Next Thursday, July 7th, we hope you'll join us for a night of extraterrestrial pulp with author and journalist Mark Jacobson as he welcomes world's greatest collector of flying saucer memorabilia Jack Womack. Womack's collection stretches back to the original 1947 sighting by Kenneth Arnold and continues through the paperback heyday of the 1950's and 60's. Kept on file at Georgetown University, it has been compiled into the forthcoming book Flying Saucers Are Real! featuring an introduction by Science Fiction immortal William Gibson.
Following is a guest post by Jack Womack, which will provide a foretaste of the evening's festivities. The above images are also sourced from his collection. Hope to see you there!
In the past seventy years we saw an enormous increase worldwide of the fear of government, the fear of science, and the fear of experts, for multiple reasons. As is now clear, one of the most effective means of initially spreading such paranoia worldwide, and especially in the United States, turned out to be by flying saucer.
Two men--one by pure happenstance, the other by pure deliberation--brought flying saucers into the world as we know them today. In 1943 Richard Shaver, a welder by trade, sent a 10,000 word rant entitled "A Warning to Future Man" to Ray Palmer, editor of the pulp magazine *Amazing Stories*, and the paterfamilias of much that is 20th century woo-woo.
Shaver's narrative told of the Dero, who are survivors of the Old Ones who used to inhabit earth -- the Dero live inside the earth, understand -- and who are responsible for all bad things that happen, everywhere. The Dero are also prone to kidnapping surface women when they press the wrong button on elevators, or go into the wrong subway tunnel afterward subjecting them to unimaginable horrors. Palmer, naturally, immediately rewrote it into a story, "I Remember Lemuris" that he naturally presented as non-fiction. The response was enormous, and sales of the magazine shot up even as science fiction fans complained bitterly that such nonsense was being published as non-fiction.
Later, Shaver told Palmer that he knew of the Dero because he had heard the screams through his welding machine.
Palmer's experience with what came to be known as the Shaver Mystery prepared him to be ready to move when, on June 24, 1947, Kenneth Arnold--a pilot in Washington state--reported seeing nine silver discs flying over the Cascades. He told reporters on the ground when he landed. By June 26, the phrase "flying saucers" was being used worldwide.
Palmer, seeing a new opportunity, moved quickly. While he stayed in touch with Shaver over the years, he refocused on Things in the Sky: and the result was not unlike the appearance of a Celestial Elvis.
Mark and I will be talking about these two characters, without whom we would not have had the X-Files--nor, possibly, some branches of the militia. I'll be drawing upon the information and illustrations on my forthcoming book Flying Saucers Are Real! as we reexamine the beginnings of a belief which, in unexpected ways and unexpected places, wound up in some ways, as was warned, conquering the world.