Good in Parts

Ronald D. Story (Editor.) The Encyclopaedia of UFOs. NEL, 1980

Unlike many pop 'encyclopaedias' produced on a range of topics from automobiles to wildlife, this volume is clearly intended to be an authoritative reference book, and must therefore be judged by the rigorous standards by which any other encyclopaedia must be judged. The criteria of judgement include:
  1. Comprehensiveness does it treat the broad range of its subject matter?
  2. Authoritativeness are the articles signed and are the contributors recognised authorities in the fields they discuss?
  3. Bias: Do the articles give varying points of view, or is the Hork biassed towards anyone country or religion, etc.
  4. Up-To-Dateness: do the articles give current information and views?
  5. Arrangement is the internal arrangement easy t.o follow, is it consistent, is there good indexing and cross-references?
  6. Bibliographies: is the reader guided to useful sources of further information? On examining the encyclopaedia under these headings a nwnber of deficiencies emerge.
Comprehensiveness

The coverage of general articles seems reasonable, but there are some notable omissions. For example the entry 'Men in Black' is only a cross-reference to an article on the Bender Mystery, and has no general discussion of the problem. There are no entries for 'Magonia' (the 'place', not us) 'bedroom visitors', 'landings' ('landing traces' is just a cross-head to 'physical traces'. Broader topics receive a superior treatment, though a notable omission is any general article on photographic evidence. There are a number of double entries (e.g. 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' and 'Occupants.').

It is in the biographical section that the book comes really unstuck. Though the preface states that the criteria for entry is that the persons listed are those who are generally regarded within the UFO field as the most notable personalities. the actual criterion in most cases seems to be being a contributor to the encyclopaedia. Host notably. several prominent British ufologists are missed Bowen, Creighton. Gibbs Smith, the only BUFORA figures mentioned are Steuart Campbell and Norman Oliver. Several entries are for people who seem to have only a marginal connection with the subject. One of the reasons for this confusion seems to be that there was no logical criteria thought out in advance.

The selection of '100 best cases' is capricious, many appear to have been selected because articles on them were readily to hand in the files of APRO, etc. The contributions from the UK were provided by Jenny Randles from the UFOIN files. One of these is the Llanerchymedd case, with of course no reference to the fact that other investigators found the case nowhere near as mysterious as did the UFOIN investigator. Another mentioned is the Nelson case, described as "one of the most important close encounters on record in England" despite the fact that an alleged second witness was never interviewed.

Authoritativeness

The majority of the contributions are signed, some are simply credited to APRO or NICAP. Some articles are by the editor. but the majority are by people prominent in the UFO field. In general articles are by people associated with that particular field. thus we have CEIIIs by Ted Bloecher; the Coyne Case by Jennie Zeidman; psychiatric aspects by Berthold Schwarz; physical traces by Ted Phillips, etc. Many of these articles are of a high standard and provide valuable summaries. Unfortunately not all are of such high authority, and two very poor ones are those on ‘hallucinations’ and the 'myth Theory of UFOs', by Steuart Campbell. The first contains plain misinformation, and the second does not address the subject at all! Another rather below par article on 'psychic aspects of UFOs' by Arlan K. Andrews, invents its own terminology. Part of the trouble in this section is that articles were submitted ad hoc, rather than commissioned.

Bias

Here one can make the immediate point that there is a massive US bias. Thus, while there are numerous articles devoted to the minutiae of US Government investigations, there are no general articles on UFO research. The individual articles reflect the bias of their contributors, which can usually be worked out from their position statements. A minority of articles, such as those by Campbell degenerate into polemics, but the only really unacceptable offender is Eileen Buckle with a piece on the Scoritton Mystery which launches a personal attack on Norman Oliver. There is a place for polemic in ufology, but not in what purports to be an authoritative work of reference. The editors should never have included such an article.

Up-to-Dateness

The majority of the articles are up to date, with coverage of cases up to the end of 1978. However it number of articles are old reprints, that on Angel Hair is 11 years old, the Hollow Earth, 10 years old; Power Failures and UF0s, 10 years; the 'Falling Leaf' Phenomena, 12 years. The real horror stories are an article on the 'Secret Weapon Theory of UFOs', which dates from 1950, and one on 'Orthotony' dating from 1960, with no update on Vallee's refutation, Saunder’s work or any recent developments, nor is there an entry for BAVIC.

Internal Arrangement.

There is no index or contents list, and as the articles are not always entered under the word which comes immediately to mind, searching for them can be rather difficult. There are cross references at the end of most articles. There are no lists of articles by author, lists of case studies or biographies, and locating individual items (e.g. how many UK cases are included) is very difficult or impossible.

Bibliography

There is a long, good bibliography of books and pamphlets by R M Rasmussen, which does not however. contain any abstracts or evaluations. A major defect is the absence of any 'further reading' lists at the end of individual articles. A chronology at the end is totally US oriented.

The encyclopaedia is a brave effort, far superior to such nonsense as The UFO Guide, and contains many valuable features. It can be recommended to both libraries and ufologists in the USA, but because of its poor treatment of the UK, and its high price here [but see link below], probably cannot be recommended to British libraries. -- Peter Rogerson, from Magonia 7, 1981.


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