(This post continues from Do You See?)

Regardless of the follies of both Mysteries From Beyond Earth and Overlords of the UFO, both were perfect examples of the height — in the USA, at least — of the second wave of UFO/alien fascination, which since World War II has occurred/recurred in a general twenty year pattern in terms of widespread public attention. The first can be said to be the late forties and fifties, the third was the nineties, and both had their cultural touchstones (for instance, The Day The Earth Stood Still in the earlier decades, The X-Files in the latter). But the seventies era was the one that I grew up in and hit me the most, whether it was watching Close Encounters on cable or Project: UFO on NBC or whatever else might have come along.

Books, too, cheap paperbacks attempting to explain in thoughtful detail about how to track UFOs, classifying sightings, explaining the whole ‘close encounters’ rationale, talking about past and recent cases. Loved ’em all, from Scholastic picture books to ones aimed for an older audience that I struggled through as I could (I mean, I was a great reader from a young age but I won’t pretend to have been able to digest it all!). There were earnest discussions with school friends, questions to my parents. I was surely convinced that I had even seen a UFO once from my front window when in third grade, though that could only have been a plane arcing overhead in the night — still, like the man says, I want to believe, or at least wanted to.

So I was much more J. Allen Hynek (given a brief though prominent cameo at the end of Close Encounters, appropriately enough) than James Oberg in my belief, though at the time I read their contrasting essays in subsequent issues of Odyssey, the wonderful late seventies/early eighties kids’ spinoff of the venerable Astronomy magazine, with what I hoped was due care. This was a lie — I was convinced Hynek was right and therefore Oberg was a goof — but at least I tried.

Quite when I let go an active belief in UFO visits and turned into more of a general skeptic I don’t know — it must have been after Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series, though, combined with the fact that I was always more interested in the general scope of the solar system, galaxy and universe than I was in UFOs straight up. At this point personally I’d love to think that there are galactic civilizations out there, and that there’s half a chance we might yet get along with them should we ever meet, but it’s more wish-fulfillment on my part rather than active belief — the concerns of this world, while by default more mundane than celestial, are overarching, and frankly we make a sorry species in many instances. Also, the last guy who I knew that was convinced he had met aliens later ended up ripping me off to the tune of $600 due to him not being able to pay rent. And people wonder why I live alone now.