High Strangeness: UFO Secrets in Rubbermaid Bins

Saturday, January 13, 2018

UFO Secrets in Rubbermaid Bins

It will probably come as no surprise to my readers that I have stored in my basement great quantities of old science-fiction fan magazines from the 1970s, '80s and '90s. They are stacked in huge Rubbermaid storage bins, and include such titles as Starlog, FilmFax, Cinefantastique, Science Fantasy Film Classics, Cinemagic, Fangoria, Cinefex, and even a few issues of American Cinematographer for good measure.

What can I say? Some people can't bear to throw out old copies of National Geographic; I get the same way with old Starlogs.
This is the magazine that started it all...

The thing is, they're not just dead weight. This became evident to me when I was writing my J. Allen Hynek bio, The Close Encounters Man, and I found myself looking for information on Hynek's role in the production of Steven Speilberg's movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. As with all my research for my book, I was always on the lookout for new and different voices I could include in my narrative. Very often, when I had a choice between quoting someone who would be familiar to readers (and, thus, seemingly authoritative) or quoting someone who had rarely if ever spoken about Hynek and his work, I would choose the lesser-known source. I didn't want to tell the same old story as remembered by the same old people, and giving voice to forgotten and overlooked characters kept it interesting.

So, I started on the Close Encounters chapter in my book, and it occurred to me that I had a treasure trove of material in those Rubbermaid containers in my basement! I dug through my old fanzines and came across quite a few gems, but the biggest prize by far was the Spring 1978 Close Encounters "Collector's Edition" issue of Science Fantasy Film Classics, with an exclusive interview with the big man himself, Dr. Hynek! What's more, the CE3K coverage had been written by science fiction authors David Gerrold and Algis Budrys. I was in heaven!

I tore into that Hynek interview with glee, feeling certain that I was about to discover pure UFO gold. I was not disappointed.

On the second page of the interview, writer Scott Becker asked Hynek, "I want to know if in some ways you identified with the character Lacombe. Isn't Lacombe similar to one of the officers of French NASA?"

Of course I already knew the answer to that question. We all do. Of course, the Lacombe character was based on Dr. Hynek's longtime friend and colleague, Dr.---

Wait a minute... The next sentence in the interview did not say what I thought it was going to say. The person I thought had inspired the Lacombe character was not mentioned at all. Instead, Dr. Hynek named someone completely different!

WTF? How could I have been wrong about that? I went through as many of my other sources as I could lay my hands on, and they all agreed that the person I had expected Hynek to name was the guy who had inspired the Lacombe character. I mean, how many French guys could be associated with this movie? But here was Hynek, in a direct quote, naming a completely unexpected Frenchman!

I was in shock (still am, to be honest). How could so many people be so wrong about this detail?

Well, there was no hesitation on my part. If Hynek told this interviewer that Lacombe was inspired by this other guy, then that's what would go in the book. It's a flipping direct quote by the man I'm writing my book about--of course I go with his quote and not conventional wisdom!

Would you believe this has opened up a can of worms that I am now having a hard time getting the lid back on?

I'm still sorting out how to address this, so it may take me a while to post a continuation of the story, but I will write more when I can...


KHS said...

You’re going to leave us hanging like this?

Mark UFO'Connell said...

I said I'd write more when I can! I just got an email this morning from the person in question. Have to read what this person has to say before I write more...

Ralf said...

Mandela effect?