A fascist administration rounds up undesirables. Terrorist groups strike governmental and religious targets. The Constitution is under assault. But for the scattered members of INTEL 1, the nightmare is just beginning. Book 6 of the INTEL 1 thrillers.
"STEBBINS IS THE MASTER OF THE THINKING READER'S TECHNO THRILLER"
—Internet Review of Books
"FICTION AT ITS MOST POWERFUL AND INTELLIGENT"
My thrillers are based on contemporary events, conflicts, and particularly the moral and ethical quagmires arising in the modern geopolitical landscape. In previous books, I've tackled issues of how civil societies respond to terrorism, the fragility of the digital infrastructure undergirding modern societies, the threats of biological weapons, and the struggle of developed nations to live up to their purported creeds and commitments to equality, fairness, and decency. I'm inspired to ground the action and my characters in these critical conflicts.
There is no hiding what this thriller is actually about. I don't shy away from that in the trailer or in the imaginary world that reflects an extreme version and direction of our own. CHINA GIRL sets the scene with a particular conceit drawn from certain interpretations of contemporary events: what would happen if a true autocrat came to power, one that possessed the charisma and competency to wrest control of the government, unhinge the checks and balances of the US Constitution, and moved to implement the age-old strategy of demagogues seeking power, namely Orwellian propaganda, societal division into desired and undesirable groups, with the demonization of the latter central to accruing power through fear of "the other," thereby convincing enough in the nation to jettison decency and previous norms. How would our heroes in INTEL 1 respond? When the government goes rogue and commits atrocities, who is the terrorist and who the hero?
This scenario, while extreme, is hardly a stretch for America. The nation was built upon the genocide of an entire continent. Even as the hallowed Founders were writing the near-worshipped documents enshrining freedom and governance, they were enabling the enslavement of tens of millions of human beings, etching that dehumanization into the Constitution itself, many of course profiting from that most complete abuse of power and insult to the idea of freedom. From a century of KKK terrorism, apartheid laws, the disenfranchisement of 50% of the population until women won the vote 100 years ago, discrimination by race, nationality, gender, and religion, the nation has both acted upon the most monstrous of human instincts and slowly, painfully, struggled to raise itself to match the profound statements of rights in the governing documents.
Therefore, as a nation, we've been there. Done that. And we could do it again all too easily. History smirks at any doubters.
In the face of many abuses of power and the assault on the rights of minorities, as politicians brazenly spew vile, racist slander and enact discriminatory laws, the reactions of the people show just how vulnerable America is to a totalitarian seizure of power. "How did the Germans allow it to happen?" How did the Rwandans? Or the Turks? Or the colonists that systemically erased the indigenous populations in the Americas? When we see seemingly decent and normal people excuse, justify, defend, or otherwise turn their eyes from violations of human rights and decency, when a nation slowly allows itself to be transformed into a caricature of what it espouses, their mental gymnastics aided by vast propaganda outlets and the ever siren call of fear and the arrogance of racial superiority, it is only too clear just how much on the knife's edge we stand.
CHINA GIRL is my personal response to our current crisis. While I can vote, debate, even march or protest, my unique contribution has been and is in what I can produce with my own hands. In my daily work as a scientist, I try to find ways to make the world better with more knowledge and perhaps cures. As a writer, I am inspired to address what appear to me to be the great moral quandaries of this age.
Unfortunately, everything is polarized, so that calls to decency and warnings of societal madness are viewed through political lenses. And so America limps along, blinded and increasingly numb, dangerously close to toppling over the cliff into utter ruin. With the power of nuclear weapons, the planet's largest economy and military, and the ability to stop any effort to reverse the coming climate catastrophe, America's fall will be the world's as well.