After September 11, Stephanie and I fled New York. We moved to Willamette, South Carolina, on a whim. I always wanted to be a Southern writer and live in small town South. I quickly learned the obvious--that to be a Southern writer, you have to be Southern. My naivete can be amazing. The same could be said about my time in New York. I lived in New York for ten years trying to recreate the will of past writers, not realizing that we were living at the beginning of the future and not the continuation of the past.
Cut ahead to 2003. I was struggling to make ends meet. My daughter was just born, on the day John Coltrane died, among other things. My wife was working--supporting us--as a legal secretary. We fought daily, nightly, we woke the baby, made her cry, made us cry; there was crying. Terrible times and the punchline is that my wife was working for a divorce lawyer.
The lawyer’s name was Geoff Smith, a fat, Southern man. Mean and gracious at once, as if Truman Capote wasn’t gay. No real point in describing him, just giving you a glimpse…
So I struggled at home taking care of the beautiful 11 month old girl, Sophia Margaret. Trying hard to feel like a man. Most of all wanting to feel like a writer--one who believed that he was being overseen by writers from the past, a great harem of dead writers, saying, he’s our man. Extra-sensory pretension, of course, but that is what young writers must feed on or else wither in the doubts thrust on young, sensitive men--the feeling, sometimes, that every cell on earth is female…So I stayed home with the baby, taking care of her as best a man could. Why do I mention this? Because out of this environment came a new novel, and out of the novel came Other Things.
Call it paranoia, obsession, or revelation, but at this time I started thinking about some fringe subjects. I always had a faint interest in UFOs. I mean, doesn’t everybody? Turns out, no, which is why I kept reading. Emphasis on "reading" because I’d never seen a UFO. The more I read about the subject, the more I thought it was suspicious that no one took the subject seriously. There were far more sightings from credible people than hicks in their trailer backyard. The truly credible--scientists, astronomers, military--wouldn’t come forward for fear not only that they would be ridiculed, but fired. The story of UFO suppression was one of staid science once again triumphing over faith. A lot of scientific research has gone forward on a theory--that is, a lot less evidence than there was for UFOs. So there are no great pictures (as far as we know), so there’s no craft in the Smithsonian. It seemed to tragically undervalue people’s sense of perception that thousands of eyewitnesses could be discounted.
All in all, it was alarmingly suspicious that the subject had been pushed under the rug. Either the government debunkers had done their job thoroughly or all scientists are morons. Once again, a new, controversial, highly-ridiculed theory (see Galileo, Einstein, Stravinsky) comes along and the establishment is afraid of it.
The more I read about UFOs, the more I found it a fascinating, legitimate subject. What if they were real? It started to seem absurd that the subject had been banished to the tabloids. It was potentially the most exciting, spiritually uplifting discovery to ever hit mankind. And increasingly possible: when there are enough stars for every grain of sand on earth, when the earth is young at 4.5 billion years old, when an alien race could be a million years more evolved than the human race. Entire races of aliens could be invisible, sitting next to you right now. Everything was possible. Maybe they were a kind of expanded consciousness that we could only see as aliens and craft. The amazing story may have been not that UFOs were real, but that people didn’t believe in them. To me, they were like a God that’s provable.