Writeup – Ken MacLeod – Saucers, Skeptics, and Science Fiction

This science fiction writer’s guide to the Flying Saucer, past and not so far in the past, proved highly entertaining. Originally from Lewis, MacLeod shared his journey from creationism (well, he was a son of the Manse, and Free Church at that) via The Genesis Flood (Whitcomb and Morris), The Saucers Speak (Adamski) and Chariots of the Gods (Von Daniken). He said he had found himself becoming sceptical about Flying Saucers, and Ufology in general, but for a time had held onto the idea ‘that there might be something in it’ given coverage in some fairly respectable magazines (New Scientist for one). He did suggest the interested could go online and find Ian Ridpath’s article, Flying Saucers Thirty Years On (from New Scientist 14.07.1977). What was once, says MacLeod, inexplicable has now become somewhat mundanely explicable.

The earliest illustration his brief Google search turned up was from 1911. He blames HG Wells for the big head / skinny body archetype for aliens. This description, which has some evolutionary plausibility, dates back to 1907.

So why does MacLeod, a self-proclaimed Ufology sceptic, write about UFOs? They make good stories. Oh, and there might be some truth to conspiracy theories… hiding actual landings and dealings with aliens in plain sight would be the best kind of cover up. As the jacket of his new book, ‘Descent’, reminds us, ‘Seeing is not believing’.

The talk was well illustrated, MacLeod read a short, witty extract from the new book, and left time for questions.