Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Interview with author Jack Williamson about the 1947 UFO crash near Roswell, New Mexico

The book Little Gray Men (2000), by Toby Smith, has
a neat interview with author Jack Williamson, the godfather of science fiction, about the UFO crash in early July 1947 near Roswell, New Mexico, and the influence it has had on science fiction writers. Williamson grew up in eastern New Mexico and had just moved to
the small city of Portales as a middle-aged man when the UFO crashed, about 90 miles away. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
Question: You lived in Portales when the incident occurred. Any recollections of it?

Jack Williamson: Not really. Oh, I don't doubt that something fell out of the sky. A high-altitude glider or a parachute maybe.

Question: Ever been to the crash site?

Jack Williamson: I didn’t go to Roswell much as a young man. And I had no reason to go there on the fiftieth anniversary. I’m not sure I know where the site is. TV and the newspapers gave me enough. People made a lot of money off that; it was commercially a big success. But people are people. I’m interested in people; I’ve spent my life writing about them --
as a spectator and an observer.

Question: Harlan Ellison, another colleague of yours, is terribly critical of Roswell, particularly because on the very day we landed a robot on Mars after two decades of preparation, people in southeast New Mexico were, Ellison said, buying hot dogs and saucer souvenirs and looking around for space garbage in a rancher’s field. Any thoughts?

Jack Williamson: [Laughs.] It takes all kinds, I suppose. Most of what we know about Mars has already been put into books. But you know some of those books, take the Mars one by Edgar Rice Burroughs, they didn’t do very well after NASA sent its Viking probes to Mars in 1976. What’s interesting to me is that the photos of Mars look a great deal like the landscape of New Mexico. By the way, in the early 1950s, I wrote a syndicated comic strip for a while that originated in the New York Daily News. It was called Beyond Mars. Still, the two things happening at the same time -- landing on Mars and celebrating Roswell -- do put things into perspective. It makes you pause to consider what truly is important.
Jack Williamson taught at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales for more than 40 years. The university's Jack Williamson Science Fiction Library is named after him and the local public Library has a wing devoted to him and his writings. Williamson died at his home in Portales in November 2006 at the age of 98.

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