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The Neil Gaiman I Know | 2015 | Mourning Martin


I do not believe in political movements. I believe in personal movement, that movement of the soul when a man who looks at himself is so ashamed that he tries to make some sort of change-within himself, not on the outside.  

-Joseph Brodsky

The Exo Makes the Politics

A member of the Bigfoot researchers grabs the mic to say that, if we do not already believe in the intimate connection between UFOs and Bigfoots, we have no business being in the Enchanted Café tonight. Gayle is quick to defuse, correcting that they are only going to give information, not preach to the choir or covert.

The main event tonight is Steve Bassett, who will speak on government disclosure of alien contact. There is nothing posted around the café to suggest he believes in Bigfoot, but this is not broached prior to his arrival. I have not done research on him prior, so I am allowing myself to be surprised by the content of his speech.

Months ago, I gave a talk on this overlap, though it boiled down to "People associate these two anomalous situations, but they do not seem to occur in our objective reality. Make of that what you will." I don't believe I have convincing or firm answers, but I do hope I know enough to pose questions that will give reason for contemplation. Believing one knows answers to these questions must feel exhilarating, but it is not a sensation I enjoy. The more I learn, the less I side with either the skeptics or believers. I am, however, immensely grateful to be a published fantasy novelist as a cover for my interest. Without that fictive shroud, I would find few excuses for how much I love checking out these events. The last I attended here involved local ghost hunters, whom I resisted peppering with questions and points of clarification, since I hate the people who try that with me. Then again, I make a point of declaring that I should not be taken seriously. My only dog in this race is crafting good stories, but not in having anyone believe they are verifiable fact (however often one foreshadows the other).

Johnny Angel tries to fill the time until Bassett appears, telling us how we are composed of Neanderthal and unknown DNA in our mitochondria, not simply homo sapiens. It's not a new theory for the world (at least, the conspiratorial corners thereof), but it is clear his remarks are not prepared. He simply doesn't want this talk to fall back on condemning the unbelievers or permit the impatient chatter of the twenty people seated in the café. He then brings in the idea that time travelers have altered our genetic information at some time in the unknowable past, right before descending into talk of a sasquatch with "wolf-like footprints. A wolfsquatch," whom he discovered owing to his own psychic powers.

Gayle takes over from Johnny before he can tell us more of this presumptive wolfsquatch. She claims only three and a half years investigating Bigfoots, though she does admit to having heard something scream after her on Stissing Mountain when she was in high school. Given that she was, in her own words, a "redneck sort of girl," she knew the sound of almost every animal recorded in the area. Gayle explains her confused terror by admitting that she had never heard of Bigfoot at that time, which I find hard to believe. I can understand not having had much of an interest or believing Bigfoot exists in the name mental space as leprechauns. However, Bigfoot has loomed large in the public consciousness for well over half a century. He hawks beef jerky and lends his moniker to a monster truck. Most people in the world could give a fair description of the beast if told one of the local variants of his name.

Gayle leans on self-effacement, assuring us that she is merely a grandmother, hairdresser, bait shop owner, and singer in a band. Though she devotes her off hours toward the hunt for Bigfoot in Red Hook, she is not a biologist or expert, simply an interested party.

Bassett enters half an hour late, blaming the weather. He could not get out of the driveway until lent an SUV. He is dressed in a black suit and tie with a red shirt, so I am hopeful that he is a bit more professional than the typical paranormal rabble, of which I am no doubt a part. He is quick to explain that he typically dresses like a slovenly Steve Jobs and he can tell that Red Hook is a "jeans and turtleneck" town. Tonight, he wears the uniform of the enemy: Congress. As an activist, dressing this way allows him to be taken seriously, presumably until he opens his mouth and demands members of congress reveal the alien agenda.

He makes clear that he doesn't do any "super-duper" research. He leaves that to scientists, who funnel him their findings on the hidden aliens. He is only an activist, and a charismatic one at that. With his confident chuckle, one wants to get a beer with this guy and hear him out, even when he talks about using the techniques of someone named Steven Greer to summon UFOs.

"It's getting big," he assures us confidentially. "This is no coincidence. Since the 1980s, there has been a marked increase in formal contact."

He tells us that the main topic of tonight is exopolitics. "Exo-" meaning in this context alien "-makes the politics okay." He feigns worry that talk of politics will bore us, however I think he has misjudged the crowd. You only really get jazzed about interstellar politics if you see the international corollaries. Scientists hypothesizing alien contact often quip that that an alien species will treat all of humanity how the Europeans settlers treated the Native Americans: infecting us with novel pathogens (accidentally and as a form of chemical warfare), overwhelming us with superior technology, and occupying our land, fertilized with the dead.

Bassett implies that we ought to be more advanced as a species. However, owing to the "truth embargo" perpetuated by our government, we are about a hundred years more primitive, if not more.

Like a character in Artificial Gods, Bassett blends together dates of historical importance (the beginning of nuclear tests in the Midwest with the supposed crash in Roswell, New Mexico) and those of his own personal timeline. He claims for himself the mantle of "nuclear child," since he was only conceived owing to his military father meeting his mother over the bomb tests.

Sixteen months after America bombed Japan, an explosion of UFO sightings occurred worldwide. Like anyone dealing with this topic, he attaches perhaps undue significance to Roswell, since this is the point at which he feels the world should have learned the truth about alien contact. However, according to Bassett's informants, Truman hushed this all up, forced the military to rescind their press release about the crash, and halted all media going toward the sight until it could be properly obscured beneath crash test dummies and weather balloon detritus. Had this pivot point (his term for the moments where we really screwed up) skewed toward the truth, Earth would be a paradise right now, "Denmark, but bigger." Instead, we live in a world where "sociopaths keep getting what they want."

To forestall pinpointing exactly what would be different had we taken a different path, he assures us that "we don't know enough to be historically correct." The lies have been so much a part of our culture that we will never know the truth behind our history. One of his examples of this is that, in 1952, a UFO supposedly appeared about Washington, DC, for three days. The official and scientific explanations were that this was a rare weather inversion, which Bassett claims has never happened before or since. Even saying these things to us constitutes a major threat to the government. To his way of thinking, even those who work at his side in pushing for disclosure are part of the agenda to keep alien contact obscured. "Even 'UFO' is a government term, propaganda. It's like saying that physicists study unidentified tiny objects! We know what they are."

I should point out that Bassett is in good company. In 2013, Senator Mike Gravel accepted $20,000 from the Paradigm Research Group, whom Bassett namedrops, to speak on government suppression of evidence of UFOs. During this talk, for which he earned more than I have for an entire year of work, Gravel claimed that he was aware that "something" is monitoring our planet cautiously because we are a "very warlike planet." If esteemed members of our government are willing to tow this line for the right paycheck, one can hardly blame Bassett.

I like to play at suspending my disbelief in dealing with those enmeshed in the paranormal because it makes for a far richer narrative than gawking at people who believe more intently than I do. What if they are right? What would that mean? What questions would that raise? It is purely a thought experiment, the same I would ask of a fictional world to test its consistency. Bassett's described world is orderly. The chaos of our government, the missteps and lunacy of international politics, instantly becomes a distraction to the real agenda of the world. Assassinations, climate change, civil unrest all suddenly stem from the same source. Alien conspiracies are more reassuring that the very likely truth: humanity is corrupt and chaotic without the need for celestial interference.

Soon in Xenology: No Such Convention.

last watched: 12 Monkeys
reading: Prince Lestat
listening: Sia

The Neil Gaiman I Know | 2015 | Mourning Martin

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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