I first heard of Area 51 in the early 90s. My ex-wife was an Army helicopter pilot and deploying across the country with her unit to the National Training Center in southern California. She mentioned how they had to divert around the airspace west of Nellis AFB and that it was highly classified. That piqued my interest as a fledgling novelist. I always ‘what-if’ things. Part of that comes from my background in Special Operations where we did a lot of what-iffing for our missions.
I began researching and came across the term Area 51. The more I dug, the more I realized all the alien/UFO stuff went back to one man, Bob Lazar, who claimed they were reverse-engineering a spaceship they’d found. They, of course, being those guys, You know the ones in the black helicopters. I found that story interesting until I realized one day as we were flying about in the newly formed Task Force 160 (Nightstalkers) that I was one of the guys in the black helicopters. So.
I started thinking about Area 51. Most thought the government had brought alien craft, and even aliens themselves to the place because it was so remote. Which is true. The remote part. You just don’t go by Area 51 on your way to anywhere. It’s part of the Nellis Air Force Base Range. To the west is the Nevada test site where hundreds of nukes have been tested. Not a place to wander through.
As a fiction writer, though, I reversed the thinking. What if there was something at Area 51? What if it had been found there, but was too big to move, so the government established the Groom Lake facility there and the ranges and nuclear test site around it, to hide what had been found?
What could be so big and secret? And thus, I began writing. Interesting note for aspiring authors. The original title for the book was Dreamland because that is the call sign for the Nellis Air Force Base tower. You knew that right? Another one of my stupid titles early in my career (like Eyes of the Hammer).
I had a two-book deal with Random House. The first book, which we got the deal on was The Rock, which is still one of my favorites. People either love that book or hate it. Anyway, we gave them Dreamland as the second book on that deal. The editor mentioned that Dreamland sounded too much like a fantasy novel, so I said, let’s change it to Area 51. At that point few people had heard of Area 51. But as the book went into promotion, X-Files started talking about it and then Independence Day came out and now everyone had heard of Area 51. And that is the power of luck in this business. Good timing.
Little did I know I had spawned a series that would still be going on with the 13th book, Area 51: Earth Abides, published last year. 25 years after the first. And there will be more.
What’s fascinating, though, is the epilogue I put at the end of Area 51 not planning on any more (remember, 2 book deal). Consciously, it was an ode to Arthur C. Clarke’s Sentinel story which was also the basis for 2001. Subconsciously? It became the opening of the next book, Area 51: The Reply as Random House gave me a new contract for more Area 51 books after the astounding success of the first book. And that is the power of the subconscious in creating. Something I’ve learned to trust more and more as the years have gone.
Nothing but good times ahead.