Thursday, 27 June 2013

Emily Diamand's Close Encounters

Emily Diamand, author Ways to See a Ghost, publishing July 2013, introduces us to the paranormal and why it has captured her imagination since childhood.

When I was twelve, I used to spend a lot of time looking at the stars. This wasn’t because I was a budding astronomer (I couldn’t have spotted Orion if he’d been waving) instead, I was scanning the sky for movement. I don’t mean the red and white flash of aeroplanes, the slow glide of satellites, or even the bright streak of a meteorite. I spotted all of those, and dismissed them. What I wanted was something else; something that, by rights, would be accompanied by the eerie strains of the theremin.
I’d watched Close Encounters, so I knew that if you were in the right place an alien space ship would suck you up in a beam of blinding light. I hoped my garden was that place. I’d seen E.T. too; I didn’t have a very big wardrobe in my bedroom, but I was pretty sure I could hide an alien in there, if push came to shove. And when it got to the tearful farewell at the spaceship, there was no way I’d be waving them off. E.T.’s aliens weren’t exactly fast on their feet; I knew I could beat them up the ramp, no problem. Star Trek, Blake’s Seven – I didn’t mind who it was, as long as they’d whisk me off for a tour of the galaxy.

Of course, you don’t have to believe in aliens to appreciate UFOlogy. As a writer, I love the wonder. Every UFO story has the sudden transition from the mundane into the fantastical, that so echoes traditional folklore - our ancestors were cursed or blessed by fairies and sprites, while people today are abducted by aliens, but the themes can be similar in both types of close encounter. And while explanations range from the subconscious re-workings of films, to cold-war paranoia, to the decline in formal religion, I hope there might also be the possibility that at least some of the tales are true.

It’s decades since E.T. and Close Encounters were released, and a long time since The X Files unravelled its last mystery, yet UFOlogy in the real world is thriving:

In 2012, the UK government released the last of its previously secret UFO files, after claiming to have been overwhelmed with freedom of information requests 

In April 2013, a group of former members of the US congress held ‘citizen hearings’ into evidence about the existence of UFOs and alien contact

There are ongoing claims that alien activity is behind mysterious attacks on livestock in parts of the US and UK 

And into these fascinating waters drop counter claims that much UFO-lore is actually the creation of US intelligence agencies, as a cover for the testing of spy planes

My kindly aliens never came, but I still love a good UFO story. That’s why, even though the title of my new book is Ways to See a Ghost, it’s as much about the world of the UFO enthusiast as it is about ghost hunters. With a young teenager as narrator, there had to be a little scorn for the adults involved, but I admire all the Mulders still working out there. And if you’re reading this, Doctor Who, well I’m still waiting… 

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