. It was taken out of print following a 1997 school shooting in Paducah, Kentucky, when copies of the book were found amongst the gunmen's possessions.
As the storm clouds gathered over Europe and the Far East, Pulp Magazine hero Secret Service Operator #5 (1934 — 1939) fought attempts by various foreign armies from South America, Europe and the Orient to conquer the United States. The events are completely over-the-top as benefits the pulp genre, except for the time the Japs destroy an entire city (Philadelphia) with their atomic bomb! Only those evil Orientals would do such a dastardly deed...
The last word that Will Rogers wrote before he died was the word "death".
In Catherine Alliott's 1999 novel Rosie Meadows Regrets, the titular character is wistfully musing that her life would have been much better if she'd married someone else other than her alcoholic, bigoted, mentally abusive, uncaring, and unsupportive husband. The celebrity she specifies? Mel Gibson. Hmm.
In 1973, one year after the last Apollo moon mission, Carl Sagan wrote a book showing one of the landing sites on the moon with the caption "The party is over and the guests have gone home." Nobody has been back to the moon since.
David Sedaris wrote several essays that mention his sister, Tiffany. At age six, her older siblings convinced her to lie in the middle of the road and get hit by a car to make their mom feel guilty, telling her death is "like sleeping, only you get a canopy bed." In another essay, her father browbeats her for stabbing David with a pencil until she couldn't hold a crayon without bursting into tears. Finally, in "Put A Lid On It," he describes how his parents put her in a reform school (the now infamous Elan School), causing her to resent her family and separate herself from them as much as possible. All of this presents enough of a sad portrait of his sister's life, but when you learn she committed suicide in 2013 and, in her will, banned her entire family from attending her funeral (all chronicled in David's essay "Now We Are Five"), the whole thing becomes downright heartbreaking.
In Sewer, Gas and Electric, a 20 Minutes into the FutureCyberpunk parody from 1997, the Empire State Building has been replaced by a mile-high skyscraper called the Phoenix. The original building had been destroyed by a colliding airliner. No longer funny in hindsight. Given how the building had already had a plane crash into it in the past, it probably had this effect on some at the time it was written too.
In-Universe in the Dale Brown novel Shadows of Steel: Hal Briggs is chastened for taking a risk that gets him hurt by a ZSU-23 antiaircraft gun. Guess how he dies, several books later?
Another Dale Brown novel, Storming Heaven,note published in 1994 concerns a terrorist group using cargo planes to attack American airports and other targets. Eventually, they attempt to crash a 747 into the White House.
The Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" features a villain who's locked his daughter up as a tormented prisoner, and whose young son tortures helpless animals. At the time, the son's behavior was seen as a hereditary clue to the father's cruel nature, and the villain's motives were financial only; nowadays, readers are more likely to deduce the man was molesting (or beating up) both his kids.
And the first line he says to Watson ("You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.") is somehow made more cringeworthy by the fact that now, over 100 years later, this still makes sense. Not for nothing is Afghanistan known as "the graveyard of empires".
Aaron Allston's Sidhe-Devil came out in June 2001. The back-cover blurb (accurately) describes part of the situation the heroes have to deal with as "a mad genius is sending fiery destruction against the city's skyscrapers."
Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: In the book Fast Track, Jack Emery brags to reporters Ted Robinson and Joe Espinosa that the Post is going to be sold to a new owner. Joe turns green upon hearing this because that means he and Ted could lose their jobs. At that point, it seemed like a brilliant and cool way to upset the apple carts of those reporters, who had been thorns in the Vigilantes' sides. Then, in a later book, Under the Radar, Ted explains to the Vigilantes why they can trust Joe. Joe is the only son out of eight kids. His father died early on, leaving his mother to take care of all of them. He's the youngest in his family. The family managed to get enough money to send Joe to college. He's the only one in the family to have a college education. Joe is a citizen of the United States, and he sends every cent of money he can back to his people in Tijuana. Joe cannot afford anything to live in except a one-room dump, and his immediate family has 37 members in it! Also, his family supports the Vigilantes quite strongly, and his salary combined with some other jobs he moonlights as help his family, but it's not nearly enough. His family is not lazy, but the economy in that area sucks. Boy, that not only explains why Joe turned green at the possibility of losing his job, but it makes Jack's bragging come off as a Kick the Dog moment!
Listening to a certain children's story by Dick King-Smith is rather uncomfortable with hindsight. Renaming a cat you've found out is female? Okay, yes, female cats are called queens. the cat's a queen. So we get this line:
"Or Diana... That's what the Princess of Wales is called, she'll be Queen one day!"
So Big is about Selina, a widow who makes a success out of her late husband's far and sends her son Dirk off to school. Selina is eventually disappointed when Dirk abandons a career in architecture, which Selina regards as noble and artistic, and settles for money-grubbing as a bond trader. Dirk achieves financial success but realizes that he's essentially wasted his life. What makes this Harsher In Hindsight? The novel was written in 1924. All of Dirk's soulless money-grubbing would have resulted in him very likely being ruined five years later in the crash of 1929.
In the first book from the series, Tyrion and Jaime Lannister discuss the fate of Bran Stark, who'd fallen from a tower and would be crippled for life even if he survived. Jaime, who'd been the one to throw him from the tower, commented that if it had been his decision, he'd euthanize the boy rather than having him grow up a cripple. Tyrion disagreed, since he himself was a dwarf, and stated that death was too final and that life held endless possibilities even for "cripples and grotesques." Three books later, Jaime himself became a cripple when his sword hand is cut off and he contemplates letting himself die, before being convinced to live in order to see his family again and avenge himself.
In one of Bran's chapters in the first book, he remarks that "Theon Greyjoy had once commented that Hodor did not know much, but no one could doubt he knew his name." The line appears to just be using Theon's Jerkassery to launch a humorous tidbit from Old Nan that his real name isn't even Hodor, it's Walder. In the fifth book, after Theon is tortured into insanity, he's forced to take on the name Reek. He can't even bear to think the name Theon until well into the novel, and doesn't say it aloud until his very last line.
Special Circumstances: In-Universe. At the beginning of Princess of Wands, Barbara's martial arts sparring partner says, after watching her warm-up exercises, that he was gay. She calls him on it, the narration commenting that he's married and has five children from two different marriages, and that "[i]f he was gay, it was a very closet condition." Fast forward to the end of Queen of Wands, when it's revealed that her husband, with whom she's had three children is having a homosexual affair.
Spellbinder, published in 1996, features Blaise's deranged ex Randy threatening her and other students with a weapon at a school dance, though he's disarmed before anyone is seriously hurt. Three years later, the Colombine shooting occurred, after which mass killings at American schools came to much greater attention (and unfortunately increased in frequency). While the incident in Spellbinder is certainly disturbing, it no longer seems as shocking as it would've been in 1996.
Star Trek: Articles of the Federation ends up having one within the context of the wider Star Trek Novel Verse. The novel ends with a somewhat upbeat comment from President Bacco's Chief of Staff and prime supporter, Esperanza Piniero, pointing out that while the first year of Bacco's term has had its ups and downs, at least the Federation is still intact. Given that Bacco herself praised a former president earlier in the novel by stating that if you complete a term with the Federation still intact, you've done the job, this is somewhat heartwarming. Two months after this novel (In-Universe), cue Star Trek: Destiny. While Bacco continued to do a fine job through the apocalyptic mayhem of "Destiny" and its aftermath, the destruction in that trilogy does render Piniero's comment a bit painful.
The Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Q-in-Law has Lwaxana Troi declaring herself to be in mourning for her daughter. Deanna says she doesn't have a sister that she knows of. The mourning is then explained as an old Betazoid tradition calling attention to daughters who don't marry by a certain age. Four years later in-universe and two in the real world, the episode "Dark Page" reveals that Lwaxana had another daughter who drowned when Deanna was a baby.
Dr. Crusher: Tasha, stay out of trouble. I don't want to see you in sickbay again for a long time.
Yar: Don't worry, I'm not coming back.
It's true, too. She didn't. Not alive, anyway.
Immortal Coil, published in February 2002, has a grief-stricken Data, mourning the death of his mother, rant that he would never see the people he'd lost in the afterlife, if there was one, because he would never die — since with adequate repair, he could in theory last almost indefinitely. Then came Star Trek: Nemesis, released in December 2002, which killed him off. Appropriately enough, he mentioned Tasha Yar — the closest thing he'd had to a love interest prior to the book in question — during said rant.
An In-Universe one in the original Starship Troopers novel: Johnnie Rico and his campmates had been joking about the 31 capital offenses in the Terran military, which they called "crash landings". When it came out that one of his comrades was facing a possible crash landing, he finds the jokes of old a lot less funny.
The Robert R. McCammon novel Swan Song has a chapter where a militant cult is laid siege to. The siege ends when their building burns down with them in it. A few years later, this happens to the Branch Davidians.
The Tales of the City books have many of these. There's just something about cheerful, utopian gay-themed romantic comedies written in the 1970s.
In the eponymous first book, some of the A-Gays are talking about how it would be a great idea to invest in nursing homes geared toward gay men. Michael ridicules the idea, saying, "Are you gonna have a separate wing for drag queens?" A few years later, the idea of gay men in end-of-life care wouldn't seem nearly so funny.
Particularly uncomfortable is the subplot in Further where Michael hooks up with an old movie star who is strongly implied to be Rock Hudson. A few years later, the real Hudson contracted HIV... and then Michael did, too.
In the technothriller series Talon Force book Dire Straits published a few months before 9-11 the plot revolves around Islamist terrorists trying to take over Turkey. Osama Bin Laden is mentioned to be a major backer of the terrorists and one character laments that he's been tried in absentia.
Come 2016, and Turkey is hit by a military coup attempt which the government blames on the Islamic Gulen movement. (Though the movement has no connection to bin Laden and is not universally regarded as 'extreme').
In the second Temeraire novel, there's an amusing little subplot where Laurence hears about a nasty cold going around the English dragons, and many jokes are made about how dragons are such big babies when they're sick. Temeraire comes down with the cold, and it's played largely for laughs. In the fourth novel, it turns out that the "cold" is a form of dragon tuberculosis that's slowly and painfully killing every dragon in England. If they hadn't stopped at exactly the right port in Africa and prepared exactly the right mushroom for Temeraire on a whim, he and every other English dragon would have died. For that matter, since Temeraire was on his way to China when he came down with the "cold," all of the Chinese dragons would probably have died, too.
In the fourth book, there's also a throwaway line from Riley worrying about getting dragons out of the ocean and back onto the Allegiance: "What the Admiralty will say to me if I get a transport sunk in harbor on a clear day, I should not like to think." In Crucible of Gold, due to useless sailors getting drunk directly after a long, severe storm, the Allegiance sinks with only the worst sailors saved. Riley goes down with the ship trying to save it, and Laurence realizes that he'll be remembered as the captain whose ship sank on a clear day.
Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome is a lighthearted Victorian comedy about a bicycle tour through Germany. The narrator laughs about the German love of order and deference to authority. The last chapter is extended chuckling about totalitarianism and authoritarianism: the German citizen will do anything the police tell him, makes the perfect soldier when you give him a uniform and march him into another country, and just might come into some trouble under a bad government.
In-story example in Sarah Waters's Tipping the Velvet: a minor character chats up another by saying something along the lines of "Are you Sue Bridehead? I'm Jude Fawley" -a reference to Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure, then being serialised. Jude and Sue both end up having horribly unhappy lives. In context, it's a terrible line.
Stephen Baxter's Titan (written in 1997) opens with the Shuttle Columbia suffering an accident on re-entry, which causes the death of an astronaut and the loss of the orbiter. Cue 2003.
Seanan McGuire's love of virology and infectious diseases means that many of those stories are cautionary tales about how then-current quarantine and sanitation measures were insufficient and the world was unprepared for a serious epidemic. Then the COVID-19 Pandemic hit, proving many of those fears right. Perhaps the most harsh is the author's note on "The Tolling of Pavlov's Bells" in the Laughter At The Academy anthology, which was published a little over a month before Covid was first identified in Wuhan.
McGuire: I believe the modern world's disdain for quarantine and willingness to support structures that encourage its violation is going to do a great deal of damage one day, and with new diseases emerging regularly, that day may not be particularly far in the future. [...] Wash your hands.
When The Tomorrow Series was first published, an attack on any Western state that could actually threaten it seemed inconceivable. Then came 9/11.
Another point is that it depicts Australian people fighting the occupiers — but shortly thereafter, Australia itself participated in the Iraq occupation.
The autobiography of former Penn State football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, released in 2001, was titled Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story. Needless to say, the title is now VERY disturbing in hindsight—see The Other Wiki for the gory details.
A rare In-Universe example in Triggers by Robert J Sawyer, where a character wonders whether an Expy of The West Wing will continue to be set in the White House even though the real building was recently destroyed by terrorists.
The controversial underground novel The Turner Diaries has been linked to quite a few illegal activities, but nowhere is this Trope more appropriate than when it was revealed that the book at least partially inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in planning his attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. (In the book, the FBI Building was destroyed via nearly identical means. Former soldiers who were in the army with McVeigh recount that he read the novel frequently, and the book was found in his possession when he was arrested.) Even the author of the book, admitted white supremacist William Luther Pierce, could not condone the attack.
Uncle John's Bathroom Reader:
One edition includes an article with a list of strange unofficial holidays. One of them is "No News Is Good News Day". Date: September 11. At first you might think it's just a bit of tasteless Black Comedy. But the copyright date is 2000.
In another edition, published in 2003, there's an article on humourous church bulletins. One of them is "Visitors are asked to stay seated until the end of the recession."
Saki's story "The Unrest-Cure" involves a practical joker in pre-WWI England (near Saki's "present day") convincing a sedate gentleman that he's planning to "massacre every Jew in the neighborhood." The gentleman exclaims that it will be "a blot on the Twentieth Century!" but the story ends with the century "unblotted." Later on, the century got good and blotted.
In Suzanne Brockmann's The Unsung Hero, the main character, a Navy SEAL on medical leave, imagines reporting to his superior officer:
"Hi, I think I just saw the international terrorist that I spent four months tracking in '96 taking a cab out of Logan Airport. Yeah, that's in Boston, Massachusetts, that teeming hotbed of international intrigue...."
Funny in 2000, when the book was published. Much less funny a year later, when two killer planes took off from Logan on 9/11.
Early in Shadow Kiss during the guardian practice exercise, Rose wants Dimitri to have the opportunity to show that he could be a badass Strigoi.
In Blood Promise, Rose notices that Sydney doesn't seem to eat much of her food, but doesn't think much of it, and actually steals some of her fries. It's later revealed that Sydney has fairly severe body issues.
The Robin Cook thriller Vector features an antagonist (formerly an employee of a Russian government-run bioweapons project) who manufactures anthrax in preparation for a biological attack and kills someone with an anthrax-laced letter as a test to see how potent his toxin is. The book was published in 1999. Then two years later, it happened for real...
In his 2009 The Vinyl Cafe book, Extreme Vinyl Cafe, Stuart McLean prefaced each of the stories with a letter, purportedly from a fan asking his advice. One letter writer couldn't decide if he should be buried or cremated, and what Stuart's thoughts on the matter were. McLean replied, "Personally, I plan never to die." The book was published six years before the author would be diagnosed with skin cancer, and eight years before he passed away.
In the movie version of Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan, Gloria finds out her ex-husband is gay after trying to seduce him. Years later, Terry McMillan and her husband split up after he reveals that he was gay and marrying her to get a green card.
Robert Jordan of The Wheel of Time fame's biography stub in most of his books included a line that he intended to keep writing "until they nail his coffin shut" — and so he did, since he passed away in September 2007, leaving the last book unwritten.
There was also a joke among certain internet fansites that goes along with the stub stating something similar to that. Thus, some people initially thought that Jordan's real obit was a joke.
This is an odd, creepy sort of subversion- he meant that the last few times he included it. He knew his health was on the decline but stayed at work until the end. He went out of his way to make sure there were enough notes for somebody else to finish Wheel of Time if he didn't quite make it. Brandon Sanderson was chosen to finish the final book.
Like with any author of a long series of DoorStoppers, there were plenty of jokes about Jordan dropping dead before finishing the series. They all became suddenly much less funny when he was diagnosed as fatally ill.
Tad Williams' Doorstopper novel The War of the Flowers has a scene in which a skyscraper was set on fire and is in danger of collapse after an attack by a flying, fire-breathing dragon, and the main character, who are trapped on a high floor of said skyscraper, has to climb down flight after flight of stairs in the midst of smoke and flames. The book contains an introduction saying that he wrote the scene before 9/11, and the similarity between the events in the book and the experiences of the 9/11 survivors is simply an unfortunate coincidence.
A brief passage in The Wild Boy mentions how there won't be a New Year's celebration because much of humanity has died. Part of it goes "...And Dick Clark? he's dead." It was written in the early 2000s, though that part was several years in the future.
In one Warrior Cats book, the young blind apprentice Jaypaw is frustrated that one-eyed Brightheart is assigned to be his mentor (considering her to not be a "real" warrior), even more so when Brightheart announces that Longtail, a blind elder, is going to give Jaypaw tips on how to move around the forest without sight. Jaypaw irritably thinks "Sure, let's lump all the useless cats together and hope a tree falls on them!". A few books later, a tree falls into the camp, killing Longtail.