“Reverse Lightning”

Nobody knows the future, but …

By Tim Mahoney

I’ve taken a stab at crystal-ball gazing in the novel “Reverse Lightning.” It’s not a scenario I wish for, but one that I  fear could come true, at least in its broad outlines.

The first scary notion that suggested the novel’s plot line was the possibility that the Gulf Stream would be disrupted by warmer, less-salty oceans.

If that were to happen, Europe would no longer be able to support its 350 million inhabitants. Rome, after all, is at roughly the same latitude as Chicago. London is farther north than Montreal.  So Ireland, the UK, the Scandinavian nations, Germany and so on would experience much shorter growing seasons. Global warming could, with cruel irony, make them too cold to support dense populations.

The implications are scary. (1) Tens of millions of Europeans would be forced out, becoming refugees. (2) Europe would no long be able to house refugees from other places. And it’s pretty much accepted that climate change will cause millions upon millions of people, especially the impoverished in tropical nations, to go in search of new places to live.

So what you’d have is a refugee crisis that is almost unimaginable. Except that it’s sort of the novelist’s job to imagine it.

The chaos unleashed by hundreds of millions of desperate people drifting around the planet would very likely lead to dictatorships in whatever nations managed to remain whole. Chaos breeds dictatorship.

This led to my first assumption: America in the age of chaos would turn to a dictator. When I first started this novel, back in 2008, Donald Trump was only a pitiful buffoon with a crappy and obviously fake reality show. But, without thinking of Trump specifically,  I did imagine that the dictator in my novel would be a billionaire, a bully, and a raving lunatic.

Who else would want the job of managing a nation in decline?

The second scary notion that underpins the novel is the tendency of America’s wealthiest and most powerful people to fight change. I don’t want to lay it all at the feet of the Koch Brothers, because theirs is only the most obvious example. But in all of human history, there has never been an accretion of wealth and power such as exists in the United States right now. The tendency of any status quo is to defend itself, and in modern America that means furious and expensive campaigns of lobbying, political bribery (legal and illegal) and disinformation.

Add this to a culture that has profound suspicion of intellectuals in an age of rapidly transforming technology, and you have trouble.

This suggested to me that any revolution in energy technology might well occur in a nation where the status quo wasn’t so strong. Just for fun, I imagined this nation might be Mexico.

And so in my imagination, Mexican scientists, recruiting others from all around the world, put together a laboratory that discovered a new technology. It produced energy that was “too cheap to meter.”  I called it “Reverse Lightning.”  I don’t go into technological details, because I’m not an engineer, but there’s no doubt some day the human race will move well beyond its reliance on fossil fuels.

In the novel, Mexico rapidly becomes the world’s most admired nation, while the United States declines. American culture was not built for decline, and so I imagined a war with Mexico that devolved into a civil war. By 2062, the year the novel begins, the U.S. had fragmented into 13 quarreling mini-nations.

So that’s how the novel came to be. Here’s a quick promo and link …


It’s mighty chaotic in America in 2062.

The nation is swamped with desperate climate refugees.

A billionaire ego-maniac has become Permanent President. He’s a former circus clown and con-man who entered politics for the money he can rake off.

Mexico is now the world’s richest and most admired nation, having developed the revolutionary energy technology called Reverse Lightning.

And the United States, broken into 13 warring mini-nations, is trying to recover from Civil War II.

Can an actress/spy and her bumbling soldier boyfriend help turn thing around?

Get “Reverse Lightning” at Amazon in paper or digits.