Volcanic lava flowing

Write It, and It Will Erupt?

Two simultaneously erupting volcanoes in close proximity to each other. Some might call that portended Armageddon. In my Other Worldly novels, folks might try to blame it on aliens.

Yet in real life this week, we have the world’s largest active volcano, Mauna Loa, erupting for the first time since 1984, with its neighbor Kilauea just 21 miles away still erupting for more than a year now, since September 2021.

What a spectacular sight, with fountains of bright-orange lava spewing as high as 200 feet.

In my latest novel, Altogether Alien, now completely drafted and tentatively scheduled for a late February 2023 launch (or should I say eruption?), a prevalent theme is not only potentially erupting volcanoes, but the three active volcanoes of Hawaii’s Big Island are featured.

My literary protagonist Rowan Layne would say that’s positively uncanny. Also, the good news so far is there is no immediate risk to Big Island communities from the flow of molten lava.

And, no—spoiler alert—I didn’t predict an imminent Mauna Loa eruption in Altogether Alien, but the result of hot lava flows known as lava tubes and caves, or pyroducts, are where I take literary license and create something fantastical…and fun, if I do say so myself. Mindful, however, that these volcanoes exist in sacred, storied locales of significance to Native Hawaiians and their ancient ancestors.

Perhaps I chose to wax poetic in my latest novel about all things lava because I moved to Oahu just months after Mauna Loa erupted in March of 1984. In 1985, I visited the site, and I have photos of me standing in front of a fern-covered lava tube and exploring the steaming black expanse of cooling lava flows.

It was utterly fascinating to visit this youngest geological spot on Earth. And now that I think of it, you could say it was like being on another planet—or downright otherworldly.

I reference this personal experience in Altogether Alien, also noting how the Big Island is the most famous place on Earth for lava tubes, with more than 40 miles of them existing as underground passageways beneath the crusted lava surface.

As a certain alluring alien explains to Rowan, “As lava flows from an eruption—don’t you dare cringe at that word—it forms a crust on the surface. Underneath, lava still flows, but once surface movement stops, the crust can support weight after about ten minutes of cooling. Lava tubes form as the result of surface cooling of flows, or sequential lava flows, with later flows moving underneath older ones. Great quantities flow for long distances beneath the surface, leaving behind empty caves once lava subsides.”

In Altogether Alien, Rowan learns how some believe Hawaii to be a fragment of a lost continent that featured a big mountain. She’s told, “Of Hawaii’s three active volcanoes, Mauna Loa is the largest on the planet. Mauna Kea, at 13,680 feet, is nearly a mile taller than Mount Everest—if measured underwater from sea bottom to summit. So, it’s actually the tallest mountain on Earth.”

You’ll have to read Altogether Alien to find out the significance of volcanoes and lava tubes to extraterrestrial beings, and I’m pondering whether I should do a bit of editing while there’s still time to include this new Mauna Loa eruption. But until then, may the lava keep flowing safely on the Big Island, and here’s another hot trickle of an excerpt:

“We’re going to an area not easily accessed by tourists, and not in the shadow of Kilauea, but Mauna Kea…Did you know humans have encountered strange beings in Hawaii’s labyrinth of lava tunnels? Some even say they’re used to cloak alien technology and communications.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *