Thursday, April 27, 2023

Q&A with Ian Douglas



Ian Douglas, a pseudonym for writer William H. Keith, is the author of the new novel Alien Agendas, the third in his Solar Warden series. He lives in Pennsylvania.


Q: This is the third book in your Solar Warden series—did you know when you were working on the first book that you’d be writing a series? How did you come up with your character Mark Hunter?


A: The contract I signed was for three books, so, yes, I knew it would be a series. Whether or not I do more will depend on how well these first entries do.


Mark Hunter is a U.S. Navy SEAL, and my own background in the Navy gives me a particular interest in these elite Special Warfare operators. I’m proud to have known a few personally. Under the pseudonym “H. Jay Riker” I once wrote an entire series on the SEALs (SEALs: The Warrior Breed, Harper Fiction), a history disguised beneath a thin veneer of fiction.


In the first Solar Warden, Hunter and some of his men are on a covert op, after which they are tapped for a special assignment that brings together operators from a number of special warfare units. The Solar Warden series is not exclusively about the SEALs, but my viewpoint characters tend to be either SEALs or U.S. Marines—another bunch I knew and worked with when I was in the service.


Q: What inspired the plot of Alien Agendas?


A: The story lines of the first two books in the series establishes that hostile reptilian invaders are attempting to conquer Earth—to reclaim it, actually, since they are in fact a highly intelligent subspecies of dinosaur escaped through time. They consider Earth to belong to them, not to these upstart, Johnny-come-lately mammals.


However, they are faced with the reality that a few thousand temporal refugees can’t hope to overthrow 8 billion of us, even with advanced technology.


Their solution is to infiltrate our institutions and use conspiracy theories to turn human populations against their own governments, destroy established institutions, and sow chaos and discord. We never went to the Moon… our own government intends to destroy us with G5 towers and/or vaccinations… climate change is a hoax… Covid is a hoax… QAnon knows the truth…


By spreading such disinformation throughout the general population they intend to weaken us, turn us against one another, and leave us vulnerable to conquest.


And so, obviously, the inspiration for Alien Agendas was the faux news, lies, and political nonsense of the past several years.


Q: How did you create the world in which the series takes place?


A: The genesis of the series began with a British sysadmin named Gary McKinnon who, in 2001 - 2002, hacked into NASA and DoD computers and claimed to have found information suggesting that the U.S. did indeed capture crashed UFOs in the 1940s, reverse engineered the technology, and that we now have a secret space fleet that would leave Star Trek’s starfleet in the star dust. The name of this program, McKinnon reported, was “Solar Warden.”


What if that was true?


The series follows a team of elite U.S. military personnel drawn from several services now operating under the aegis of the U.S. Space Force. They are stationed on board the USSS Hillenkoetter, a star-traveling spacecraft carrier—one of several ship names glimpsed by McKinnon before he was discovered and kicked off-line.


As a science fiction writer with scientific proclivities, one of my hot buttons is seeing aliens on TV or in movies that look just like us save for extremely minor cosmetic details like pointed ears. Real aliens, when we encounter them, will look nothing like us.


In Solar Warden I suggested various human groups of the remote future might be attempting to combat the nefarious activities of the reptilian Saurians using time travel, a twist that explains why there seems to be so much alien interest in li’l ol’ us.

One group is from about 10,000 years in our future; they look much like us, and are known in UFO lore as the “Nordics.” The ubiquitous “alien” Grays popular in UFO abduction stories are actually highly evolved humans from around a million years in the future. Some of these are helping us; others have been suborned by the time-traveling Saurians.


My personal belief is that the Grays of popular culture are still way too human to be the products of a truly alien biology. In each book, I introduce one or more truly alien characters to point up how ho-hum human so-called aliens like the Grays actually are.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: Don’t accept as gospel every crackpot theory and conspiracy bandied about on the Internet and in social media. Most of what you hear from that quarter is nonsense. 


In fact, in each Solar Warden book I dissect one or more popular ideas from UFOdom and trash it. This will no doubt anger some fans, but I wanted to demonstrate that the UFO field taken as a whole is extraordinarily complex and often internally inconsistent.


At the same time, though, understand that the universe is an extraordinarily vast, complex, and diverse place. As Hamlet proclaimed: “There are more things in heaven and in earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” 


There are civilizations out there, probably numbering in the billions, and the variety of life just on this one dust-mote of a planet barely hints at how diverse and wonderful an entire galaxy of those alien worlds might be.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m just finishing up the first book in a new mil-SF series with the working title of Galaxy Raiders. It’s a retelling of Alexander the Great, but set four hundred years in the future, with human longevity, nanotechnology, and highly intelligent general AI. Harper asked me to make the lead character female this time, so I guess the story actually is about Alexandra the Greater.


After I turn this one in I’ll be taking a break from Galactic empires and doing the first entry in a new series for Catalyst Games. It’s an alternate universe fantasy written under a different name, in a world where antigravitational unobtanium was discovered in the 19th century. It’s rather steampunkish in flavor, with flying battleships duking it out in WWI.


Then… it’ll be back to the lovely Alexandra the Greater in Galaxy Raiders 2.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Solar Warden was a challenge to write, but it’s also become a labor of love. I’ve been interested in the UFO phenomenon since I was little, growing up in the 1950s when “little green men” were much on the public’s collective mind. I do, personally, believe extraterrestrial civilizations exist, but the jury is still out as to whether some of them have actually crossed the light years to call on us.


Recently, however, UFOs—now rebranded as UAPs—have exploded into the public’s awareness, with gun-camera footage by Navy pilots showing flying objects inexplicably defying the laws of physics. Something undeniably is there… but what?


One of my goals in Solar Warden was to fish through the ocean of reports, stories, theories, and rampant speculation, keeping some, releasing others, and trying to make sense of a tangled, writhing mass of very strange fish indeed. This wasn’t easy; many of the stories, as mentioned earlier, are inconsistent with one another or are simply too weird to make sense even if they’re true.


Shifting metaphors here, I tried to weave those tangles together into a whole that makes at least some sense, hoping to reveal a coherent story though I had to work in Nazi flying saucers, intelligent dinosaurs, time travelers from the far future, and ultra-top-secret government space programs to do it.


It was a lot of fun, and I hope my readers think so as well.


This series also represents my own search for reality in a field where a tiny sliver of truth can be lost in a hayfield of hoaxes, guesswork, and nonsense. I grew up in a small town in western Pennsylvania just 12 miles from a place called Kecksburg where a supposed alien spacecraft was recovered by the government in 1965. 


In fact, the opening scenes of Solar Warden: Alien Secrets take a stab at telling what might actually have happened there—one possible truth.


Have I managed to glimpse any of that truth? Maybe.


I like to tell people that I’ll know I’m on the right track, however, when a couple of guys in dark suits and sunglasses—the proverbial Men in Black—show up at my front door and ask me to come along with them…


They don’t like security leaks.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Ian Douglas.

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