Review by Eric Hoffman
Edited by Robbie Graham
Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: White Crow Books (May 23, 2017)
Robbie Graham’s collection of essays, UFOs: Reframing the Debate, is a mixed affair, with some entries being of greater interest than others.
The collection begins with a kind of back-and-forth approach between experiencers/true believers and skeptics, prefacing entries by more nuanced theorists, who look at the UFO phenomena from perspectives that are refreshingly different from the mainstream Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH)/abduction/”nuts and bolts” approaches.
Among the essays that merit close attention are Curt Collins’s thoroughly readable and engaging minute-by-minute recounting of the “Roswell slides” debacle, and the always elegant theoretical approaches of Greg Bishop, who here argues that human consciousness and perception inevitably influences both the experience and any subsequent attempts at making sense of UFO encounters, provocatively describing them as a sort of psychotropic “art project.” Red Pill Junkie’s engaging celebration of the ongoing impenetrability of the phenomenon is both thought-provoking and entertaining. Lorin Cutts proposes a “mythological zone” that exists between unexplained phenomena and its experience, while Micah Hanks helpfully unpacks the ideological underpinnings of modern-day UFO skepticism. Joshua Cutchin suggests that we move beyond materialism in our attempts to come to grips with what remains an altogether inscrutable phenomenon, and Robert Brandstetter’s decidedly philosophical essay theorizes that the UFO essentially acts as a mirror for human experience.
Regrettably, editor Graham’s inclusivity makes this collection a bit unfocused and perhaps unintentionally waters down its impact. Given that there is no shortage of writings by either devotees or skeptics, of which at least one third of the essays here are curious examples, this volume would have perhaps benefited from less inclusiveness and a tighter editorial focus. Yet, even with these faults, Graham’s volume remains a useful compendium for the more novice reader, providing them with both interesting repetitions of, and welcome alternatives to, the dominant – and unquestionably stale – ETH-based mythology that continues to paralyze and impede progress within the field of ufology.
Despite my reservations about certain sections of Graham’s book, I think it’s very worthwhile and necessary contribution to the study of the UFO phenomenon and for the most part a welcome antidote to the dominant ETH-based mythology that has crippled the field since almost day one. For the record, I didn’t find any of the essays irrelevant, but rather that a number of them are not so much a reframing as a restating of certain themes and ideas that have been around for awhile. Again, for someone unfamiliar with the literature and ideas buzzing around this topic, this material still deviates enough from the mainstream material as to provide someone unfamiliar with UFO study with much to consider and weigh. I understand Graham’s intent to provide contrasting viewpoints — which, as he states, he spells out quite clearly in the introduction — necessitating inclusion of some of the less nuanced material, however, given my familiarity with the topic I was more impressed by some essays than by others. That said, I highly recommend that everybody picks this up. There’s something for everyone and an embarrassment of riches of new and interesting ideas and approaches.