Author Kevin Emerson joins SciFiChick.com today to talk about our fascination with aliens and alien abductions… and to promote his new book THE FELLOWSHIP FOR ALIEN DETECTION! (reviewed here)
I had never run into a person who seemed to sincerely believe that aliens had visited Earth until I visited Roswell in 2004. Sure, I had many fun theoretical conversations about it, mostly related to the better episodes and theories on The X-Files. And I certainly believe, given the size and age of the universe, that there are definitely other complex life forms out there. But as to whether those aliens have been here: maybe? But it doesn’t seem likely. For every compelling oddity in ancient history or strange account in modern times, there tends to be a fairly compelling alternate, non-alien possibility.
But the people in the International UFO Museum and Research Station http://www.roswellufomuseum.com/ seemed to genuinely believe that they had been visited. Walking up to the museum, I was expecting something with a similar kitschy vibe as the surrounding alien-themed gift shops. The museum, inside an old movie theater, definitely has kitsch, but it’s also free admission and staffed by retirees (or it was the day I visited anyway), which makes it feel a lot less like a hustle. Inside, it seemed sincerely devoted to exploring the question of what happened on that stormy night in Roswell in 1947. I found myself torn between feeling like I was part of an elaborate joke, and feeling like I’d stumbled into an alternate reality. Did these people really believe this stuff? And afterward, did I? Not necessarily, but I wanted to more than ever before.
The aliens in my novel THE FELLOWSHIP FOR ALIEN DETECTION are entirely fabricated, and many of their aspects were crafted in service of the story I was writing about Haley and Dodger, the main characters. (Though they do stop in Roswell for some other-worldly action midway through the story.) It was exciting to write about aliens and UFO’s, and I have a few thoughts on maybe why these stories are so enduring, why we “want to believe” as Mulder’s poster said, or in many cases, really do believe. This list is just meant as food for thought.
1. UFO Stories blossomed in a new and scary world. The fact that Roswell happened in 1947 may be no coincidence. It was a new age of science, and the global landscape had been drastically changed by World War II. In a very brief span, we’d dropped two nuclear bombs that forever changed the scope and scale of destruction possible in warfare, and the Soviet Union had risen to become our chief adversary on the global stage: a massive, aggressive country, similarly armed, and subscribing to a very different philosophy (communism) than us. UFO’s represent the unknown, not just in terms of foreign beings but foreign technology, both of which could crush our frail species. Post-war atomic America was ripe with these fears.
2. Our lives are still a mystery. For all of our scientific advancements, so much in our lives is still unexplained. We are a physically vulnerable and psychologically unstable species, living in a world that can kill us with virus, bacteria, cancers, madness. Most of us can’t afford the kind of all-access to health care that we know modern science is capable of. That leaves us not only feeling left out, but powerless, even suspicious. You might do your best to live a responsible life, only to find out that the water you were drinking for ten years was actually contaminated with some chemical. Or that there was a test for the condition you had, but you never had a chance to get it. So maybe sometimes we look for other explanations for our lack of control. We imagine government conspiracies, alien abductions and cover-up’s. I think sometimes, in a sense, we give away power to others in order to feel better about our lack of control, about the s###-happens nature of our lives.
3. We want there to be more. We want to live longer, go farther, see more, to understand the great mysteries of life and death. We seek to understand our greater purpose, to know the reasons behind life’s twists and turns. Humans have looked to the stars throughout the ages for these answers, believing larger truths lie beyond our vision. And yet, all of alive right now on this planet are unlikely to leave it in a space ship, at least not beyond low earth orbit where Space X or a similar venture might go. Maybe my kids, ages 2 and 7, have an outside chance at the moon, maybe their kids at Mars, but that’s it. We are never going to get to the aliens, unless they come to us. We need them to come here before we die. And if they came, maybe it would answer some of these mysteries: why we’re here, where we came from, where we’re headed. Or, they could at least open our minds to a vastly larger scope of existence, which would, if nothing else, put us in our place. Actually, what would probably fire us up to get to space faster would be to discover something like gold on another planet.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know that when I look to the stars, the reason I hope that one of those static dots will swoop down, unroll a metal tongue and spit little green beings onto my lawn, is for some larger knowledge. They’d make the lonely dark a little less unknown. And if they had an elixir for extra long life, a warp-capable ship to show me the Horsehead Nebula, and knew how to get to Mos Eisley, even better.
Kevin Emerson is the author of THE FELLOWSHIP FOR ALIEN DETECTION, published by Walden Pond Press, as well as THE ATLANTEANS series, the OLIVER NOCTURNE series, and Carlos Is Gonna Get It. His band, The Board of Education, wrote the Star-Wars-themed kids’ song “Why Is Dad So Mad?” He lives with his family in Seattle.
Courtesy of Walden Pond Press, I have a copy of THE FELLOWSHIP FOR ALIEN DETECTION for one (1) lucky winner!
Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes, please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends May 24. I’ll draw a name on May 25, and notify winner via email.