BY BRYCE ZABEL
Co-Creator of NBC’s Dark Skies, former Chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Flying saucer sightings or Hollywood’s depiction of them?
These questions hang over the subject like heavy clouds and they have rarely been addressed. Robbie Graham has spent many years sorting the fact from the fantasy and he’s written the brilliant and definitive book on the subject with Silver Screen Saucers.
If the 1947 Roswell incident is a true example of alien contact, for example, then that would easily explain how Hollywood made a batch of 1950s invasion films like Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. They could have been, as has so often been speculated, pushed forward as a kind of acclimation project for a population that was about to make a huge adjustment.
If Close Encounters of the Third Kind was just a flight of fantasy from the creative genius of Steven Spielberg, on the other hand, it could still explain the prevalence of reports of gray aliens with big heads and spindly arms that came in the decades that followed. People would have gotten the idea from the director of a generation that this is what alien contact looks like.
I’m so glad that Robbie Graham has tackled this subject with the academic credentials he possesses, and has treated it with the importance and seriousness it deserves. I’ve waited all my adult life to read this book presented in this manner, and, finally, here it is.
What we know for sure at this point in history, is that probably more than 75% of Americans believe in the existence of UFOs, even as the media makes fun of people that do and the government denies all knowledge. This is a top-level disconnect if ever I’ve heard of one.
There’s no doubt that ET-themed films, documentaries, and TV shows have always been among the most popular and financially successful of Hollywood’s products. Are they reflecting an honest reality that suggests “we are not alone in the universe,” or are they deliberately creating a public misconception to make people believe something that isn’t true? If that’s the case, then why? And why are there more alien-themed film and TV projects than ever before?
Personally, I don’t buy the ‘Hollywood-helping-acclimate’ story at all anymore, even if it was ever true. From my personal experience, the entertainment industry makes alien films because they’re full of conflict and cater to the fanboy crowd. It’s show-me-the-money time.
Still, this mix between Hollywood product and facts-on-the-ground can’t be denied from my own personal experience either. My creative partner Brent Friedman and I certainly mixed the concept into our NBC series Dark Skies by saying that a Majestic-12 agent asked us to create a series so we could get the truth out “under the cover of fiction,” and then we returned the favor by making him our main character. It was a Mobius strip of reality if ever there was one.
It got more complicated. During our production, we were watched and approached by several people who claimed that they were part of a UFO group operating with the Office of Naval Intelligence and they wanted to give us some notes on the series. This would be laughable, except that these men were not funny at all. They were dead serious, military-sounding types who had a coherent, detailed, and powerfully odd account of alien contact that they wanted to share with us.
So, for me, the jury is still out. I just don’t know.
I also don’t know if Robbie Graham knows. What I do know, however, is that he has assembled the most comprehensive and detailed thesis on the symbiotic connection between Hollywood and aliens. After you read his book, you will be able to assess for yourself with clear-eyed insight what you think is the best theory to explain it all.
And this book excels in another way. If you simply want to understand UFOlogy and its history, then that is all here for you. Or, if you want to know more about the behind-the-scenes anecdotes and context of some culturally powerful and important films about UFOs, alien contact, and the nature of reality, then that is here too.
At least we all know that as we read this wonderful book together, it will be an experience that binds us, and proves that, for us anyway, we are not alone.