Wednesday, February 22, 2012

All of the Above by Timothy Scott Bennett

When President Linda Travis is briefed at gunpoint and told of the human-alien conspiracy that secretly controls her government, she does something none of her predecessors dared to do: she runs. During the chase that ensues, from the rural mountains of Vermont to the arctic wilderness of Bathurst Island, through the underground blackness of the aliens’ Ottawa Lodge to the bewildering landscapes of the astral realm, Linda encounters both obstacles and aid where she least expects them. Along the way, she is forced to face fully the converging crises of energy, economy, and environment that threaten the entire world, and to confront deep assumptions about the nature of reality itself. Only by doing so is she able to see clearly what she must do to help her people.

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( language cleaned up a bit.)

Rice handed the President a thick, unmarked folder.  Linda picked it up, started to leaf through the pages.  “This is the history of our organization,” said Rice.  “You can read it tonight.  I’ll stop by at 8 tomorrow morning to pick you, and it, up.”
        Linda thought of her mother, Ellen, with whom she was scheduled to meet for lunch in an hour.  What would she say?  And how could she read this all tonight?  Wasn’t there some dinner she had to attend?  “I can’t tonight,” she said.  “There’s no time.”
        Rice shook his head.   “All taken care of, Mrs. President.  Dinner tonight canceled.  Mrs. Warren occupied.  We’re very thorough.  You’ll have time.  But let me give you the highlights.”  He nodded at Phelps, who went to the door and spoke in hushed tones to someone outside.  A moment later Phelps returned with a glass of iced tea.  He placed it in front of the President and returned to his seat.  Linda ignored the drink.
        Rice continued.  “You’ve heard of Project Blue Book?”
        Linda nodded.  Of course she had.  Everybody had.
        “Before Blue Book were Projects Sign and Grudge.  You may have heard of those as well.  These ‘official’ projects collected information, filtered reports, interacted with the public, and interfaced with various scientific and academic groups.  The projects were designed to ease fears and speculation by pretending to investigate and explain the UFO situation.”  Rice leaned back in his chair and stretched his legs out under the table.  “But even before Sign, we’d begun to take the real investigation off-line.  Majestic was the first working version of what has now become ‘the People,’ but by the time Majestic was discovered and made public in the mid-80s, we’d long since left it behind.”  Rice reached out and grabbed Linda’s iced tea and took a sip.  “Basically, over the course of the past eight decades, the alliance between human groups and the aliens has sunk deeper and deeper underground, far out of reach of most of those who think they govern.  Almost from the beginning, there has been a secret group working behind the scenes, dealing face to face with the aliens and their spacecraft, both of which were, as far as the ‘bewildered herd’ was concerned, still huge mysteries. 
“There was a great deal of disagreement early on regarding how much the public should be told.  Eventually the orders came down that any and all information about UFOs and aliens should be kept away from the masses.  The various study groups of scientists and politicians and military leaders were ordered to write the whole thing off as nonsense, and were then dissolved.  Blue Book was closed up.  Files, artifacts, and biological materials were gathered in from every intelligence organization, every branch of the service, even NASA, and were either destroyed, or stored in a centralized location in Nevada, in what has become known as Area 51.  Most personnel with ties to official agencies were removed from those assignments and brought in full-time.  Some were ordered to maintain their dual positions, creating shadow bureaucracies within such groups as NASA and the CIA, since we knew that reports would continue to come to these official agencies.  Years of disinformation campaigns, harassment, threats, assassinations, public ridicule, and bureaucratic bullshit made the whole process easy enough to carry out.  By 1970, the government and military were officially ‘not interested’ in UFOs.  The alien situation was left in the capable hands of our group, the People, with no links whatsoever to those government or military powers that would try to control the show.”  Rice sat up straight and looked Linda in the eye.  “We are invisible, unsupervised, and totally in control.  We form the hub of that hidden elite who really run the world.  All true power held by humans today is held by us.”
        Linda looked Rice dead in the face.  “You, Mr. Rice, are the most arrogant man I’ve ever met.”
        Rice smiled.  “I come by it legitimately, Mrs. President.”  He leaned back again, crossed his arms over his chest.
        “Really.  And how did you end up in this fine little club, Mr. Rice?”
        “Life chose me from the very beginning.  Life prepared me, tested me, guided me, groomed me.  And here I am now, having shown my worthiness.”       
        “Life prepared you?  What the hell does that mean?”
        “Life is that of which we speak.  Life is that which has come to our planet to guide us from the fiery path.”  As Rice spoke his eyes closed.  “Life is that which leads us and loves us and shows us the way.”  Rice stopped, his eyes still closed, his face a mask of pure bliss.
        Gellow rolled his eyes.  “He means the aliens, Mrs. President.”
        Rice blinked away his bliss and flicked a hateful look at his colleague.  “It is we who are alien,” he said sternly.
        Linda interrupted.  “So why are you telling me?  Is that the rule?  All the Presidents get to be in on the fun?”
        Rice resumed his cheerful expression.  “Not all, Mrs. President.  Johnson was never told.  Neither were Carter or Reagan.  Funny, given that both of them claimed to have seen a UFO.  Bush was brought into the loop as Vice-President, which helps explain how he won in ‘88.”
        Gellow began to chuckle deeply.  “A thousand points of light.  If the voters only knew.  He’d seen ‘em!”
        Rice went on.  “Clinton was told.  And Bush Junior.  But neither Obama nor Russell was brought in.  Now you know.”
        “I’m not sure that I really know anything,” said Linda.  “All I have is your words and those pictures.  The only thing I know is that I’ve been held against my will at gunpoint by a group of people who, if this works out my way, are in very deep trouble.”
        Rice rose from his chair, walked around the table, and whispered briefly with the General.  Then he returned to his chair and faced Linda again.  “That’s it for today,” he said cheerily.  “You can go.”
        Linda stared, unbelieving.  I can go?  Who the hell are you to tell me I can go?  I want some answers!”
        “Nope.  Sorry.”  Rice shook his head like a father talking to his whining child.  “We’re done.  I’ll see you in the morning.  Lots of time tomorrow for questions.  We’ve got a big day planned.”  With that Rice rose, gathered his papers, and left.  The General followed without so much as a glance toward the President.  Gellow rose and walked around the table, tapping Phelps on the shoulder.  Phelps woke with a start, oriented himself to the situation, smiled at the President and rose to follow Gellow.  They both left without a word. 
Linda sat, dumbfounded.  What was going on tomorrow?  Nothing!  To hell with them all, she was not going to play their game.  She’d tell Bickle right away.  Arrest these crazies.  And she would not stop until she got to the bottom of this whole meeting.  How could her own security have failed her so?  How could these idiots do what they did?
        Rice stuck his head back in.  “Oh, yes, Mrs. President.  Just in case you’re thinking of saying anything about this meeting to anybody, you need to know that your mother is, well, let’s just say we know where she is.   If you know what I mean.”  Rice’s smile faded, pushed aside by a look of utter sadness.  “One other thing, Mrs. President.  Some very sad news.  Very sad.”
        Linda rose from her chair.  “What?”
        “It’s Mr. Bickle, ma’am.  He, uh ... met with a very tragic accident.  Just twenty minutes ago.  I’m afraid he’s dead.”
        Linda flung herself at the door, shouting as she ran, and slammed into it with all the force she could muster.  But she was unsuccessful.  Rice had already pulled his head out of the way.


This book is on my TBR for review. Unfortunately, I am unfashionably tardy and behind on my reading and on writing reviews.  I will update with a linked post when the review is posted, hopefully within the next 30 days.


Tell us about your current release.

I published All of the Above in August of 2011.  It’s a fast-paced sci-fi-adventure/ conspiracy thriller, with psychopathic government agents, enigmatic “aliens,” brave dogs, wise children, and the first female President of the United States.  When President Linda Travis is briefed at gunpoint about the human-alien conspiracy that secretly controls her government, she decides to not play along.  Uncertain whom to trust, she “escapes” from her Secret Service handlers and sets out to find a way to tell the world the truth.  Her journey takes her to the rural mountains of Vermont, an underground “alien lodge,” the frozen expanses of Bathurst Island, and finally back to Washington D.C. to confront her pursuers.  Along the way she receives help and guidance from friends old and new, and from far beyond our physical world, and is challenged with both obstacles and loss.  She’s forced to face fully into the current global environmental, economic, and energy predicament, and confronts her own deep assumptions about the nature of reality itself.

All of the Above continues the conversation I began in my feature-length documentary, What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire, the tagline for which reads:  A middle-class white guy comes to grips with Peak Oil, Climate Change, Mass Extinction, Population Overshoot and the end of the American lifestyle.  I wanted to set those critical issues into the larger context of a universe that contains a great many challenges to the dominant materialist paradigm.  It felt like fiction would be a better vehicle for this inquiry than documentary would.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your book?

I was surprised to learn that I was not in control.  In some very real ways, my characters led and I followed.  Once the initial premise was in place, the characters knew exactly where they needed to go.  All I had to do was trust them.  I had no idea I’d end up in the far North with a group of Inuit.  I had no idea I’d meet a six-year-old alien-human hybrid girl who would so shape events in the story, and so capture my heart.  It was delightful, to witness the unfolding of such marvelous things.  And it worked out perfectly.

How do you describe your writing style? 

My writing process reminds me of a hurricane: that slow build-up of forces growing more and more out of balance until they reach the point where they become a storm - a huge whorl of energy and action that moves across time and space, altering everything it touches until the forces are back in balance.  All of the Above follows that same pattern.  We dip into the story as forces reach the point of the storm and follow it as it plays out across time and space.  By the end, the forces are more in balance, though the landscape has altered.  And not all of the forces have rebalanced, leaving room for the story to continue.

Do you have critique partners or beta readers?

My wife, Sally, read the story chapter by chapter as I wrote the first draft.  Then half a dozen friends gave feedback on that.  At that point, I went through a long and sometimes painful editing process with three editors:  my daughter, Hannah, a professional copy editor, (now studying publishing and editing at Pace University) went after everything from spelling errors to larger questions of structure and meaning; my wife, Sally, approached the text as a director might approach a play, “directing” my characters “performance” at the levels of emotional and psychological truth; and my friend Rocco, a poet and teacher, insisted on sentence structures and language that actually conveyed what I wanted to convey but had failed to achieve.  Sadly, Rocco has passed on since the publication of All of the Above.  His absence will make the sequel all the more difficult to write, I fear.  I shall miss him.

Do you listen to music while writing? If so what?

Always.  And if the music’s not in my ears, it’s in my head.  I listen to everything from class rock to obscure new wave to industrial and post and prog and Celtic and bluegrass, even as I consider such genre distinctions little more than semi-useful fictions.  A good day’s listening might include The Guess Who, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Nine Inch Nails, The Cure, Fish, Mountain, Neil Diamond, Marillion, Drive-By Truckers, The Bothy Band, Nickel Creek, Tool and Wazmo Nariz.  As I wrote All of the Above, certain songs kept cropping up in relation to the story.  These ended up in a playlist that form a sort of “soundtrack” for the book.  I’d have loved to use song lyrics as chapter openers, but was not up for the cost or hassle of securing rights.

Beatles or Monkees? Why?

Today… Monkees.  Because I’m not supposed to like the Monkees.

What books have most influenced your life?

Anything and everything from Kurt Vonnegut.  Stephen Donaldon’s Thomas Covenant stories.  Asimov and his Foundation stories.  Orson Scott Card’s Ender and Ender’s Shadow books.  Heinberg.  Herbert.  Tom Robbins.  These authors and many others influenced and shaped my sense of story.
Ishmael and its sequels by Daniel Quinn.  Michael Talbot’s The Holographic Universe.  Itzhak Bentov’s Stalking the Wild Pendulum.   Richard Dolan’s UFOs and the National Security State.  Anything by Graham Hancock.  Richard Bach’s Illusions. Derrick Jensen’s The Culture of Make Believe.  Terence McKenna.  Robert Monroe.  Whitley Strieber.  These authors and many others have influenced and shaped my sense of reality and the world in which I live.

What are you passionate about these days? 

I’m passionate about seeing what’s right here when I take off the conceptual filters of the family, educational system, culture, and paradigm into which I was born and raised, and shed the habitual patterns of my own egoic mind.  When I set aside the assumptions and beliefs I was given, I can look straight on and with eyes wide open at the current confluence of global crises without retreating in fear or getting stuck in anger or bargaining.  And I can look with an open and critical mind at the wealth of anomalous data points which, in my view, are calling us to question deeply the scientific-materialist worldview that seems to be largely responsible for our present collective predicament.  I’m trying simply to “relate to what’s so as what’s so,” which feels like a spiritual path for me.  I feel whole and sane and engaged with a beautiful and mysterious Universe.  And by saying what I see, I am in service to the greater good.  I’m pretty blessed.

What is the next big thing?

Huge forces have been building for some time now.  Another storm approaches, building in intensity.  Any day now, I’ll sit down and allow Rumi’s Field, the sequel to All of the Above, to flow through my fingers and into a manuscript.  My characters have been whispering to me since I finished the All of the Above.  They’re ready to be let loose, and I’m ready to follow them.  I can’t wait.


The being now known as “Timothy Scott Bennett” landed on this planet in rural “Michigan,” one of the so-called “United States” currently occupying a large portion of the landmass known to some as “North America.”  Astonished by what he saw around him, he set about to learn all he could of art and science, religion and spirituality, writing and filmmaking, in order to better understand the society into which he’d been born, and the strange behaviors of the human beings he encountered.  He believes that if he can help to make clear and conscious the assumptions, beliefs, taboos, denials, and orthodoxies of the dominant global industrial culture, some humans will be able to break free of the confines and limitations of that paradigm.   He trusts that this will be a good thing.  To that end, he and his wife, Sally Erickson, created the feature-length documentary What a Way to Go:  Life at the End of Empire, a film which journeys through the present predicament on Planet Earth, looking at climate chaos, mass extinction, oil depletion, overpopulation, and the global culture of domination and disconnection that now appears to be unraveling.  He currently lives with Sally in coastal “Maine,” which is another of those “United States.”  He rides his bicycle, watches for whales, soaks up the sun, wind, and fog, and remains utterly astonished.

Links to check out:
Blue Hag Books (my publishing company)
Individual Blog Posts having to do with writing and All of the Above:
The First Chronicles of President Linda Travis:
What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire:

Thanks for Looking!


Myra C said...

I enjoyed the interview and this sounds like an very interesting read with the sci-fi and conspiracy thriller combination.

Jamie said...

I do want to see what this book has to offer.

Laurie said...

The giveaway winner is Jamie Leigh Martin. Congrats!!