Fact, Fiction and Flying Saucers – A Review
Fredericton may be best known as New Brunswick’s capital city, but it is also the home to one of the world’s most famous UFO researchers, Stanton T. Friedman.
Friedman’s lifelong pursuit of the truth has lead to a stream of fascinating books, of whichFact, Fiction and Flying Saucers, written with Kathleen Marden (they duo have previously co-authored Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience and Science Was Wrong), is the latest entry.
Even for the most hardened and knowledgeable UFO buff, Fact Fiction and Flying Saucers should be essential reading. Both Friedman and Marden have built their reputations on solid research rather than rampant speculation. The result is a storytelling style that is both informative and rigorous. Fascinatingly, the book, in its final third, takes on portions of the pro-UFO community itself to expose fakers, frauds and dodgy claims.
Those unfamiliar with the whole UFO scene will get a swift and thorough introduction to the principal events and figures in a subculture that is still very much controversial (and full of colorful characters). Ufology is not taken seriously by academic science, and while it sells papers and provides material for other sensationalist mass media, television and movies, the study of unidentified flying objects has been long a battleground between skeptics and believers.
What Friedman and Marden do in Fact, Fiction and Flying Saucers is identify three of the principal naysayers, namely Philip J. Klass, Dr. Edward Condon and Dr. Donald Menzel, and then chart that trio’s attempts over the years to discredit any and all UFO incidents. Since Friedman interacted with these famous UFO skeptics, there’s a very personal element to the cataloging of the troika’s long trail of debunkings.
The book also recounts several landmark UFO incidents, including Roswell, the 1964 New Mexico sighting by police officer Lonnie Zamora, and the 1975 Travis Walton alleged abduction story. It is, however, the level of detail in the investigations, and the lengths to which the authorities go to dismiss the incident, that reveals the true passion of Friedman and Marden.
Kathleen Marden and Stanton Friedman
Whether through first person interviews or endless searching through archives, newspapers and correspondence, the authors relentlessly expose a continuous stream of what appear to be official government cover ups, deliberate misinformation and, perhaps most disturbingly, character assassination.
Towards the end of the book the authors engage some larger questions about the role of the media, broadening outwards to examine what disclosure of what they see as the real facts of the UFO phenomenon would bring to an already worried world.
And in a surprisingly tough-minded turn, Friedman and Marden take on several figures in the UFO world who have profited from what would seem to be made-up and falsified narratives. It’s a stern reminder that even some distinguished scientists have become unhinged as once they begin to tumble down the UFO rabbit hole.
Fact, Fiction and Flying Saucers is a provocative and powerful entry in a controversial field. Whether you are a true believer or not, it’s a great reminder that there are still many more questions than answers to the UFO mystery.
Ron Foley Macdonald is a filmmaker, musician, author, and arts journalist who lives in Halifax, NS. He has written for such publications as the Halifax Daily News, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, and Take One. He taught film history for 15 years at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and has also taught at Dalhousie University and Mount Saint Vincent University. For two decades he was the Senior Programmer at the Atlantic Film Festival. He is currently the curator of the film and video series at the Dalhousie Art Gallery, and the producer of the recent feature films Exit Thread and Roundabout.