High Strangeness: Bravo, UFO!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Bravo, UFO!

Way back when I first started working on this book, The Close Encounters Man, in 2011, I quickly determined who would be the most important people to interview. On that list was Jennie Ziedman, a woman who started out as a student of Hynek's at The Ohio State University in the 1950s, took a job as Hynek's teaching assistant and ended up in possession of a high security clearance with which she was able to investigate UFO reports for Project Blue Book. When I read through her files in the archives of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO studies, I was amazed at not only her talents as a researcher and writer, but at the depth of her friendship with Dr. Hynek. The two worked side-by-side for years -- for much of that time devising clever ways to pull the wool over the Air Force's eyes so they could investigate Blue Book cases their own unique way -- and had developed a deep rapport that lasted for decades after Ziedman married and temporarily "retired" from professional life. Their correspondence is laced with humor, friendly arguing and prodding, and much intellectual discourse regarding the mysterious phenomenon that they were both determined to understand.

So, I was pretty thrilled when I got Jennie on the phone in late 2011 and had a chance to interview her. I started out the conversation gushing about how much I admired her work, and then I asked if she would be willing to let me interview her for my book. She very nicely referred me to her body of writing in the CUFOS files, told me I could use that work as a resource -- and then she hung up on me.

I got the hint, and didn't try to call her back. Over the next few years, as I researched and wrote the book, I would often toy with the idea of calling her again, but I always decided not to. She had made her feelings clear, and I needed to respect that and move on. And, anyway, her body of written work actually did turn out to be a wonderful resource...

Fast forward to summer, 2017. A few days ago I got a message on facebook from a close relative of Jennie Z, asking for my email address so she could get in touch with me. I passed along my email address with some trepidation... What if Jennie was unhappy with the book? What if she didn't recall giving me permission to use her work as source material? What then?

Well, I needn't have worried. The other day I got the following email from Jennie:

 Bravo, Mark!
You have presented Allen Hynek as I knew him:  teacher, mentor, scientist--a man of integrity, ever seeking the facts.  A kind person, a family man.

    I did wince a bit at the word "believe" in the subtitle.  I can just hear Allen saying "Belief and wishful thinking are not part of the scientific process."  I think the ufobuffs don't understand this, nor do they want to.

    The road ahead never ends--and I think that's a good thing.

That means more to me than just about anything.

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