I was a teenage boy somewhat like my book’s narrator, his awareness bounded and shaped by his longings—for all the normal things teenage boys yearn for, plus a few unique to him. (Like, that his terminally ill mother somehow get well.) Like “Danny Shapiro,” I coped with these longings by becoming a teen “UFOlogist,” as we UFO buffs proudly called ourselves. Fortunately or unfortunately, most of the things that happen to Danny in the book never happened to me. “The UFO fell from the sky,” Danny’s story begins, “on the night of December 20, 1962, the week of my thirteenth birthday.” It nearly crushes Danny in the process. That never happened to me. To this day, I’ve never seen a UFO.
There’s a sense, though, in which this first scene of the novel is autobiographical.
How vividly I imagined it, when I was thirteen like Danny! I would be standing outside my house, not far from it, gazing up into the starry sky. A glowing red disk—large enough, close enough that it had to be real, could not possibly be anything ordinary—would blaze its way, as I watched, across the heavens. I never saw this; it never happened. But it could happen. It would happen. These disks, mysterious and uncontrollable invaders of our skies, were there for me to see. Sooner or later I would see them.
Then there’s the dream. (Or perhaps it was a waking fantasy; at this distance of time, I can’t be sure.) I had it sometime when I was a teenager. In the dream—or fantasy, but I think it was a dream—I was in a rambling old house somewhere out in the country. I’d come for a meeting of ultra-serious teenagers like myself, scientific sorts, dedicated to exploring the mysteries that lie just beyond the boundaries of science. There was a short, pudgy boy with blond hair, dressed (as was I) in jacket and tie. And a beautiful girl, also blond, wearing an evening dress.
For 35 years that dream stayed with me. When I sat down to write Journal of a UFO Investigator, I set it in motion. You can read it as the scene, about a sixth of the way into the book, where Danny visits the old farmhouse that’s the headquarters of the “Super-Science Society” and meets his rival-to-be Tom. Also Rochelle, whose charms will seduce him into alien worlds of wonder, terror, ultimately wisdom.
Keith Donohue was right. UFOs are a myth. That’s what Jung called them, in one of the last books he published before his death, Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies. By “myth,” Jung didn’t mean “bunk,” “hooey.” He intended something supremely important, a sort of collective dream of the species, emerging dream-like from our shared unconscious. For most of my adolescent years that myth lodged itself in my soul, where all true myths belong. It got itself tangled up with more mundane longings for … well, for a girl kind of like Rochelle. Who herself takes on mythical dimensions as the story unfolds—sexy and dangerous, but also sage and mentoring. Free-loving teenager and archetypal Wise Woman in one.
Now, many years later, I’ve told the UFO myth as my story, my dream.
That, in one sentence, is what Journal of a UFO Investigator is about.
To learn more, to watch the video trailer, go to www.davidhalperin.net
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“Danny Shapiro is an isolated teenager of the 1960s, living with a dying mother, a hostile father, and without friends. To cope with these circumstances, Danny forges a reality of his own, which includes the sinister Three Men in Black, mysterious lake creatures with insect-like carapaces, a beautiful young seductress and thief with whom Danny falls in love, and an alien/human love child who—if only Danny can keep her alive—will redeem the planet.”
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