Will the world end on Dec. 21 of this year?
Yes, says the Mayan calendar.
Maybe, says bestselling author Steve Alten, who has woven a compelling tale of corporate greed, government corruption and even alien visitors around the Mayan doomsday predictions.
His novel “Phobos: Mayan Fear” is in bookstores now in hardback form. He expects the novel to be released in paperback in time for this year’s holiday shopping season – and, of course, the end of the world.
“I feel really good about this book,” Alten said from his home in Florida. “It’s a fast-moving story with a lot of action. But it still closely follows the Mayan prophecy and doomsday predictions. And there is a very real threat.”
“Phobos” is the third in his trilogy of stories related to the Mayan prophecy. “Domain,” released in 1999, was one of Alten’s earliest books. “Resurrection” – the second in the series – was published in 2003.
“The main character of the series is Michael Gabriel, and I’ve put him through hell – literally,” Alten said. “And he’s in this book, which means a kind of back-to-the-future moment in the second half of the book, which was pretty fun.”
“Phobos” is a complicated thriller that is not constrained by either space or time.
“The Mayans didn’t view time as linear. They saw it as circular. And this story is circular,” Alten said. “Sometimes maybe it’s not easy to follow.
“But when you get it, you get it good.”
He added: “Sometimes you don’t know until you sit down and start writing what’s going to happen. I had the beginning and the end worked out, and that meant filling in everything in between. And it’s a cause-and-effect book – except that you start with the effect and work back to the cause.”
At the heart of Alten’s fictional tale of global disaster is a very real scientific phenomenon. The Large Hadron Collider is a multi-national station near Geneva where scientists move atomic particles at high speeds in opposite directions then have them “collide”
– producing energy in a re-creation of the so-called “Big Bang.”
He also incorporates into “Phobos” elements of “The Disclosure Project” – an effort to study reports of alleged extraterrestrial activity.
Researchers with the project have actually made official reports to various presidential administrations and have proposed a hearing on the subject before Congress.
“The Large Hadron Collider is very real,” Alten said. “We really don’t know what harm that might be doing. But we know it is creating miniature black holes.”
In addition to studying particle colliders and alien reports, Alten has been a dedicated student of Mayan history and writings.
“The research gets ridiculous, but you want to get it right for the readers,” he said.
“And you don’t want it to be so cumbersome as to make it unreadable.”
“Phobos” is on the shelves at most bookstores and online outlets such as Amazon.com.
Alten said domestic sales have been “moving OK,” but interest is very strong in places such as New Zealand, Mexico and Europe.
“The book is doing well across the world. ... It just came out in the United Kingdom,” he said. “Actually, the (Domain) series has done very well overseas.”
Alten, a Philadelphia native and Penn State graduate, is wrapping up his 12th novel – “The Omega Project.” He says he has two previous novels now in negotiations for movie rights.
What happens after “The Omega Project” will be tied to how things work out on the movie front, where his giant-shark story “Meg” is under consideration for a third time and “The Loch” – about a certain lake monster in Scotland – is looking promising, he said.
“It’s been an interesting road – a lot of roller coasters,” he said.
Unlike many popular writers, Alten works hard to stay connected to his readers through an electronic news-letter and an interactive website – www.stevealten.com – where he’ll respond to your emails if you reach out to him.
He founded “Adopt-An-Author,” a nonprofit effort designed to get kids to read.
He also sponsors programs to send books to military personnel stationed around the world.
He is battling Parkinson’s disease and admits to having good days and bad days.
Alten is my friend, a good guy and a talented writer who just happens to like subjects where people get blown up, eaten alive or otherwise fall prey to dangerous circumstances.
Alten did leave “Phobos” open-ended, so that there could be more stories about Mayan history and prophecies, alien visits and general mayhem.
Even after the end of the world on Dec. 21.
Chip Minemyer is the editor of The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5091.