“Tunnel 16” — a Pasadena-based science fiction novel

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“Tunnel 16” [part one of the Tunnel series]

By Christopher Nyerges

[Nyerges is the author of many, including “Tunnel 16,” “Sinkhole 102,” “Enter the Forest,” “Extreme Simplicity,” and others.  He has also been teaching ethnobotany for many years, in the field and classroom.  Information about his books and classes is available from  www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com. 

I’ve always wanted to try writing a novel.  I’ve even tried a few times, but I either didn’t have the patience to take it all the way to the end, or I didn’t have the imagination for a cogent story.

Then one night I had a dream.  I was visiting a friend of mine up at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) complex in the foothills of Altadena.  Something was happening, and we were being chased by some unseen threatening entities.  We ran through what seemed to be underground parking structures, and after a while, the tunnels opened up into a green wilderness area where there were grassy plains and lots of trees.  In the dream, I knew I could run there and be safe. As I exited the JPL tunnel, I looked up and saw the number “16” embossed on the cement wall.  I don’t recall what happened next in the dream.

Later that day, I called my friend who works at JPL and asked, “Is there a tunnel 16 at your work site?”  “Hmmm?” my friend responded. “I don’t think so.”

Eventually, I was taken on a tour of JPL, and got to look at the Mars yard, and the entrances to various corridors and tunnels, but nothing like I saw in my dream.  Regardless, little by little, I created a young character, Rick, and told the tale of how Rick accidentally discovered the hidden and secretive tunnels of Altadena.

I used my knowledge of the physical terrain of Pasadena and Altadena to tell the story, so most of the locations actually exist.  Rick falls into the tunnel and the youth-focused science fiction story begins.

I attempted to incorporate nearly every myth and mystery of Pasadena that I’d ever heard into the novel.  In the tunnel, Rick encounters the holographic image of Jack Parsons in a side cave,  and Parsons gives Rick instructions for helping to resolve a civil war among an invisible race who live in the tunnel system.

Jack Parsons figures large as part of local lore  — he was one of the early developers of JPL, who had a dark side.  As a follower of Aleister Crowley, Parsons was known to hold satanic rituals in his South Orange Grove home. Additionally, Parson’s most famous roommate was one L.Ron Hubbard, who ran away with Parson’s girlfriend, and eventually founded Scientology. 

Other local lore includes the Angeles Forest as the so-called “forest of disappearing children,” and the shaman’s cave found by Dorothy Poole in Descanso Gardens. 

Rick begins to interact with a JPL security worker, Frank Landry, partly based on a real person, and Landry tries to unravel the mystery of the tunnel before having to report it to his superiors. 

Actual names and places are used throughout the book, which local residents will recognize.   Even famous skeptic Michael Shermer appears in this book, and also appears in the  “Sinkhole 102” sequel.

I enjoyed writing the book, and I was partly inspired by the fast-moving Hardy Boys novels, which I always enjoyed.

“Tunnel 16” is currently available from Amazon’s Kindle, for far less than you’d leave for a tip at a restaurant.  Downloads and hard copies will be available from www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.