The other day I was talking to some folks about how I think up plotlines for thrillers. I mentioned that ideas bubble up after I watch the news, and gave an example: Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent speech on the legality of drone strikes that target American citizens. The speech, I said, had got me thinking: What if you were an intelligence analyst tasked with deciding whether to authorize such a strike? What if you alone among your colleagues thought it should be stopped? Or what if you authorized it, and then discovered you targeted the wrong guy? Could there be a story in that?
There could, I thought, and folks agreed. And then some of them wanted to know if I would be scared to write that story. Would I — should I — be afraid that if I wrote that thriller, the government might target me?
Short answer: No.
Longer answer: Really, no.
I’m not afraid the government would target me — at least not with a drone strike. Over a piece of fiction drawn from publicly stated policy? I must check my ego at the door here, and say I’m just not worth it. The government has plenty of ways to take down people they dislike (see Hoover, J. Edgar; McCarthy, Joseph R.; see also leaks, gossip, surveillance, smear campaigns, etc.) and plenty of paranoia to go around. But I’m not afraid that they’re going to pull a page from Three Days of the Condor and send Max Von Sydow to my house to silence me. Call me naive, but I ain’t worth it.