Easter Eggs in Friendship Games


In my interview on the Writers Fix Problems podcast, hosted by NY Times bestselling author Blaine Pardoe, Blaine pointed out that I had employed a few "Easter Eggs" here and there that he really enjoyed. "Easter Eggs" are ways that I paid homage to other authors or works, or even political symbolism, that I incorporated into Friendship Games.

Blaine mentioned his favorite: General Jack "Ripper" Sterling of the United States Space Force. General "Jack D. Ripper" was the antagonist in the classic anti-nuclear war film Dr. Strangelove, played by actor Sterling Hayden. I am so happy that Blaine – and I hope other readers – saw the references. General Jack 'Ripper' obviously refers to General Jack D. Ripper of Dr. Strangelove, and Sterling refers to the actor who portrayed Ripper in the film. General Sterling isn't a major character, unlike Gen. Jack Ripper in Dr. Strangelove, but I still had fun with him.

Thank you, Blaine! Your noticing alone makes my "Ripper" Sterling Easter Egg worthwhile.

There are others, too. Not a lot. But I had fun dropping them in, giggling to myself as I did so.

An obvious one is the aircraft carrier that blows up in the beginning of the novel and sinks in the Persian Gulf: The Ford-class USS George W. Bush.

Not the USS George H. W. Bush, but the USS George W. Bush. The current Bush aircraft carrier, the George H. W. Bush, is a Nimitz-class carrier lain in 2003 and named after our 41st president who had also served as Ronald Reagan's Vice President. The USS Gerald R. Ford, lain in 2009, is the first of a new class of aircraft carriers that bears its name: the Ford-class. Ford-class carriers employ an electromagnetic aircraft launch system rather than a steam launched system, plus a myriad of other technological advancements.

The Ford-class USS George W. Bush refers to our 43rd president, the son of George H. W. Bush. George W. Bush was President, of course, on September 11, 2001 when hijacked aircraft crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. A third hijacked aircraft crashed into the Pentagon in Washington. Passengers fought back on a fourth hijacked aircraft but, tragically, the airplane crashed outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

In response to the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush launched the ill-conceived and disastrous invasion of Iraq, based on obviously false pretenses: the notion that Iraq was secretly developing weapons of mass destruction – particularly nuclear weapons – in contravention to the cease-fire agreements of the 1991 Gulf War.

It was George W. Bush that arguably set the Middle East aflame, and in Friendship Games, it is the USS George W. Bush that is engulfed by the subsequent turmoil of the Middle East and sunk in the Persian Gulf. And to its rescue (more or less) comes the USS Barrack H. Obama. Hahahaha. (Er, sorry).  President George W. Bush arguably set the Middle East aflame with his unilateral and war-of-choice invasion of Iraq.

Two other Easter eggs, both pretty small: the first is where I broke the fourth wall in the first chapter and explain that "swabbing the deck" and "cleaning the head" means "mopping floors and cleaning toilets, for you non-Navy readers."

That was a slight tip-of-the-cap to Richard Marcinko, the first commanding officer of SEAL Team Six, the famous unit that would later kill global terrorist and 9/11 financier Osama bin Laden in a raid in Pakistan. Marcinko's autobiography Rogue Warrior is a classic, and he followed that up with a series of Rogue Warrior geopolitical thrillers, all fiction, in which he often interrupted the story by breaking the fourth wall to offer further, often comical, explanations of Navy jargon or describe a conflict with his editor over a particular scene that he is interrupting.

Even better, my editor balked: you can't break the fourth wall! The Rogue Warrior would be proud.

The second one is an homage to Sci-Fi writer Charles Stross, author of the Family Trade series. In the later books of the series, Stross introduces Daddy Warbucks, a Dick Cheney-esque US Vice President. The name Daddy Warbucks was clearly borrowed from the Annie and Dick Tracy comic strips of the 1920s and 30s. In Friendship Games, the American VP is Daddy Longlegs. I, in turn, borrowed from Stross: the character is different, but also based on Cheney. I altered the name somewhat to describe a very tall, lanky figure, with a long history and reach in federal governance – hence, Daddy Longlegs.  He was a fun character to write.

There was another Easter Egg, this one pretty big, that I ultimately left out: A "flash" hurricane was to form off the coast of Virginia and the Carolinas and rapidly form into a Category 4 storm. It would take nearly a 90-degree turn, a la Super Storm Sandy (2012), and make a beeline for the Great Dismal Swamp.

The north side of the storm would pump a massive storm surge into the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and inundate Norfolk Virginia, home to America's largest Navy base. The hurricane would sweep north into the Blue Ridge Mountains and, in turn, on its eastern side completely swamp Washington, DC, for days if not weeks and leave much of the federal government inoperative in its aftermath.

Climate change.

The name of the storm? Why, Hurricane Donald, of course!


Maybe I'll incorporate that into the next book as the USA deals with the aftermath of Friendship Games.

There are more, but I'll leave that to you to find them.