Talent To Burn features a cameo from a retired Remote Viewer. The mother of Cat (the heroine) was one too. So what are Remote Viewers?
Remote Viewing, sometimes called telesthesia, is the use of psychic abilities to view a location at a distance. It’s distinct from seeing the future, as remote viewing is supposed to show you what’s happening at a remote location right now.
As you can probably imagine, this particular ability would be incredibly useful for espionage, and in wartime. Various governments have funded research into remote viewing, especially during the Cold War. The term Remote Viewing was actually coined by parapsychologists at the Stanford Research Institute (a spinoff of Stanford University) in Menlo Park in the 1970s. They did a number of studies, and the more scientific of my readers will probably be surprised to discover some of these studies appeared in illustrious journals such as Nature and the Proceeedings of the IEEE.
Miller, the remote viewer in Talent To Burn, is supposed to have worked for the CIA. They sponsored much of this research, as did the US Air Force.
The big secret project into remote viewing was called Project Stargate, and was declassified in the 1990s. Reading about Stargate was one of the things that inspired me to write Talent To Burn in the first place.
Unfortunately, the project never achieved any real results, and the CIA terminated it after spending twenty million dollars. It was reported by Time magazine that even in 1995, Fort Meade in Maryland—on my doorstep—still had three psychics on staff trying to gather intelligence.
When sitting down to write Talent To Burn, I thought, what if those programs, instead of shutting down, were privatized, like many other defense programs? In the post-9/11 era, psychic intelligence would be even more valuable than in the Cold War. Hunting down terrorists hiding in caves must be hard to do via satellite photography, but imagine if you could just send someone’s mind there. Imagine further than you could attack those installations from a distance without ever needing to put a soldier at risk…that’s a pretty compelling military program right there. That’s the idea that spawned the Grey Institute, full of paramilitary and ex-military researchers, all single mindedly searching for Talents who could protect the USA from her enemies, no matter the cost.
If you’d like to learn more—or be further entertained by—the ideas behind the Stargate Project, you can watch the movie The Men Who Stare At Goats, or read Joseph Moneagle’s The Stargate Chronicles: Memoirs of a Psychic Spy: The Remarkable Life of U.S. Government Remote Viewer 001, a first hand account of what it was like to work as a Remote Viewer.