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The San Andreas Fault Line runs across much of California, as do other smaller fault lines, and consequently, earthquakes are common in the region.
Scientists have warned for some time that sooner or later, a superquake ("The Big One") is inevitable. Many people have gotten the impression that California is one earthquake/nuclear explosion/meteor impact away from snapping off and falling into the Pacific Ocean. In speculative fiction, don't be surprised if part or all of California has suffered this calamity, whether it's the focus of the work, part of a cavalcade of worldwide natural disasters, or just a throwaway reference. To writers who have Horrible Hollywood in mind, it's good riddance if Los Angeles were to fall off the face of the earth.
In real life, this is not going to happen, and certainly not as portrayed in fiction. The San Andreas fault is moving the land sideways; at a very gradual rate, with the west side drifting northwest and the east side moving southwest. Also, tectonic activity won't cause the land to sink--it is still part of the earth's crust, not some giant shelf hanging on--though it's conceivable that very long periods of time could see it break off from the mainland and become an island.
A subtrope of Artistic License Geology. If portrayed onscreen, it will usually use Earthquakes Cause Fissures, but may be more justified depending on the circumstances. A regional-scale Apocalypse How.
- The Bill Hicks routine "Arizona Bay" talks about Los Angeles falling into the ocean after an earthquake. This would make Arizona the new coastline, hence the name.
- The Infinity Gauntlet shows the West Coast Avengers watching on in horror after Thanos' angry outburst of energy hits the Earth, and sends California collapsing into the Pacific Ocean. Japan suffers a similar fate.
- Lex Luthor's Evil Plan in Superman is to hit California with a nuclear missile, which will fracture the fault line and sink California into the ocean. He plans to make a fortune by buying worthless property in the Nevada desert and then sell it as beachfront resorts once California is gone.
- In Escape From L.A., a portion of the California coast has become separated from the mainland by a quake that flooded San Fernando Valley.
- In 2012, the San Andreas fault line goes absolutely berserk. In this movie, southern California is apparently suspended over a gigantic cavern of magma, and a sufficiently strong quake will cause pieces of the surface to fall into the cavern.
- This was the conclusion of Dexter's California vacation. California had a big earthquake as they were leaving, and it went out to sea (neatly along the state line) as California Island
- The novel The Last Days of the Late, Great State of California, by Curt Gentry is written as a retrospective on California's history after the California coast west of the fault line sank into the ocean due to a 9.0 earthquake.
- Under the City of Angels by Jerry Earl Brown. In the Backstory a series of earthquakes leave the city of Los Angeles, California underwater.
- Dream Park: In the Backstory, a major earthquake in California knocks Los Angeles into the Pacific Ocean. One of the rides at Dream Park is a simulated exploration of the underwater remains of the city.
- In the backstory of Transformers Shattered Glass, after Earth suffered through a nuclear exchange during World War III this was the fate of not just California, but a good chunk of the surrounding states as well.
- The Made for TV Miniseries 10.5 ends with a superquake (with the titular richter scale rating) that destroys the entire western seaboard of the United States, leaving a giant island where most of California used to be. The follow-up, 10.5: Apocalypse, takes it Up to Eleven by use of superfaults that split the whole of North America in half.
- After 10.5 aired, the Internet briefly filled with jokes about it being a prequel to Escape From LA, above.
- In an episode of Sliders, they slide into a world where California has broken up into islands.
- An episode of SeaQuest DSV where the crew traveled to the future featured this.
- In the Tool song "Ænema", the singer is praying for this to happen to Los Angeles, since the only way to fix it is to "flush it all away". It's inspired by the Bill Hicks "Arizona Bay" routine, which is directly referenced in the chorus. The album artwork features "before" and "after" maps that show most of California gone.
- Discussed in the Warren Zevon song "Desperadoes Under the Eaves":
And if California falls into the ocean
Like the mystics and statistics say it will
I predict this hotel will be standing
Until I pay my bill.
- The Decemberists' 'Calamity Song' mentions "California succumbed to the fault line."
- The song "Ocean Front Property" by George Strait, although it's more of a "It will never happen!" than suggesting that it will.
'Cause I don't love you, and now if you'll buy that
I got some ocean front property in Arizona.
From my front porch you can see the sea.
- Mentioned in the Steely Dan song "My Old School", with the line "California tumbles into the sea."
- The subject of the calypso-flavored 1969 novelty hit "Day After Day (It's Slippin' Away)" by Shango:
Where can we go when there's no San Francisco?
Better get ready to tie up your boat in Idaho!
- "California Jam" by Klaatu is a Beach Boys pastiche that contrasts the sun & surf lifestyle with the future, when "the San Andreas misfortune" will make California "a place in our memory".
- The famed early 20th century psychic Edgar Cayce predicted that California would get destroyed by earthquakes and consumed by the Pacific, and many major cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco would disappear.
- In the Deadlands setting, California was shattered by an earthquake, causing much of the state to collapse into the ocean. The Pacific flooded into the resultant fissure, creating the Great Maze.
- In Deus Ex, much of Southern California and the Baja California peninsula are missing from in-game maps; in the backstory, they collapsed into the ocean.
- In Alone in The Dark 3, the Big Bad has a plan pretty much like the one from the Superman example, just replace "Arizona" with "Ghost Town Slaughter Gulch" and "increasing real estate" with "fulfilling an ancient native prophecy to become a god".
- In the Web video The End of the World, the narrator suggests at the end that California should split off "to go hang with Hawaii". (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84Ud3V9NPw8)