The Genesis of Our Friends Upstairs

We are not alone.  To think that this expansive universe has only graced a single planet with sentient life is to dwell in an extensive ignorance that is, well, typical for humanity.  So we may not be the smartest species in the cosmos, but we certainly are the most intelligent to ever spring up on Earth.  Compared to the dinosaurs, which dominated on Earth for 165 million years before extinction, we have come much farther in a far shorter amount of time.  Those advancements may have come at a cost, however, for unlike the dinosaurs, we may cause our own extinction.

It’s fairly controversial to believe that alien life has visited this planet.  Maybe it’s because I watched too many History Channel specials when I was younger, or maybe it has something to do with the fact that the U.S. government told the public it had captured a flying saucer before taking it back, but I have never doubted that the aliens are already here.  Recently released military videos of what is now called UAP (instead of UFOs) have only reinforced that belief.  The only real mystery is what type of non-human intelligence is operating these craft.  Extraterrestrials?  Beings from another dimension?  Time travelers?  There’s a lot of speculation out there.

Given how much I’ve paid attention to ufology through the decades, I suppose it was only a matter of time until I used that knowledge for one of my novels.  I’ve jotted down plenty of ideas that involve aliens in one way or another, but the genesis of Our Friends Upstairs can probably be traced back to 2017.

After watching an episode of The Leftovers, a recap on the AV Club mentioned something called Conversations with God.  Intrigued, I set about reading the trilogy of self-proclaimed nonfiction from the 90s, which purported to be a direct conversation that the author had with God.  While I found many parts of the books to be striking, one particular revelation that stuck with me was when the author, Neale Donald Walsch, asked about extraterrestrial life.  He was told that one thing they had which we did not was a technology that could control the weather on their planet.  Some point after reading that, I wondered, what if they could give that to us?

If Our Friends Upstairs has any other influence, it is the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries Taken from 2002.  Produced by Steven Spielberg, it follows three families deeply entangled with alien visitation to Earth, starting with Roswell and ending 55 years later.  It is probably one of my favorite miniseries and I revisit it every few years.  Fortunately I have the DVDs, as it’s not streaming anywhere online, though you can watch a partly redacted version on Youtube.

The last ingredient of my latest novel was, well, my personal interest in American politics.  This story allowed me to put my Political Science degree to use, which has only been gathering dust for years.  Climate Change deserves to be at the center of our politics given its cataclysmic potential, but every time it seems like it might break through, a new story pushes it to the fringes of prominent election issues.  I’ve wanted to focus on it in my writing, and finally, its time had come.  It only made sense to combine it with another issue that doesn’t get enough coverage: UFOs.  

With all of these subjects bouncing around in my brain, it was only a matter of time until I conceived of the basic premise: the Secretary of State starts negotiations with extraterrestrials in order to save the planet from Climate Change.  But who is this Secretary of State?  What would prompt these negotiations to begin?  And why would the extraterrestrials help us?  These were all questions I was excited to answer.

Writing Our Friends Upstairs was the most fun I have ever had writing a novel.  I hope it’s as much a joy to read.  I also managed to avoid flashbacks in this one, which had become a particular goal given that nearly every other novel I published had them.  Of course, this one brought about its own revelation:  when I write a novel that takes place in America, I can’t help but bring politics into it.   So for my next novel/series, I’m not only leaving the planet, but the universe.  More on that later.

Until I write again.

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