The most-read post in the history of this blog-- at least since Blogger began making stats available in May of 2009-- was a blockbuster interview with Nick Redfern, who this writer sees as the top UFO researcher of our times.
Back then we discussed Nick's book Final Events, which traced the origin of the "UFO=Demon" meme to a shadowy, ultra right-wing secret society in the Pentagon called the Collins Elite.
That interview kicked off a major controversy as other sites picked up on Nick's research. Nick's published a few more books since then (the guy is the Stephen King of modern UFOlogy) and has more in the works (which you can check out on his site). Suffice it to say that if you only have time to follow one author on all things alienistic, Nick's your man.
I wanted to check in Nick since next year marks the 65th anniversary of the birth of the modern UFO era; the Maury Island, Kenneth Arnold and Roswell incidents, to be precise. UFOlogy seems to be in a strange spot at the moment, in that there's both a lot more and a lot less of it out there.
The UFO topic is getting more attention in the mainstream press than it has in ages, and not all of it is bogged down with the usual, lame-ass, "night-light" hoaxes (nearly all of which are the work of Amazing Rambli-worshiping skeptics) or the corny "Bubba butt-probe" cliches that get aired out whenever the topic is raised.
But even though more sightings are being reported than ever before, field work is sorely lacking and the phenomenon seems to have entered a new (some would say fallow) period. Indeed, we seem to be on the tail-end of a flap that peaked in 2009 and 2010, a period which also saw the Vatican and the Royal Society take the topic more seriously than most observers would have dared believed was possible.
One thing I've noticed throughout the years is that UFOlogy-- in all its various expressions-- seems to come and go in cycles.
The biggest story of the past year would be the huge success of the Ancient Aliens series, now in its third season on The History Channel. The show seems to blow hot and cold and people who've studied the topic aren't crazy about the sensationalism the show sometimes lapses into, but it's brought the subject back into the mainstream in a way we haven't seen since the late 70s.
Nick's been featured as a pundit on the show and will be dealing with the topic in his upcoming book, The Pyramids and the Pentagon.
Nick is part of a new breed of UFOlogists that don't go for the old materialistic, nuts-and-bolts explanations of the phenomenon. And as a cold-eyed skeptic-- in the traditional sense of the word-- and a meticulous researcher, he's not really impressed much with the quasi-religious nature of UFO literature out there either.
You almost get the sense that he'd be just as happy washing his hands of the whole topic if only he could lapse into the intellectual dishonesty and Orwellian mindgames of the denialist crowd ("extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" is just a way of saying "I reserve the right to arbitrarily move the goalpost and toss out any evidence I can't explain away"), but his integrity and honesty won't allow it.
Without any further ado, let's get into it. Get out your asbestos overcoats, because this man is on fire....
Secret Sun: 2012 will mark the 65th anniversary of the modern UFO movement. What kind of shape is the old girl in as she nears retirement age?
Nick Redfern: The old girl (actually, it's more like an old, diseased hag) is in the same shape that it has always been in!
That's to say that it is as static as ever, and is largely filled to the brim with: (A) people who believe the UFO phenomenon has extraterrestrial origins, the reason being they have a psychological, comforting need for a rigid belief system, rather than an open, inquiring mind that isn't steeped in belief or one theory; (B) a smaller number of skeptics who think it's all a nonsensical issue they can condescendingly make fun of (because they have weak, fragile egos and self-doubt, and poking fun at people makes them feel significant and strong, but, believe me, they aren't significant or strong), and dismiss with a smile of the type that deserves a good, solid punch or several to their glass-jaws; and (C) people like me who absolutely believe there is a real UFO phenomenon of unknown origins, but which may not be literally extraterrestrial.
Or, if it is, it extends far, far, beyond mere "nuts and bolts" UFOs and alien scientists coming here to "steal our DNA," because their "race is dying."
Secret Sun: You're one of the few UFO authors who's still putting out important books on UFOlogy. Why do you think there are so few books out there while interest in the topic has never been higher or more widespread?
Nick Redfern: I don't care at all if Ufology is widespread or is not widespread. Those who do care are the ones who use Ufology as a means to have a career and who drone on with the same fucking lecture for year after year, decade after decade.
If I write a book that sells less than 500 copies (as some of my books have done over the course of their "lives"), or if they sell more than a couple of thousand of copies (as some of my books have done), the important thing is not the number of copies sold, but getting the word out to those who are interested, and those who care about what's afoot in Ufology and the latest breakthroughs.
There are actually a lot of good books on UFOs being published, but many are self-published, e-books, print-on-demand etc. This, in itself, is not the problem. The problem is that many UFO authors are totally sh*t at promoting themselves. If someone writes a UFO book and it doesn't sell, then that's entirely the author's fault and no-one else's: Stop complaining, get off your arse, and promote it! But just stop whining! Do what needs to be done to get the word out.
As for how this lack of interest in UFO books relates to interest in the subject being at its height, its actually very, very simple: The Internet is free, TV shows are free, live-radio is free. UFO-themed books and magazines are not free. And, in the current economy, free stuff is better than spending money.
Secret Sun: You're a featured commenter on History Channel's Ancient Aliens series. Why do you think the show is so incredibly popular? What chord do you think it has struck in the public consciousness?
Nick Redfern: I think most people realize that our world, our history, the field of archeology, are all filled with mystery, and unresolved issues that mainstream science either ignores or tries to place into rigid, simplistic camps.
Maybe, it's some deep, inherited, ancient memory, but I think most people know - even if they don't exactly know why they know - that our views on the very, very earliest years of human civilization are sorely lacking, and that significant things have happened in our past that are primal, subconsciously remembered and that strike a chord - huge floods, ancient races possessed of fantastic technologies, amazing cultures that flourished and died, and much more.
And I think Ancient Aliens hits that note - it brings out something in our inherited, subconscious memories that we are missing something massively significant about humanity's very ancient past. I really do believe that.
Secret Sun: I'm old enough to remember when Chariots of the Gods was an international blockbuster and spawned countless imitators. Why do you think the ancient astronaut topic vanished so suddenly with the rise of Reagan and Thatcher and went viral again after the end of the Bush/Blair era?
Nick Redfern: Well, I don't know as I think that the ancient astronaut issue sunk because of the rise of Reagan and the vileness of the evil Thatcher regime that I lived through in England. I think it's pretty clear that, when it comes to paranormal topics, subjects surface, peak, and decline.
And sometimes - like with the Ancient Aliens series - they come back. Other times they don't. Astrology was big once. Back in Victorian times, it was seances, and table-rapping. Ouija-Boards had their day, as did the Contactees. Look at stories of alien abduction - nowhere near as popular or prevalent today as they were in the late 80s and in the 1990s. That's how things go.
It's no different to rock music - it began in the 50s, with Elvis, Little Richard, etc. Then there was the Beatles and Stones in the early 60s, Psychedelia in the late 60s, Glam-Rock in the early 70s, punk in the late 70s, new wave and crappy keyboard shit and skinny ties in the 80s, grunge in the 90s, and lip-synching bitches with no brains today who have sold their musical heart for cash and fame.
Forteana and Ufology are the same - one time something is popular, then it's something else.
Secret Sun: You're a born Englishman who lives in America. What's the difference in the two countries in how the UFO topic is perceived in the public and in the media? Is there a disconnect between the average Briton and the establishment press?
Nick Redfern: I think where there are similarities is that, both in the UK and the US, the media (TV, radio and newspapers), are more willing - today - to take the subject with a greater degree of seriousness than, say, 15, 20, or 30 years ago. I think public perception is pretty much the same, and very much black and white as it always was - it's either literal aliens or it's not real.
The biggest difference, as I see it, is that in the UK the UFO research community is more willing to look at alternatives to the ET hypothesis. One of the key reasons for this is that US Ufology is very commercialized, and if you don't kiss ass and say what people want to hear, it won't bring people to conferences and money won't be made. That's a tragic, f*cked up approach.
I'm not saying the following to be big or clever, but no-one of prominence in US Ufology would ever have even contemplated writing a book like my "Body Snatchers in the Desert," because they would have feared the backlash from colleagues and peers, and they would have feared not getting booked to speak at mainstream, major UFO conferences etc.
The biggest difference is that I really do not give two f**king sh*ts what people think of me, nor do I do want people want me to do, nor do I care about what people think of me. And I see that as a big difference between the UK and the US - American Ufology is about selling tickets at gigs, about continuing "the scene," about hooking up with the right people to become a minor celebrity in Ufology, and about keeping the industry going. UK Ufology is more about just the phenomenon.
Secret Sun: I've written on the blog about what I call the "Elusive Companion Hypothesis," arguing that whatever we call UFOs are not in fact extraterrestrial as we might understand the term (meaning originating outside the Solar System) but are in fact part and parcel of our physical environment, similar to the Watchers of ancient myth. How seriously is this taken in UFO circles?
Nick Redfern: Well, my view is this: people say I don't believe in the ET hypothesis, and that I prefer to focus more on such issues as Tulpas, Tricksters etc. That's true. However, I don't outright dismiss the ETH at all.
Rather, as I alluded in an earlier answer, I think the simplistic issue of "nuts and bolts UFOs" piloted by "alien scientists" coming here to "steal our DNA because their race is dying," is the sort of stuff people want to hear at conferences.
This simplistic approach (which is the same simplistic approach that life after death equates to something as simple as going to Heaven and Hell) does not - and simply cannot - account for other aspects of ufological experiences, such as synchronicities, cross-over cases between Ufology and (for example) poltergeist activity, Shadow People, or Cryptozoology etc.
How seriously are the views of yours taken by Ufology? My experience has been that many high-profile Ufologists have either experienced the high-strangeness stuff or know people who have, that are suggestive we may NOT be dealing with literal ETs.
But they lack the self-confidence to say so, because - again - they worry about how their views will be looked on by the old-timers of Ufology.
The reason they worry is that the old-timers are plugged-in to the people who arrange the conferences and the magazine editors who promote their books, and they don't want to rock the boat. F**k all those c**k-s**kers who know - but who lack the strength to stand up and say: "There's something weirder going on than just ET scientists visiting."
As long as Ufology is dominated by being a business and not much else, this will never change.
Change will come when the old and tired researchers who yearn for pre-Internet eras when people wrote letters instead of emails, and who mailed 'zines instead of emailed PDFs, have gone to their graves.
I have no faith at all that Ufology will advance, progress or learn anymore than it has already unless Ufology becomes more open-minded to all sorts of ideas and paradigms.
Sixty-four years since Kenneth Arnold, and all we have to show are lots of filing-cabinets, filled with lots of files, and lots of memory-space taken up. That aside, all we have is theories, ideas and beliefs, but no hard evidence of what's afoot. That's because belief controls the nature of how people investigate things.
If Ufology falls and fades, then Ufology can only blame one thing: the field itself.
You know what I would love? If, next year, one of the big UFO conferences had on their roster someone talking about how DMT can provoke abduction-type UFO experiences, someone else giving a lecture titled "Saucers and Synchronicities," the next person addressing the story of Aleister Crowley and Lam, and a fourth person presenting on ritually invoking purported alien entities while on mushrooms swigged down with Absinthe.
It's not gonna happen though. Instead, it will be more regurgitation of a pro-ET nature on Roswell, Socorro, Mantell, etc. That is the "good old days" that old-school Ufology wants and which sells tickets.
Ufology might go the way of the dinosaur, or it may bring itself back from the brink. The sad thing is that, such is the belief-driven nature of the subject, I really don't care at all if Ufology does implode. The phenomenon will still interact at a deeply personal level with us, even if Ufology as a movement does die.
The phenomenon has always been with us. It doesn't need Ufology, the movement, and its preconceived beliefs to interact with us. What the phenomenon wants from us are minds that are willing to break down barriers and boundaries and look beyond the simple into the far more complex.
Ufology, though - or at least as it stands today - may not be up for the challenge. Too bad for Ufology.
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