While reading a magazine (I believe it was Harper’s) I came across an article about a medical device made for a man who was “locked in.” His cognitive facilities were fine, but he had lost control of all motor control, with the exception of being able to move his eyes. This device allowed him to use eye movement to pick out the letters on a digital keyboard and construct words and sentences.
The conceit of being trapped in a body without the ability to communicate outwards struck me as eerie, even more so when I learned that most people who were locked in “felt” sensations, such as a fly walking on their nose, but would be unable to act…to shoo such a pest away.
Research taught me that there was more than one path to such a condition: one is brain stem damage from an injury or stroke (such was the case in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), but another cause is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, named after the famed ballplayer who gave a tearful farewell address in his home stadium.
I focused my work on ALS, because my mind was working on a novel in which people are rendered helpless, and later cured only after a suitable exchange of some sort has taken place.
Corporate greed, political power-grabbing, religious fundamentalism, and international politics are all ripe fields ready for the planting of ALS used as a weapon and lever, and Locked-In combines all of those with a dash of personal revenge to create a tale in which a horrible medical condition and its treatment are employed in a devious plot to grab power, wealth, and fame.