Monday, April 19, 2010

Guest Blog-Barry Pollack

Barry Pollack, the author of Forty Eight X-The Lemuria Project, has written a guest blog on how he came up with the idea for his book.

In writing FORTY-EIGHT X, I wanted not only entertain readers with a contemporary science fiction thriller but also hoped to foster debate again about the theory of eugenics. Eugenics is a scientific theory formulated by Francis Galton (Charles Darwin's cousin) in the late 19th century. It is the theory that our preeminent traits are almost entirely due to heredity. Eugenics also proposes that the human gene pool can not only be altered by lengthy process of evolution but by man’s self involvement as well. Galton's theory emphasized that it was predominantly good breeding that allowed one to succeed in life, that nature was more important than nuture. The wealthy titled classes of that era certainly accepted that premise but it was an intolerable theory for most other people to accept since it relegated the masses of the world’s poor to a lifetime of lower class life with little chance of rising up.
Eugenics as a scientific theory therefore fell by the wayside and got a further bad rap in the 1920’s-40’s with forced sterilization of the “mentally deficient” in the United States and then Hitler’s horrific extermination of what he described as inferior races.
Eugenics took another turn in the 1970’s when Robert Graham, a eugenicist and entrepreneur, aimed to improve the species by creating a genius sperm bank, what he called his Repository of Germinal Choice, a sperm bank for Nobel Prize winners. That project also became controversial because one prominent donor to Graham’s sperm bank was William Shockley, a Nobel winner, who was derided for his views that there were inferior races, such as blacks. But unlike in decades passed, Graham perceived eugenics not as a plan to rid the world of inferior people but rather to breed better ones.
The belief that “nature is more important than nuture…. Doesn’t mean people have to be blessed or cursed by their genes – just that adjustments needed to be made.” (Forty-Eight X, page 48)
Does eugenics deserve a comeback? In today’s contest between nature and nurture, has nurture won? Why is it okay to use our limited resources to preserve and reward the least productive among us and less popular to use those resources to promote our very best? For example, American schools spend more than $8 billion a year educating the mentally deficient. Spending on the gifted isn't even tabulated in some states, but by the most generous calculation, we spend no more than $800 million on gifted programs. Does it make sense to spend 10 times as much to “nurture” those with the least potential among us than those with the greatest? Certainly no one today would fall into the trap of labeling inferior genes as malignant and worthy of destroying, like Hitler. But is it wrong to seek genetic enhancement? While we might fault the frivolous use of genetic engineering – to alter our children’s eye color, height, or color – might it not be worthwhile to engineer smarter and healthier people?
Today, we are able to manipulate genes. We’re busy doing it for disease prevention. But we could manipulate genes for other purposes, breeding preferences such as male or female, intelligence, body shape. With that capability come ethical quandaries. Are we playing god? Will manipulation of the human genome mean we can reach our higher potentials or will it pose darker risks allowing us to fall prey to our baser instincts?

Summary of the book:
On the tropical island of Diego Garcia in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the United States has gathered together its most talented geneticists to work on the top-secret Lemuria Project. These secret experiments create a revolutionary new warrior so strong and so valiant that the age of casualties of war would become only a sad and distant memory. Haunted by a dark and dangerous past, Colonel Link McGraw is the officer chosen to train these new soldiers. He understands the rules of engagement and agrees to serve his country, reestablish his professional reputation, and secure his freedom in the process. As a trained and commissioned officer in the United States Armed Forces, McGraw knows what constitutes the perfect soldier: following orders without question. When Egyptian beauty Fala al Shodaha and Israeli Joshua Krantz, scientists in their own right, stumble across the top-secret project, they are determined to uncover its true nature and pursue their quest to Diego Garcia. Tensions mount as Krantz and McGraw clash over the project—and vie for the affection of the lovely Fala. When they discover they aren’t the only ones on the island competing for her attention, shocking truths are revealed that beg the question, Is it too late to save themselves—and the entire human race—from almost certain annihilation?

About the Author:
My life has been a merry-go-round. There have been plenty of ups and downs. I've changed horses a lot. But, I'm enjoying the ride, still trying to catch that brass ring that defines me as a person - and as a writer.

Let me begin in college, at the end days of one of the many schools I attended. In 1967, I was a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy. I had dreams of becoming a "jet pilot," an adolescent fantasy perhaps, but nonetheless moving toward fruition. I could arch back my shoulders, suck it in, and spit shine with the best of them - but still I was not very "military." It was the height of the Vietnam War. Like many young people at the time, I became disenchanted with that war; decidedly not a good mind set for someone setting out on a military career. So, I resigned from the USAFA and went off to Penn State where I quickly got my bachelor's degree. Shortly after graduation, I decided on another career. I would become a filmmaker. I left my childhood home in Philadelphia, and after a brief tear-gassing experience at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, I arrived in California where I eventually received my master's degree in film from Stanford. There, I made several documentary shorts. One was called Some of My Best Friends are Bottomless Dancers. That sexy title and a few film festival prizes led to my being accepted as a writing-directing fellow at the new American Film Institute in Los Angeles.

My opportunity to become a "professional," read paid, writer came after I spent a summer traveling with east coast carnivals, researching another documentary on "carnie folk" - which never got made. But during that summer, I came to know nearly every "freak" in the United States - the two-headed man, the fat lady, the pin cushion man, midgets and giants. As a result, when a friend was hired by Roger Corman to write the remake of a movie called Freaks, I was hired as the casting director. That picture was never made either but after showing the Corman brothers some of my writing, I was given the opportunity to write the remake of John Huston's Asphalt Jungle and turn it into a "black" film. That was the era of black exploitation films like Shaft and Cleopatra Jones. And that's how, in 1972, I became the white "black exploitation" writer-director of the MGM film Cool Breeze. That picture wasn't a blockbuster nor critically acclaimed, but it was a respectable first effort, and made a profit. I thought I was on my way in Hollywood and during the making of that first film, I met my wife, Margaret. Even though I'm no longer the "famous" Hollywood writer-director she thought she was marrying, she's stuck with me ever since. My next venture was a film called This is a Hijack which I ignobly claim as being one of the "top ten" worst pictures in the history of cinema. As the clichŠ¹ goes, I couldn't get arrested after that as a Hollywood director - or as a writer. After mulling over my options in the film business, I made another drastic career change. I became a doctor.

In 1980, I graduated from the University of Oklahoma Medical School and after a brief residency at Los Angeles County USC Medical Center, I began working as an emergency physician. I am still, to this very day, an "ER doc." But I have continued to write - several prime time television dramas like Trapper John, M.D. and Hotel, some magazine short stories, several unproduced screenplays, and almost ten years of columns for the Ventura County California STAR newspapers (Biography stories, Travel Stories, and Medical stories).

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