The Small World of UFOs

Chris A. Rutkowski. A World of UFOs. Dundurn Press, 2008.

[From Magonia 99, April 2009. This was the last review in the old printed Magonia, and it summed up the situation at the time perfectly]

As UFO books go, this is not a bad book, and Rutkowski is a much more sensible fellow than many in this field.It is just, well, pointless. Pointless because it adds nothing new to the subject. and says nothing that has not been said dozens of times before.

There are lists of the five best known UFO cases: (Roswell 1947 or 1978 depending on how you count); Betty and Barney Hill (1961/1966); Rendlesham Forest (1980/1984); the Tehran Incident (1976) and the Phoenix Lights (1997). The most bizarre cases: Kelly Hopkinsville (1955); Joe Simonton and his alien pancake (1961); the Tully Saucer Nests (1966); Antonio Villas Boas (1957/1965) and Linda Neopolitano/Cortille (1989) The five most interesting cases Father Gill (1959/1961); the Belgian Triangles (1989/91); Trinidade Island (1958); Travis Walton (1975), and the Giant Yukon Saucer (1996). There are examples of UFO reports from the various continents, and about half the book is taken up with an A-Z of ufology.

Looking through this, bar changing the odd case or other, there is next to nothing that couldn’t have been written 10 years ago, very little that couldn’t have been written 20 years ago, kick out Roswell and the wilder fringes of the abduction tales and much could have been written 30 years ago, and sizeable portions could have been written 40 years ago when MUFOB first started.

Ufology, like cryptozoology and parapsychology is a subject that never really moves forward, sure enough from time to time there are new 'phenomena' or new motifs to the tales told, but there is never anything that leads to resolution. Investigations hailed as groundbreaking turn out to be naive, the sensible authorities turn out to be not that sensible.

Some ufologists like Jerome Clark have come to accept that much of the ‘UFO experience;’ come from what, for want of a better term, can be called the world of virtual experience but insist that there is inner core of hard cases and physical evidence which are of a different nature. The problem is that cryptozoologists and psychical researchers say the same.

Cryptozoologists like ufologists have their ambiguous marks on the ground and controversial photographs, just as psychical researchers have their stories of electrical malfunctioning, dramatic physical effects, EVPs and spirit photographs by the score. None of this  offers any conclusive evidence which would persuade the non- believer. No one comes up with the really alien tissue sample, the manufactured object made out of element 150, the bigfoot road kill, the mathematical cross correspondence or the persistent paranormal object. The evidence is always only evidence when viewed through the eyes of faith. Does any ever seriously, really, really think that any of this is going to change. Equally the chances of some grand final refutation which will exorcise all the Fortean weirdness is just as remote.

The virtual world of the goblin universe which inhabits the liminal zone between dream and waking, ‘imagination’ and ‘reality’ is probably a lot stranger than any collection of Fortenea would have us believe. The stories and experiences collected by ufologists, cryptozoologists and psychical researchers are merely the socially and culturally acceptable tips of a vast of ocean of weirdness out there.

So ufology, and cryptozoology and psychical research will go on, but will never get anywhere, because Magonia is not some quasi physical / geographical location from which aliens, boggarts and ghosts come forth but is ultimately grounded in the human imagination through which we organise the chaos of sensory information into a coherent narrative of the world. – Peter Rogerson.


1 comment:

Terry the Censor said...

Chris Rutkowski is indeed Canada's sensible ufologist.

Mr. Rogerson's criticisms of this book are correct, unfortunately. Even a relative newcomer such as myself already knew all the info from the "five most" sections. Perhaps the intended audience was someone who is buying their one and only UFO book and wants something 1) wide-ranging but not encyclopedic, 2) moderate not crazed and 3) written within the last 30 years.

The A-Z section was promising, where Rutkowski presents his own views, but the dullness of the earlier sections seems to have infected the whole book. I would have preferred the entries to be longer as well as sharper in opinion (his abduction book shows he can call balls and strikes, fairly but firmly).