President’s Day

How many presidents can you name? The diner I go to, and for years, sit and write in, has place-mats with all the presidents on them, and the lobby wall has all pictures of all the former commanders in chiefs in frames that go up to the ceiling. The owner is a man who immigrated from Greece way back when. As a naturalized citizen, he became enamored with the notion and the idea of a president. A citizen, not royalty or a theocrat being elected by the governed. Tom liked me because I pointed to two presidents on the mat and said, “I talked to him and him.”

Those brushes with history started a trend in all but one of my books to have my heroes directly working for the President. As thrillers and action-adventure go, it’s a pretty decent point of ignition to get the heat of a story going.

The origin of my fascination with the presidency goes back to when I was 12 years old and Lyndon Banes Johnson’s air force one flew right over my head as it was landing at Stewart AFB in upstate New York. Three years later, as an intern, I would talk to LBJ, albeit briefly, when I answered the phone at NBC News Headquarters one night, near midnight. It went like this:

            “NBC News.”

            “Who’s this?”

            “Desk assistant Tom Avitabile. How…”

            “Is your boss there, son?”

            “No, but I can get him, who’s calling?”

            “You tell your boss the president of the United States is on the phone.”  

I thought it was a prank, but I called my boss. He asked, “Tom this is very important, what line is he on?”

We had one of those like hundred glass button phones on the news manager’s desk back then in 1967. I read out the letters that were next to the blinking light on hold. “P-O-T..” I never got to U-S. As he hung up, ran upstairs, and took the call. I later found out it was a line to the White House labeled, POTUS, for President of the United States. He was using his power to persuade NBC to not run a story critical of the Vietnam War at that time.  I was impressed with that notion of POWER.

Also, before the release of my 2nd book, the Hammer of God, I had a ten-minute conversation with President Bill Clinton on Global Thermal Nuclear War. I was afraid some of the nasty things in the book, which only a sitting President would know, could be catastrophic if revealed in a novel. He assured me that they weren’t, so I published the book, and since we are all still here, I guess he was right.

Here’s the after leaf from that novel:

Here’s the unit patch of the group that reports only to the Commander and Chief in my novels:

By the way, Tom makes a fabulous Moussaka and always has a table for me to sit at for hours on end.

It’s Only Fiction til it Mappens!!!

Avitabile, It's Only Fiction til it MappensI am blessed to have a first class mastermind group which guides me in my writing. Experts from many fields who help me stay within the lines as I color the with science in my books. The early warning tip I received on a government initiative to map the human brain, which follows the plot of my first book, The Eighth Day, was something I didn’t report because it was told to me in confidence from someone inside. I only released it when a small announcement was made in NY Times on Feb 17 2013. Today, the President is announcing the multi-million dollar program at the White House. So I thought I could re-map the original blog below, because as you have seen, It’s Only Fiction ‘Til It Happens.
From the book, The Eighth Day:

Doctor Janice Tyler-Hiccock to the President of the United States, James Mitchell:

“No, Sir, but I am talking about the total remapping of the human brain to a level and specificity that, yesterday, I would have told you was two to three centuries away. … The creator of this program has the ultimate blueprint and can go anywhere and do anything inside the human brain.”

“That’s a frightening prospect, Doctor.”

From the New York Times Feb. 17, 2013, the current President of the United States.

“Obama Seeking to Boost Study of Human Brain”

Once again, “It’s only Fiction ‘til it Happens” is confirmed. In my first book, The Eighth Day, the mapping of the human mind presented a very frightening series of consequences.  This recent Presidential initiative, the “Brain Activity Map” project, a national effort, like the Race to the Moon, will only bring more energy to the quest.

Of course, the novelist in me, back when I first ‘made this up’ and now that it’s being seriously considered needs to ask, “What of the unintended consequences?”

In Eighth Day, the first test of the Mapping and subsequent mind control it lead to, was the subliminal slanting of a Presidential Election!  Hmm?   Nah!

Even if the “Brain Activity Map” project is totally benign in its intent, can we be sure the human minds that attain that knowledge will be equally benign? How much data will be shared with other governments and factions around the world who might like a shorter distance between indoctrination and devotion. And don’t get me started with Madison Avenue.

Those who have read Eighth Day might be quick to point out, “Oh Tom, you’re just reaching here. In your book it was a machine. Here, in real life, it’s just a study!” To those who point that out I say, “Yes, you’re right.”

Or… maybe not. Especially when you read later on in the Times Article,

‘The Obama initiative is markedly different from a recently announced European project that will invest 1 billion euros in a Swiss-led effort to build a silicon-based “brain.” The project seeks to construct a supercomputer simulation using the best research about the inner workings of the brain.’

Okay, now, even I’m scared… and I “wrote the book!”

Click here to watch a video or click here to read more about this wonderful new initiative.

When you shouldn’t write…

I get a lot of people inside government, the scientific community and law enforcement agencies who “tell” me things off the record. You know, “You didn’t hear this from me but…”

Well, last week I got a tip on something, I’ll call it “Installation X,” a really good piece of reality that would make a beautiful plot point and revelation. For me revelation is as important as a tight story. I use “fiction” in my books to plant a few seeds on things that governments and media soft pedal or aggressively ignore into obliteration.

So I get this information that I could center my entire 4th book on. A juicy, real, almost unbelievable fact that I can fictionalize. Except, last week I got a note that asked I forget what I was told. The reason? Apparently, it’s hotter than even the person who shared it with me thought it was.

Professional dilemma: respect my source or go for it? Well, I decided to not only respect my source but also join into the spirit of our national secrets, which is mainly to keep them secret. So I took a deep breath and moved on. This happened with my first book, when I deduced, based on available technology, a technological process that could protect the President. I “made it up” and wrote it into my story. Then a person who was a protector of POTUS asked me to “not go there.” Fair enough. I broomed it for the sake of Presidential security and my acquaintance, and the folks he works with, lives. Easy decision… then.

Two days ago, I met a guy who tells me almost the whole “Installation X” story! Now this guy is a new source. I could go with his version of the events and situation since he so far has not asked me to forget it. (He may not be as in the loop as my original source.) But that would just be a way around what I said I wouldn’t do to my original source and my own feeling of obligation to the men an women who risk their lives carrying out our nation’s security that has to be done in secret.

So no. I am still not going to go near this thing. I will however scour the Internet, go to the library and see if any of this can be open sourced. Meaning if it’s already out there and thus I won’t be jeopardizing a source or my country. Although I hope it’s not.