Monday, 8 October 2012

New UFO Breakthrough

Brad Steiger & Joan Whritenour New UFO Breakthrough (1968)

I know, but whilst New UFO Breakthrough may not be fiction in the sense of Great Expectations, these increasingly autobiographical essays are as much response as review, so...

Possibly due to the influence of Paul, the kid who lived on the next farm along in the rural Warwickshire of my youth - if you'll pardon the phrase of my youth - crappy books about flying saucers were my Biggles, my Just William, my Harry Potter. Paul's dad was a bit nuts, or at least seemed that way, maintaining a back garden UFO detector of the kind once advertised in certain magazines, so there must have been some sort of trickle down effect. Up until the age of about ten, and then again during a revival lasting from roughly 1988 to 1993, I read a ton of this shit in lieu of anything of literary value - unless you count X-Men comics. I'm still not sure quite how much of it I believed in the sense of believing in the existence of, for example, Morrissey, but I was certainly keen on the idea of our skies being full of mysterious visitors 'n' shit. With hindsight I suspect I bought these books for the same reasons I now scour the shelves in search of cheap science-fiction. Admittedly there may not be much of a story, but if you squint a bit there's always a vague possibility that it could be real, sort of...

The problem with much UFO literature is that sadly, and particularly sadly for something purporting to describe visitations from outer space, a great deal of it is actually quite dull with its doomed efforts to maintain scientific sobriety: three-hundred pages of blokes who thought they saw a light, but might have been mistaken, and then felt a bit funny afterwards.

Brad Steiger was notable for bucking this trend and reporting nuttier and hence greatly more entertaining accounts from the periphery of the strange unexplainable mysterious twilight world of mystery that cannot be explained; and so the New UFO Breakthrough in question is that the Earth is probably hollow and that's where all the flying saucers come from. Laugh if you must, but it's oddly readable, not least because many cases stated herein are at least as weird as anything from the science-fiction novels of the time; and it probably helps that Steiger remains reasonably objective instead of raising an eyebrow to suggest that scepticism is fine but knoweth ye well that this be just what the men in black want you to think.

Actually, at least one major folk myth detailed here is derived from a science-fiction novel of the time, namely Richard Shaver's abduction by the subterranean Dero, later written up as fiction and submitted to Amazing Stories because the author knew his apparently autobiographical stories of the inner world were probably just a bit too amazing to be accepted as fact.

Too much of this stuff is probably bad for you, but it's fascinating just to dip a toe in the waters every once in a while. Even assuming it's all bollocks, as I tend to, it nevertheless raises some peculiar questions: why so many accounts should be so consistent with each other and where the ones that make no fucking sense come from; why everyone started seeing saucers in the 1940s rather than, as you might expect, things inspired by Flash Gordon style rocketry.

As science it's a bit suspect, but as modern mythology, this stuff can be an engrossing if guilty pleasure; and it has to be said, Brad Steiger really had the good stuff.

No comments:

Post a Comment