High Strangeness

Thursday, December 7, 2017

I Worry About UFOs

Regular readers of High Strangeness may have noticed that my blogging has been sparse of late. There are several reasons for that.

Even six months after the release of my book, The Close Encounters Man: How One Man Made the World Believe in UFOs, I still often find myself needing to just take a step back from UFO world and decompress. It's hard to explain how focusing on one singular topic for five + years can affect your feelings about that topic. Not that I've lost interest at all, I just need to limit my exposure to it sometimes, for my own mental health.
The book is only the beginning...

And although this may sound contradictory, I'm more inclined these days to put my UFO energy into other media projects building off the success of my book. I've been working with a new manager, and I'm loving the energy she's bringing to my writing career. The projects themselves are pretty top secret, so I can't say anything more about them, but they are sure to be entertaining -- at least to me!

Another thing: for the past 2 years I've been teaching screenwriting as an adjunct professor at DePaul University and I really love it. My students are so talented and so positive, and I'm privileged and honored to help them find their voices and become better writers -- which I'd like to I think I've become fairly good at. So, this fall I've also been devoting a lot of energy to applying for full-time teaching posts. I don't have a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) or a Ph.D., which puts me out of the running for many faculty positions, but every now and then a college is willing to waive that requirement if you have what they call "equivalent professional experience." Fortunately for me, my Star Trek writing experience and the publication of my book qualify, so when I find one of those opportunities I have to pounce on it.

Then there's the continuing craziness everywhere I look in UFO world:
  • I keep getting emails from Tom Delong's insipid "To the Stars Institute" or whatever the hell it's called, urging me to do my Christmas shopping at his website. So apparently his UFO Institute is just an e-commerce operation, nothing more. No, he is not getting a penny of my Christmas $$, and neither is MUFON, come to think of it.
  • Someone on Facebook recently pointed out that the upcoming International UFO Congress is featuring a talk by Don Schmitt on whether Dr. J. Allen Hynek had "discovered the truth about UFOs." Anybody who knows anything about Dr. Hynek knows that Hynek would have despised any suggestion that he might know the "truth" about UFOs. All I ask is that, if you plan to go to this lecture, please read my book first and then make up your own mind. And if you don't want to buy my book, for God's sake check it out of the library!
  • I recently saw on IMDB that the producers of the History Channel's "Blue Book" TV series have cast someone to play "General Hoyt S. Vandenberg." This made me chuckle and roll my eyes. Why they think this is worth noting is beyond me. Vandenberg's involvement with the Air Force's UFO study lasted about three seconds -- just long enough for him to reject Project Sign's extraterrestrial hypothesis-friendly "Estimate of the Situation," all (or perhaps almost all?) copies of which ended up being destroyed as a result. Does this casting notice indicate that General Vandenberg has been posthumously promoted?
So, yeah, I worry.

On the other hand, I am psyched about the return of The X-Files, and I did do a very fun interview last weekend with Howard Hughes, the UK's answer to Art Bell! As soon as Howard posts the conversation at The Unexplained with Howard Hughes, I'll let you know. Meanwhile, you can listen to my archived previous interview with Howard here

Monday, November 20, 2017

UFO Casting Call

Now, who could this guy play in a UFO show?
So it's old news now that the History Channel has announced the first casting selections for its planned TV series based on Project Blue Book. Dr. J. Allen Hynek will be portrayed by Aidan Gillen, that guy from Game of Thrones who played Littlefinger, and his wife Miriam will be played by an actress named Laura Mennell, from The Man in the High Castle.

Leaving aside for the moment the very excellent suggestion I made in my Rolling Stone interview that the great Martin Freeman should be playing Dr. Hynek, I thought it might be fun to make a few casting predictions/suggestions for the show... These are just off the top of my head, so don't judge, but I think they'd make for a pretty unique viewing experience:

Capt. Edward Ruppelt................Steve Carrell
Betty Hill....................................Wynona Ryder
Barney Hill.................................Idris Elba
Betty Hill's alien "leader"...........Emma Stone
William T. Powers......................Daniel Craig
Lonnie Zamora...........................Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
Dr. Carl Sagan............................Christian Slater
Frank Mannor.............................Tommy Lee Jones
Philip Klass................................John Ratzenberger
Dr. Jacques Vallee......................Jean Reno
Jennie Zeidman...........................Parker Posey
"Lucky" Sutton............................Jim Parsons
Dr. Donald Menzel.....................Max von Sydow
Father William Gill....................Anthony Hopkins
Father Gill's "waving" alien.......Samuel L. Jackson
Donald Keyhoe...........................Mark Hamill
Joe Simonton...............................Anthony Bourdain
Major Hector Quintanilla...........Larry David

Some of these choices may strike you as weird but let me remind you that when the alien abduction book Communion was made into a movie, they cast Christopher Walken as Whitley Strieber. Christopher freaking Walken...

What say you? Who would you cast in these pivotal parts? And what other characters should be added to this list? (Remember, this deals only with the Project Blue Book years of 1952-1969, otherwise I would have had a field day casting Charles Hickson, Calvin Parker, Lawrence Coyne, Val Johnson, Travis Walton, etc. etc.).

Sunday, November 19, 2017

UFOs in the News

I've come across a couple of interesting articles recently that have given me some things to think about, UFO-wise.

The first was this article in WIRED, entitled Twenty Years After His Death, Carl Sagan is Still Right. Right about what, you may ask? Why, UFOs, of course!

The writer recalls a time twenty years ago when he interviewed Dr. Sagan, the noted UFO skeptic, in order to find out from Sagan "why people believed crazy stuff." When you've started the discussion out on such a low level, you can hardly expect any remarkable insights, and Sagan offered none:
“When UFOs became a popular subject and I was in early high school or something, it seemed to me great. We were just reaching out into space, and why not a much more advanced civilization reaching out to us?” Sagan said. “It seemed so heady and promising, such an interesting future. But as I learned a little bit more about the properly skeptical attitudes of science and how often we deceive ourselves, I began to look at this with much more skepticism.”
Later, the author quotes Sagan's idiotic saying that "Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence" -- a stance that I pick apart in my book The Close Encounters Man. The interviewer simply accepted that as the final word on UFOs twenty years ago, and its clear from the new article that he still believes that today. It's a very frustrating read, and some of the commenters are even more closed-minded than the author.

Still, I recommend you read it, as it pretty much sums up what we're up against.
The massive radio antenna at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, listens for alien transmission. China is building one even bigger.

The other article I came across this week was much more fun, and much more uplifting. What Happens If China Makes First Contact? just appeared in the December, 2017 issue of The Atlantic, and although it's a very long article is is well worth a full read. The article tells the story of China's efforts to build a radio telescope nestled between mountains that is twice as far across as the one nestled between mountains near Arecibo, Puerto Rico, which is already pretty damn big.

Why are the Chinese taking on such a massive, expensive project? Could it be that they want that first UFO to land not on the lawn of the White House but in the middle of The Forbidden City? It turns out that is exactly right. The Chinese want to make first contact so badly that they have built the world's largest radio telescope and they have dedicated it exclusively to listening for signals from extraterrestrials.

And, get this: they've enlisted the aid of Liu Cixin, China's best-known science-fiction author and first-ever Hugo Award winner, to help publicize the dish and its mission. It's a massive, ambitious, exciting project (which, as far as I can tell, does not have a name), and the Chinese seem to be doing everything in their rather formidable power to make it a success. And I think that's really exciting and inspiring.

I suppose it's possible that there's a down side to idea of competition in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, but I also think that if that if first contact were made, the alien intelligence(s) would be wise enough to know that any signal they send to the Chinese dish would need to be simultaneously "cc'd" to the Arecibo dish.

They're the smart ones, remember?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

UFO Sweepstakes!

All this Tom DeLonge/To The Stars Institute stuff flying around the internet these days has got me thinking (reluctantly) about "Capital D" Disclosure.

I get it that a lot of people are desperate for someone to reveal "the truth" about UFOs, and I get it that a lot of people have an unshakeable belief that the government knows this "truth" and is going to reveal it to us all when the time is right. Uncertainty is unbearable for these people -- they need to believe something can be proven about ETs & UFOs -- excuse me: Advanced Aerial Threats (AATs) -- and it seems there's always someone ready to prey on their uncertainty.

That and recent comments here at High Strangeness have forced me to re-examine my beliefs about Disclosure. Don't worry, I still think it's a load of crap. If Disclosure were ever to take place (which it won't), it wouldn't be the government's call. It would be entirely up the the aliens -- assuming they exist -- to reveal their presence to the world, and since they haven't done it yet there's no reason to think they will anytime soon. If they exist.

So, what, then, does my new thinking entail? Well, over the past few days I've been asking myself this question:

"What if I could decide how and when Disclosure was to take place?"

It's kind of a fun idea, I have to admit. In this scenario, I alone have first-hand knowledge that aliens have been visiting the earth and have been influencing human events, and the time has come for me to spill the beans to the estimated 7.6 billion people of earth. How would I do it? Where would I do it? When would I do it?

The first idea I had was that I would present it as a global lottery or sweepstakes:

Win a Weekend With the Aliens! (No purchase necessary) 

We're all suckers for give-aways, so why not incorporate that into the Disclosure plans? I'd launch a year-long, world-wide, enter as often as you want online sweepstakes, and the Grand Prize winner would get to spend three days and two nights as guests of our new alien friends in a luxury suite aboard their UFO. The package would include sightseeing trips to the moon and our neighboring planets, an autographed copy of my book, The Close Encounters Man, and $500 cash.

I'm pretty sure the aliens would go along with it. Sure, it robs them of the long-anticipated landing on the White House lawn, but I think the fact that it would raise their cultural stature from "Visitor From Another Planet" to "Valuable Prize" would more than make up for it. And the winner could pretend to be Richard Dreyfus at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which would be kind of cool.

And I'm sure I could persuade the aliens to kick in a few items of advanced technology that they have lying around as awards for a few thousand runner-ups: ray guns! anti-grav devices! free energy!! Hell, I'd even persuade the aliens to personally present a real free energy device to Tom DeLonge.

As a huge added bonus, by making a big game of it, I ensure that none of that "societal breakdown" business that Disclosure fans worry so much about will come to pass. I don't know, I just think we need put the fun back in Disclosure, and this is the way to do it.

How about you, dear readers? If YOU were in charge of Disclosure, how would you announce the alien presence to the people of earth?

(P.S. Just a few minutes ago I got an email from Tom DeLonge advertising the great values I can find on To The Stars Academy products at his online store)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Best UFO books??

I got this great note on Facebook the other day, and I've been thinking about it a lot. Read the note and then I'll tell you why it's been on my mind...
Hi Mark, I loved your book, and I have mentioned it to several friends only to be met with that look you get when you admit that you believe that UFOs are more that just total nonsense, so I'm sure it's not easy to promote your book. Would you ever consider compiling a reading list for people who share your point of view on the UFO phenomenon? I just read "Passport to Magonia", and "Operation Trojan Horse", but I need to be pointed in the right direction.
First of all, thanks for the compliment, and thanks for trying to get your friends to see the light! Given them time; they might come around.

It is true, though, that it's not easy to promote the book. Just yesterday I was at a big Barnes & Noble and found my book in the far back corner of the store, on the bottom shelf of the last bookcase, in the "UFOs, Aliens and Conspiracy" section. Now, I will cut B&N some slack, as The Close Encounters Man was displayed cover out rather than spine out, so that's good, but still, it's not great real estate for a book that's intended for a mainstream audience.

Well, I am right next to Jim Marrs, which is cool.

But a few minutes later I was perusing the "Science" section, located in the more reputable part of the store, and I came across a startling discovery.

There, right next to a biography of Nikola Tesla and just a few feet from Hidden Figures and the latest from Bill Nye the Science Guy, Mary Roach and Neil deGrasse Tyson, is a book called: UFOs, Chemtrails, and Aliens: What Science Says.
Both books have "UFO" in the title, but this one is a "Science" book and mine isn't? Hmmm....
I'm not saying that this book doesn't belong here, because it does (and it looks like an interesting book, although, I confess, I didn't buy it). I'm just saying my book has an equal claim to being in the "Science" section. And the "Biography" section, for that matter. At times like this I wonder whether my subtitle should have read: "How One Scientist Made the World Believe in UFOs," instead of "One Person."

This is one reason a book like mine can be a challenge to market. But it makes me all the more pleased that my next speaking engagement is taking place as part of the Wisconsin Science Festival -- they got it right!

Anyway, back to the request on Facebook for the recommended UFO books. I must state up front that for the past five years I have only been reading those books that have pertained to J. Allen Hynek's life and work, so I'm not that well versed in more recent work (although I can enthusiastically recommend Leslie Kean's masterful UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record). For that reason, my list of recommended books is perhaps too old-school and outmoded for many, but here goes anyway....

That said, this reader already made a good choices with Jacques Vallee's Magonia and John Keel's Trojan Horse, and I would suggest reading anything by either of those two gents, because they are among the most entertaining UFO writers who ever put pen to paper. Also, even if I hadn't written a book about him I would be obliged to  recommend Dr. J. Allen Hynek's books, The UFO Experience, The Edge of Reality and The Hynek UFO Report, because they are so good. I also love John Fuller's two masterworks, The Incident at Exeter and The Interrupted Journey.

Then, in no particular order, I would recommend the following, all of which are very fun and informative reads, and particularly suited to a reader who desires a good grounding in the UFO phenomenon in its early days:
  • UFOs? Yes! by David R. Saunders
  • Communion by Whitley Streiber
  • Alien Dawn by Colin Wilson
  • A Common Sense Approach to UFOs by Betty Hill
  • UFOs a Scientific Debate by Carl Sagan and Thornton Page
  • Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky by Dr. Carl Jung
  • The UFO Handbook by Allan Hendry
  • The UFO Controversy in America by Dr. David M. Jacobs 
  • The entire digest of the International UFO Reporter, published by the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies (cufos.org)
To be clear, I don't always agree with everything these writers have to say, but I did find these books all engaging and entertaining for a variety of reasons. Case in point: I recommend Communion simply because it is so gloriously wigged out.

How about you? What books would you have on your list?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

UFO Documentary Scam?

This really takes the cake...

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a young filmmaker who said he was making a short YouTube documentary about Dr. J. Allen Hynek based on my book, The Close Encounters Man, and he was offering me the opportunity to edit his script before he went onto production.

It took me a minute or two to absorb this guy's message. He was making a video based on my work... without bothering to ask my permission... but he was hoping I would edit and approve his script... and thereby put my seal of approval... on a product he was clearly filching from me.

Pretty cheeky of him, eh?

Do I want to take part in a UFO documentary? Hmmm...
I told him I had a problem with that, and that I would be consulting my attorney. He claimed that he was within his rights to use my book as source material under the "fair use" provision of copyright law, which is not really true, as he was basically basing everything in his script on my work, no one else's. That's a bit more than "fair use," IMHO. My attorney, meanwhile, was all set to send this guy a cease and desist letter, but I didn't really think he was worth that much effort.

Well, I got busy over the last week or two and forgot all about this guy and his video. Then yesterday he sent me this message:
"I'm aiming to have this video completed by the end of the weekend and will need to know if you'll be requesting any changes to the script."
Although it was the last thing I wanted to do, I took another brief look at his script and found three or four significant inaccuracies right off the bat. But did I want to spend a hunk of my day going over the whole thing and fixing this guy's mistakes? No, I did not. Getting his script right is his job, not mine.

So here's what I wrote back to him:

There are quite a few inaccuracies in your script, and frankly I don't have the time or inclination to edit your writing. You can utilize "Fair Use" of course, to cite The Close Encounters Man for very specific, limited quotes, but I do not give you permission to portray me as sponsoring, approving or participating in your video in any way. Furthermore, you do not have my permission to use any image of my book or of my person in your video.

First world problem, I know, but what a ridiculous waste of my time. And what, really, does it contribute to the discussion?