Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Flying Saucers Are Real!

Cory Doctorow provokes me to cogitate, as is his wont, this time with his enthusiastic (I didn't really need to type that, did I?) blurb for Jack Womack's Flying Saucers Are Real!

The Flying Saucer meme of the '50s to late-'70s was, sez Doctorow, "once a major piece of the public imagination, but has subsequently sunk, almost without a trace."

The assertion is kinda-sorta true, so far as it goes. UFOs do not occupy public discussion to nearly the same degree they did when I was a kid. My theory: The X-Files, followed by the George W. Bush years, pretty much put that meme to bed for a very long nap.

The Truth is in here.
Chris Carter's massive TV success was built on a self-perpetuating suggestion: what if there exists a labyrinthine cover-up of global -- nay, interstellar! -- proportions, which our most dogged citizens can only scratch the surface of?

But then along came 9/11, followed by W's response -- followed by a market collapse generated by what must surely be the planet's craftiest collective brain trust -- and we witnessed precisely just how capable the world's most powerful governing entities are when it comes to "covering up" actual conspiracies. If you want to nudge that into interstellar proportions, the off-world participants won't just have to do the heavy lifting -- they'll have to do all the lifting, period.

I don't think the phenomena have disappeared -- people still see and experience all sorts of strange stuff. But the business of exploring "what it all means" has certainly been pushed to the extreme fringes of public discourse. Doctorow and Womack and William Gibson all seem a bit wistful in the wake of this societal shift -- as am I.

I bristle at the tone to some of this wistfulness, however: "A tour guide to a place lost in history" (Doctorow); "The only physical evidence of the advent of the UFO meme" (Gibson). I'm open to correction on this, but I sense something juuuuust a little self-congratulatory about these declarations, akin to Fukuyama's "The End Of History!!!" hooey: Praise be to Ganesha, today we are all (well, most of us, anyway) beyond such pedestrian but eminently fascinating silliness!

Mm, oooookay. If you dudes say so, it must be true. Here is the book; also, Neo-Gnostic Erik Davis interviews Womack for Expanding Mind.

Endnote: in the late '70s, at my adolescent urging, my pop indulged me to a UFOlogist's lecture at the University of Winnipeg. The lecturer worked for the planetarium at the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature and was pretty much the embodiment of a very particular type: an energetically open-minded skeptic. He had logged an unfathomable number of miles checking out claims and interviewing claimants. Most of these "encounters" had logical/natural explanations, but there were also those exceedingly rare instances which he lived for: the claims that absolutely stymied him. The Falcon Lake UFO (in Manitoba!) was one such.

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