An aside about what wasn't a UFO
When I was a kid, I saw something in the sky that freaked me out.
I grew up in a rural area, the kind of place where the Milky Way was visible overhead (unlike the light polluted urban area where I now live). On clear summer nights, my friends would come over and we’d sleep on deck watching the stars and telling scary stories.
The night in question, when I was probably 8, two of my friends and I lay in our sleeping bags staring at the cosmos above. As we watched, a blazing ball of orange appeared directly above us. As it descended, it slowly disintegrated, vanishing before it reached the height of the surrounding trees. I was used to watching shooting stars, and knew for sure that was not what we saw.
Screaming in the way only little girls can, the three of us ran into the house. Although I can’t remember exactly, I suspect we didn’t sleep outside that night. The flaming ball freaked me out so much that for years after I avoided even looking up the sky when out at night.
By nature, I’m a bit of a skeptic, so I never assumed what I saw was a UFO—instead my thoughts went to meteors the size of the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. But I could have made other assumptions and the assumptions we make about the things we see but can’t explain are fascinating.
Recently, I’ve been mildly obsessed with this podcast about UFOs. It doesn’t take the stories as fact, instead; it looks at how the UFO phenomenon has become intertwined with our culture. Over the last two weeks, I blitzed through both seasons, ignoring all the other podcasts I normally listen to.
As an aside, I don’t doubt there is alien life out there somewhere—maybe even in our own solar system. I suspect first contact will be more like The Andromeda Strain than humanoid aliens snatching us out of our beds, but I don’t really know. However, I’ll stick with Carl Sagan when he said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
There is so much possibility of what alien life might be like (and I realize alien life might be the wrong term when it’s us visiting their world). It’s entirely possible that we won’t even recognize it as life, or, in my opinion, less likely, a spaceship might land from which logical humanoids with pointy ears might emerge to help usher us into a new space age.
Alien contact is one of the hallmarks of science fiction. Sometime encountering new life is filled with wonder (Contact or To Be Taught if Fortunate), or it can go terribly wrong (Alien), and sometimes we even join in with a complex pantheon of other types of life (Space Opera, Star Trek or The Algebraist).
As a writer of science fiction, I’ve been thinking hard about how to fit alien contact into my work. In the Settler Chronicles series, there is an alien artifact that plays into how the series concludes. In Fractured Orbits (chapter 1 drops this Thursday, September 30th, 2021), humans now live in a part of the galaxy where an alien civilization once thrived, but no one knows what happened to them.
Starting Thursday, chapters from Fractured Orbits will be serialized here. The first ten chapters will be free, after that a paid subscription will be required. But, for current subscribers, I’m happy to offer a free year long subscription for a limited time. Head over here by October 4th 2021 to claim this offer.
By the way, I now know for sure what I saw in the sky that night was a flare (which is a little anticlimactic).