2021 Reading Challenge

2021 Reading Challenge
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Guest Post: Tin Foil Hat Wearer – Or Do You Just Love Conspiracy Thrillers? by C.R. Berry

Today I’m beyond thrilled to offer you a glimpse into the mind of the exceptionally talented C.R. Berry, whose conspiracy theory/time travel/sci-fi techno thriller Million Eyes series I introduced you to last year through Million Eyes: Extra Time and earlier this week through the first in the trilogy, Million Eyes. He’s a marvelous writer – obviously – and the chance to peek inside his head is exactly as delightful as you’d imagine given the way I’ve raved about the books… Enjoy – and then make sure you jump into the world of Million Eyes!

Tin foil hat wearer? Or do you just love conspiracy thrillers?
by C.R. Berry

If you knew what I enjoy writing, watching and reading, you’d be forgiven for thinking that I never leave the house without my tin foil hat.

I write articles about Flat Earth, global surveillance, the 9/11 Truth movement and Paul McCartney and Avril Lavigne having died and been replaced with lookalikes. I prefer movies, TV series and books that have a cabal of baddies doing nefarious things in secret instead of a singular bad guy. And I’ve just released a conspiracy thriller, Million Eyes, about an evil conglomerate that uses computers and smartphones as a smokescreen for time travel.

But I’m not a conspiracy theorist. Sure, conspiracies happen. We know that the US government once proposed committing terrorist acts on its own people and blaming it on the Cubans. We know that the same government secretly withheld treatment for syphilis from 399 black men so that they could study the disease. And we know that what crashed in Roswell wasn’t just a weather balloon. But just because these conspiracies happened doesn’t mean all the wild claims about what our institutions do behind closed doors are true.

Conspiracy theories and conspiracy fiction aren’t that different. Both are inspired by real, proven conspiracies and feature unseen actors secretly manipulating events. It’s just that conspiracy theories purport to be real and conspiracy fiction doesn’t. The similarities explain why I love both without being a tin foil hat wearer. They’re just cracking stories.

I think people who love conspiracy fiction fall into two camps. The first—it’s so goddamn fun—is the one I fall into. Conspiracy stories are usually thrillers because the magnitude and complexity of the villainy naturally generate suspense and anxiety, and lend themselves well to gripping action and rug-pull reveals. But they’re also great mysteries because the conspirators and their motives aren’t unveiled till later in the story. They’re whodunits and whydunits, where the who is a load of people, and the why is sometimes more important and more interesting than the who.

They’re full of villains, too. So if you’re a sucker for baddies, this is a good genre to be obsessed with. I myself have been a true villain junkie since I was small. I wanted to be Emperor Palpatine, not Luke Skywalker. I wasn’t bothered about saving the galaxy and redeeming my father, I just wanted to shoot lightning at people from my fingertips. (I’m not making myself sound all that nice here, am I? I am nice, honest.)

Conspiracy thrillers like The Da Vinci Code, The China Syndrome, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the recent BBC TV series The Capture follow a typical, and winning, format. The protagonist happens upon evidence that an event or situation is not as it seems, and the powers that be are colluding in a lie. The conspirators get wind and set out to silence them. Cue suspenseful chase scenes as our hero races to expose the truth.

In my new book, Million Eyes, the protagonist is a history teacher, Gregory Ferro, who discovers that King William II of England may have been murdered by a time traveller. He begins an investigation, eventually joining forces with an initially sceptical university graduate, Jennifer Larson. They learn that the same time travellers were involved in the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower and the death of Princess Diana, and it’s all because they’re trying to recover a mysterious and boring-sounding book, The History of Computer-Aided Timetabling for Railway Systems. Before long, Ferro and Jennifer are targeted by assassins desperate to keep their time-travelling under wraps.

Million Eyes isn’t just inspired by real conspiracies; it actually incorporates them. It’s similar to what the short-lived TV series Dark Skies from the 90s did. Starring a pre-Star Trek Jeri Ryan, Dark Skies took real events from American history and ‘explained what really happened’, i.e. it was all to do with aliens and the government trying to conceal them. The tagline for the series, History as we know it is a lie, could easily belong to Million Eyes as well. However, instead of aliens, it’s time travel, and instead of the government, it’s a global tech conglomerate, and instead of the last sixty years of American history, it’s the last nine hundred years of British history.

It was thanks to some great conspiracy thriller TV series in the 00s that I fell in love with the genre. The main one was Prison Break. Everyone remembers this show for Michael Scofield’s elaborate schemes for getting his brother, Lincoln, out of prison. But I was more interested in the story of Veronica Donovan, who was investigating the conspiracy that landed Lincoln there in the first place. In fact, Caroline Reynolds—the Vice President and mastermind of the conspiracy, whose face and identity were kept hidden for eight episodes—served as the primary inspiration for the main antagonist in Million Eyes, Miss Morgan.

Then there was Damages, which saw Glenn Close as a lawyer trying to unravel various corporate conspiracies while being at the centre of some herself. And 24, which had Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer chasing down terrorists and discovering big government plots lurking behind them. Conspiracy thrillers are jigsaw puzzles, I realised. The joy is in putting together the pieces. I realised I wanted to write something just like that.

For the second camp of people who love conspiracy thrillers, it’s all a tad more serious. These are the people who might well be regarded as conspiracy theorists themselves. They’re acutely suspicious of those in power, anxious about being watched and controlled, and susceptible to seeing patterns in coincidences. For them, the lure of the conspiracy thriller is how it makes them feel like they’re in the know. We see the villains conspiring first-hand in the halls of power, or discover that they have been when they’re finally unmasked. Characters succeed in validating their suspicions, with evidence, that a conspiracy really has happened—every conspiracy theorist’s dogged objective. How many conspiracy thrillers have you seen where the conspiracy didn’t happen? No, I can’t think of any either.

The fact that paranoia is on the rise has and will continue to fuel the popularity of the conspiracy thriller. The deep state. The Great Replacement. Vaccine hesitancy. Election rigging. The evil bankers who plotted Brexit. We’re living in tumultuous and divided times, dominated by distrust and conspiratorial thinking on both sides of the political spectrum.

In other words, we’re all seeing villains everywhere. Conspiracy thrillers offer us an opportunity to pull back the curtains and defeat those villains. It’s just that some of us do it because it’s fun. And some of us do it because we’re terrified that the curtains are real.

Author Bio
C.R. Berry is the author of the time travel conspiracy thriller trilogy, Million Eyes. The first book is OUT NOW and available to buy from http://bit.ly/Million-Eyes. Described by Berry as The Da Vinci Code meets Doctor Who, it incorporates conspiracy theory-laden events such as the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower and the death of Princess Diana into a fast-paced, twisty page-turner. An accompanying short story collection, Million Eyes: Extra Time, is available for FREE download from http://bit.ly/Million-Eyes-Extra-Time.

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