Exclusive Interview: “Alien Agendas” Ian Douglas


With Alien Agendas (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), writer Ian Douglas is concluding the Solar Warden trilogy he launched in 2020 with Alien Secrets and continued a year later with Alien Hostiles. In the following email interview, he discusses the end of this military sci-fi saga.

Ian Douglas Alien Agendas Solar Warden Trilogy Alien Hostiles Alien Secrets

Photo Credit: W.H. Keith


You previously explained what the Solar Warden series was about in our interview about Alien Hostiles. But for people who’ve read that book, and the first one, Alien Secrets, what in a non-spoilery way is Alien Agendas about, and when does it take place in relation to Alien Hostiles?

Alien Agenda picks up where Alien Hostiles left off, and explores just what it is that the Saurians might be trying to achieve. In this book, I was particularly interested in modern conspiracy theories, and in how the Saurians might be deliberately introducing them as “fake news” or as force multipliers, means by which a few invaders could take down a civilization with a population of billions.

When in the process of writing Alien Secrets and Alien Hostiles did you come up with the idea for Alien Agendas, and what inspired the specific plot of this third novel?

I knew from the beginning that Alien Agendas would need to wrap up all of the dangling plot elements from the first two books, so it was all part of the same process. Most of the plot elements were suggested by events in the earlier books. I’d mentioned the undersea base off Malibu in Hostiles, and hinted at it in Secrets, for instance. Now we finally get to go there.

In a larger sense, I’ve been fascinated for a long time by conspiracy theories and what they say about the way people think — or don’t think. I thought that a fun way to explore that was to invent a conspiracy theory about…conspiracy theories.

How very meta.

Speaking of which, with the Saurians being highly evolved reptiles who are trying to take over the Earth, these books make me think of the conspiracy theory about lizard people. Did you ever do any research into the lizard people conspiracy theories to get ideas of what to do, and what not to do, in Alien Agendas and the other books?

Oh, definitely. One of my pet peeves as a somewhat scientifically educated writer is how unimaginative — and unlikely — the alien Grays and “Reptiloids” and Nordics of popular UFO culture are. When we meet real aliens — and we will — they will be nothing at all like us. The entire Solar Warden concept emerged from the collision of two ideas: a conspiracy theory introduced by British hacker Gary McKinnon to the effect that we have a space navy right now that would put Kirk’s Starfleet to shame, and an attempt to reconcile the fact that even the most extreme-looking “alien Grays” are far too much like us to have come from another planet. So…we have a drop-dead gorgeous “Nordic” who is a human from 10,000 years in the future, and the Grays are various subspecies of human from a million years hence.

And yes, I was well aware of the conspiracy theories involving the Reptilians. Most of them focus on aliens from the constellation Draco — silly idea, that, on a number of levels — and, frankly, even with scales and big teeth they look too much like terrestrial life to be realistic. I therefore suggested that the Saurians, too, came from Earth…but they’re refugees from a long, long time ago. There aren’t that many of them, so if they want to get their planet back, they’ll have to be sneaky about it — making alliances with various human factions such as the Nazis of 90 years ago or Neo-Nazis of today or authoritarian factions within our own government.

Knowing what not to do in these books brings up an interesting point. Many, perhaps most, of the conspiracy theories involving Reptiloids and Grays and all the rest are so silly they would make the Solar Warden theme completely untenable. The idea of the Reptilians as shape-shifters, for instance: one popular writer has pushed the idea that Britain’s royal family and several disliked U.S. presidents all are shape-shifting lizard people disguised as humans, and you can only see through the disguise when you see their eyes turn all black. Ri-i-i-i-i-ight…

So in each book, I spent some time mentioning particularly impossible conspiracy theories or bits of popular lore and, yes, shamelessly debunking them. I did so in fear and trembling, believe me, knowing that plenty of intelligent and well-meaning people passionately believe in these things, and that by suggesting they were wrong I was risking — ahem — alienating my audience. This doesn’t mean I don’t believe aliens might be real, but I did hope to show that by abandoning some of the more impossible conspiracy elements, we might see a way through to a possible reality. That’s why I developed the time travel idea. Having aliens who look like us is far less likely than the idea that they might be us, but from a remote future.

In each of these books, by the way, I deliberately included encounters with less humanlike, more realistic aliens in order to compare and contrast them with the too-human Grays.

Another conspiracy theory that comes up in Alien Agendas is the Men In Black, who kidnap Hunter’s girlfriend in an attempt to control him. Did you also look online for stories about the Men In Black, or did you just watch the movies, which are fun but wildly inaccurate…so I’m told…by no one.

The Men In Black have been part of ongoing alien conspiracy theories since 1947, when Harold Dahl claimed a man in a dark suit visited him after the Maury Island sighting and warned him not to talk. Ufologist Albert K. Bender wrote Flying Saucers And The Three Men in 1962, and the legend grew from there.

Today, M.I.B. sighting stories focus on two distinct species: those who appear to be humans working for covert government agencies, and those who seem themselves to be aliens. I focused on the former interpretation for the most part in order to talk about different and conflicting factions within government and intelligence circles…at last until Alien Agendas when Hunter meets a Reptilian M.I.B.

I’ve seen the movies. What I find most relevant to the Solar Warden series is their presumption that people in the government not only know the aliens are here, but work with them, have secret treaties with them, try to keep the whole circus under wraps, and occasionally run into aliens who are up to no good.

Wait…did you just flashy-thing me?

I didn’t look up anything on-line about them, however, knowing that the theories would be all over the place. Instead, I focused on the M.I.B.-as-intelligence-agents, because that best fit my theme.

Alien Secrets and Alien Hostiles were both military sci-fi stories. Is it safe to assume Alien Agendas is as well?

Yes, Alien Agendas is military sci-fi, following the USSS Hillenkoetter and LCDR Mark Hunter, Navy SEAL and leader of the JSST strike force. I do break free from the military orbit from time to time; as an example, one of my major characters, introduced in Hostiles, is Julia Ashley, who is based on a dear friend of mine who really has been trained in remote viewing.

Yes, remote viewing is real and is used today commercially…though so far as I know Julia hasn’t peeked in on any aliens. None that she’s told me about, at any rate….

I’m sure there’s writers who influence everything you write, and some that were big influences on the entire Solar Warden trilogy, but are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on just Alien Agendas?

Truth to tell, there weren’t any books that influenced just Alien Agendas. It’s all background to the seething chaos that is my brain. However…

What about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games? Did any of those things have a big influence on Alien Agendas?

A non-literary influence for Agendas was the whole weird, wild world of conspiracy theories. Every chapter of Alien Agendas leads off with a brief description of a different conspiracy theory, the weirder and more improbable the better. A few of those tie into the book’s plot, but not all. The idea was to show how staggeringly bizarre and diverse some of these theories are, what they mean about how humans think, and how easily such rampant nonsense can destroy faith in government, in society, in human achievement, and in plain old common sense.

From that point of view, I guess you could say that various political influencers and personalities over the past few years, their fake news, their propaganda, and their shrill tantrums coming at us over otherwise respectable media outlets had a major impact on Alien Agendas and on the Saurian attempt to take over the world.

Ian Douglas Alien Agendas Solar Warden Trilogy Alien Hostiles Alien Secrets

As we’ve been discussing, Alien Agendas is the conclusion of the Solar Warden trilogy. But it isn’t the first time you’ve written the end of a trilogy. Europa Strike ended the Heritage Trilogy; Star Marines concluded the Legacy Trilogy; and Semper Human not only closed out the Inheritance Trilogy, but that trilogy was the finale of the Galactic Marines series. Is figuring out how to end a trilogy easy for you now, or is it harder because you have to think of a new way to do it? And how did that impact writing Alien Agendas?

My writing of trilogies has more — a lot more — to do with the publisher’s marketing decisions than with the way I tell a story. The Galactic Marines series started out as a nonology — a nine book series — and was intended to follow several USMC families through future history, from 2040 or so to 4004 CE. But the publisher felt that the reading public liked trilogies, so…

I’ve done several books that were introduced one at a time that I’d wanted to keep going with, but when The Boss says a series isn’t earning its keep, I have to move on to something else. I wrote two books in the Star Corpsman series, a labor of love because I was a U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman back in the day and this was a great opportunity to peddle my war stories. But, they didn’t sell enough of the things, and I had to drop it. Same for Andromedan Dark, set four billion years in the future. Nowadays, I know to plan only for what’s in the contract, whether that’s one title or three.

My Star Carrier series gave me fits. It started out to be a grand nine-book epic, but while I was writing Book 2 I was told Book 1 wasn’t doing well and to wrap the series. Then Book 2 went best-seller, and suddenly I had a contract for three more…and then another three after that. The original plot for the series was completely lost because I had to do a fast reshuffle to continue the story after I’d already shut the original story down. That seems eerily like the problems J. Michael Strazynski had with his incredible TV series Babylon 5…being told to close it out after 4 seasons, doing so, then finding out he had a 5th season.

So nowadays, when I write the concluding book to a contracted series, I’m never quite sure if I’ll be able to extend the story into additional books, or be forced to leave it hanging.

There are people who’ve been waiting for Alien Agendas to come out so they can read the entire Solar Warden trilogy back-to-back. Do you think this is the best way to experience this story?

Well, if they enjoy the story I’m telling, sure…go ahead and read ’em all back-to-back. But there’s certainly no requirement that they do so.

So, is there anything else you think people need to know about Alien Agendas and the Solar Warden trilogy?

Solar Warden might be the ultimate in “what-if” stories. What if it was true that aliens have been visiting us? What if it’s true that the government recovered crashed alien technology, signed treaties with alien civilizations, and reverse-engineered things like antigravity and faster-than-light travel? What if we really do have a space Navy out there patrolling the stars and keeping Earth safe for humans? And is there any way of reconciling the wildly conflicting and mutually exclusive popular stories about visiting aliens?

I’m not saying Solar Warden is true, mind you…or that I was abducted and it happened to me. I am saying there might be ways of reconciling at least some of the folklore to take a peek at what might actually be happening.

I’ve joked that I’ll know for dead certain that it all is real when a couple of guys in dark suits and sunglasses show up on my porch, ring the doorbell, and ask me to come along with them….

Ian Douglas Alien Agendas Solar Warden Trilogy Alien Hostiles Alien Secrets

Finally, if someone enjoys Alien Agendas and the rest of the Solar Warden trilogy, they might want to follow it with something short and sweet. So, what novel or novella of someone else’s, which is a fast and fun read, would you suggest they read next?

My favorite fast and fun read is the Discworld series by Sir Terry Pratchett. It has nothing whatsoever to do with UAPs…unless you count a 10,000-mile-long giant turtle balancing a flat world on the backs of four elephants on its shell as an Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon. I prefer hard-sci-fi for the most part, personally, but Discworld is humorous fantasy of the highest order.

As for the reality of Solar Warden…oh, wait. Was that the doorbell?

Excuse me. Back in a min —



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