High Strangeness

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Backstage at The Great Roswell Debate

Now that the Great Roswell Debate between me and Don Schmitt is in the history books, I can talk a little about some of the backstage drama leading up to the event.

A few short days ago, it was looking as though the Debate would be called off.  What could cause such a catastrophe, you ask? You may not believe this, but there was a some last-minute hanky-panky perpetrated by Mr. Schmitt that threatened to derail the whole thing and leave a couple hundred angry people demanding their money back. Don may be used to that, but I'm not.

Several days ago, I got a panicky email from Tea Krulos, the amazing organizer of the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, informing me that Don wanted to show a video as part of his 3-minute opening statement. Tea and the debate moderator were uncomfortable with the last-minute demand, and the fact that Don wouldn't let them see the video, but asked me if I would be ok if they allowed it. At first blush I thought the video idea was harmless enough, but then I read up a little on debate rules and discovered this:
 "Visual materials are permissible, and once introduced, they become available for the opponents' use if desired."
I ran this past Tea and the debate moderator and asked if this meant Don was required to share his video with us before the debate, and they said, why, yes it does!

So, they communicated that to Don and he refused. Not only did he refuse, he told them that if they continued to demand access to the video that he would drop out of the debate.

Wow. So, suddenly, this innocent little video has taken on a very menacing aspect... Tea and the moderator are upset because Don is making a mockery of the debate, and I'm worried that the video might contain some personal attack (and, yes, there is precedence for this). And Don absolutely refuses to share the video. Tea is ready to pull the plug on the whole thing, and for a day or two, things are looking very precarious...

Then, out of the blue, Don shares the video with Tea and the moderator, and Tea sends the video along to me with this note:
"Um...ok, Don forwarded his video. This is unexpected!"
I watch the video, and I'm gobsmacked. It's an ancient George Carlin stand-up comedy routine--well, it's a rant, really, and it's not funny at all--in which Carlin warns his audience that the world is run by an unnamed powerful elite who screw us over in every way imaginable, and we're all blind to what's going on around us, and we're all basically fucked.


For a day or so after watching the video, Tea and the debate moderator and I exchange a long train of emails, in which we basically ask each other "WTF?" over and over again. Tea and the moderator ask me to explain Don Schmitt to them, and I can't. I just can't. They're still thinking of pulling the plug on the whole thing.

However, Tea and the debate moderator are now very amenable to my comments and suggestions, and they come up with a plan we can all agree on:
  1. Don can show his video as his opening statement, but because he's allotted 3 minutes for his opening statement and the video is 3 minutes long, the video will be his opening statement.
  2. Don has to present his video before I give my opening statement, giving me the chance to respond directly to the video.
  3. Because the moderator is suspicious that Don will try to pull a switcheroo and play a different video the day of the debate, Don will not be allowed anywhere near a laptop; only the debate moderator can show the video.
Fun, right?

Here's the point in the blog post where I should be posting a link to KGRARadio.com so that you can go there to listen to their archived webcast of the debate, but they don't seem to have posted it yet. I have emailed the dude in charge at KGRA for that information, and will post it here when I hear back from him... Which could be a while, because to date he has not responded to any of my messages.

Along those same lines, a reader here commented that he tried to listen to the webcast live yesterday afternoon, but that KGRA was playing some other program. I don't want to jump to conclusions, but... KGRA is a major sponsor of the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, and if they did NOT webcast the debate, I'd be interested to know why... If any of you out there were able to listen to the webcast Saturday afternoon without any trouble, please let me know!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Roswell Hiccup

Oh no!

Don Schmitt has just asked the moderators of The Great Roswell Debate that he be able to show a video as part of his opening statement! I think it's a bit fishy that he is trying to modify the terms of the debate only 9 days ahead of the event, but more than that, the rules of debate, as I interpret them,
Lest we forget how this whole thing started...
seem to make this a bit dicey for Don. Here's what they say:

Visual materials are permissible, and once introduced, they become available for the opponents' use if desired.

But Don, I am told, is not willing to make the video available... Will this be a problem? What could be in that video? Does he have some kind of "October Surprise" in store? Inquiring minds want to know...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The "Roswell Debate" is Coming!

Well, here we are, a mere 11 days before the big "Roswell Debate" between yours truly and Don "Deathbed Confession" Schmitt, and I can hardly contain my excitement! It's been almost a year now since Don challenged me to this debate after the fallout from my discovery of the sensational  Roswell Post-It, and I'm sure he is ready to mete out his own brand of UFO justice.

I say, bring it on, Don.

The scribble that started it all: The Roswell Post-It, discovered on my desk in 2015.
The big event will take place at 3:30 p.m Saturday, October 15th, at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference. If you want to see two middle-aged guys with great hair arguing over whether there is any proof that a flying saucer from another world crash-landed outside Roswell, New Mexico on July 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, or 7th, 1947, then you've just got to be there.

If you can't be there in person, I have good news: you can listen to the live webcast on KGRA Radio. At least I think you can. The truth is, I don't know any of the details of the KGRA webcast, because this dude Race Hobbs who owns KGRA hasn't communicated with me at all. I contacted him a week or two back, asking politely for the particulars of the webcast, but he has not responded. See, I thought it would be nice to fill you in on the details, and I also thought an exchange of information would be helpful to both of us, because I could put him in touch with the marketing people at HarperCollins to see if they could leverage my upcoming book, "The Close Encounters Man," to promote the debate and the webcast.

But I guess Race isn't interested.

Ah well, I've been in this situation before, being the guy at the UFO conference saying things that the audience and the other presenters don't necessarily want to hear. Last March, when I was a presenter at the conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Dexter-Hillsdale "swamp gas" case, I questioned the conventional wisdom of that case, and said that Dr. J. Allen Hynek was right to say that the Michigan UFOs could have been swamp gas. As I was going through my analysis of the case, I sensed confusion and disappointment in the audience, and from certain of the other presenters, and it was kind of a weird dynamic. A lot of UFO enthusiasts, I realized, are more interested in validation than understanding. Fortunately, though, I got some positive feedback from several attendees, and the hosts from MUFON Michigan were fantastic from beginning to end.

So, 11 days from now, I expect there could be some confused and disappointed audience members and presenters at the Roswell Debate. And if any of them want to talk after the debate, they can find me at the bar talking Bigfoot with Loren Coleman.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Meet the New UFO Author on the Block

Yesterday afternoon I drove down to beautiful Williams Bay, Wisconsin, on the shores of beautiful Lake Geneva, to the site of the beautiful Yerkes Observatory, to have some "author's head shots" taken for my book. Along for the ride was my friend Lxxx, who is a very talented photographer, and my one and only choice for this photo shoot.

I chose the site because this is where Dr. Hynek did his graduate work on the spectra of F-type stars in the early 1930's, and so the place is of immense significance to the Hynek story. Yerkes has been owned and operated by the University of Chicago for well over a hundred years, and it's an impressive place. Lxxx just kept gasping in awe as we walked around the building, looking for places to set up, and I have to admit that I felt a little bit of pride showing the place off...

We ended up with a whole slew of pictures, and here are a few of my faves. I think Lxxx has captured a mysterious something in me...

Will my editor Mxxxxxx agree with my top picks? I'll let you know...

The Truth is Out There
I Want to Believe
My natural state

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Speculation Over Hynek UFO Book Finally Ends!

Is this man smiling because he's read my book?

The suspense is over.

It took my editor at Dey Street Books longer than expected to get through my manuscript (apparently he's working on other books??), but it was worth the wait, because he came through today with some great news:

Hi, Mark:
What can I say…You’ve delivered a tremendously accurate, substantial, and riveting book, which has exceeded expectations that were very high to begin with. I was enthralled by the amount of research you put into the draft, and despite your lack of a first-person voice I was able to sense that you (author, critic, historian, Hynekian) had so much fun with this. That made it all the better to read.

Considering that this is coming from a guy who came into this knowing nothing about UFO history and culture, it feels like pretty high praise, and I'm on Cloud 9. 

More news soon!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Happy 50th, Star Trek!

A sampling of my "Star Trek" work
First of all. Happy 50th Birthday, Star Trek! I feel honored to be just a small part of the show's history and success, and I hope ST continues to live long and prosper.

Second of all, I'm really loving the next phase of getting my book, "The Close Encounters Man," ready for publication! Right now my editor and I are talking about who to get to write blurbs for the book cover, and I'm having a blast thinking of favorite writers whom we can approach.

In the course of doing interviews for the book, I lined up one offer to write a cover blurb from a pretty unexpected source. As excited as I am about that, though, one blurb is not enough. So we've been going back and forth all day coming up with ideas for writers we think we can approach to give us a read and a write-up. It's unbelievably fun coming up with names, and even more fun to think that my book may be getting read and reviewed by some of my favorite writers!

We're also talking about an online platform from which to reveal the book cover when it's finalized. I didn't know this was part of the process, but apparently it's a pretty bog deal. My editor is looking for a popular blog from which to launch the cover, and for some reason it can't be mine! Go figure.

Also, I need to get a new head shot done for the book jacket. Which probably means I'll have to buy a new shirt! The work just never ends...

Anyway, there will be lots of news and announcements in the coming months, and a few surprises here and there (although I'm saving the best of those for the book).

Saturday, September 3, 2016

I Sold a Book!

This is getting real.

I met with my editor Matthew at Dey Street Books -- at HarperCollins global HQ in Manhattan -- and learned that my Hynek bio, "The Close Encounters Man," is already available for pre-order on Amazon! Even better, as of our meeting Thursday afternoon one copy had already been sold!

Whoever you are, THANK YOU!

I solemnly pledge here and now not to disappoint you.

The book comes out on May 9, 2017!

Next project for me: Writing my Author's Notes explaining how the book came to be, and describing everything that went into it... That should be fun, but... where to start??