Thirty years ago, Lily Chun saw a UFO in the desert and the memory disappeared into a child’s fantasies. But after a dream called to her, she’s back out to the same place, drawn by the emptiness of the life she’s abandoned. A chance meeting with a stranger convinces her that maybe there’s a reason to be here now, and it isn’t just to see aliens.
This was an interesting question that came over one of the writing lists I’m on. I write fantasy and science, so some of the elements don’t actually exist, or isn’t possible for me to see it. How to do research then?
What I do is take other similar things and make the connection from that.
For a fantasy that was set in an abandoned town, I used the ghost town of Bodie as a basis. I’d never been there, but I had grown up in California, so I was already familiar with the landscape. I looked at photos of Bodie, which are eerie and scary.
Then, for the place the character lived, I went to Fort Ward. That’s a local historical site. It’s an intact Civil War fort. There’s also a mock up of an officer’s hut. I saw things like how the officers strung rope across corners and then hung clothes from them. I also stood next to a barrel and compared my height to it.
For a science fiction story with a UFO, the problem, of course, is that I’ve never seen a UFO, except in the movies. I don’t want to use movies as a basis for any kind of research, because this is my story, not someone else’s movie.
The connection became jets.
A few weeks ago, the Blue Angels were doing a photo shoot, so we had several flyovers. The first time they flew over, I heard the sounds of the jets roaring in my direction. By the time I realized what it was and got to the window, the sound was moving away. No sign of them!
The second time I heard it, I got to the window just in time to see them flying off. That’s how fast they were, so a UFO would be that fast.
Then there’s Theodore Roosevelt Island. That’s a park in a tributary of the Potomac River. A lot of joggers like to go there because it has a lot of paths, trees, water. Really pretty.
It’s also on the flight path at Reagan Airport, about 7 miles away. That’s spitting distance for a plane. So when the planes are overhead, they are low.
So that experience becomes the UFO.
And think about writers like Robert Heinlein, who wrote about space travel before we had actually traveled in space.
When I was growing up, every weekend was a movie or TV show about aliens invading Earth. H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds is probably among the most famous. During the days of radio, they did it as a radio show and scared people to death — the newscast style sounded like it was really happening! Then it was a movie, and one of the frightening scenes for me was when the soldiers got reduced to skeletons and then dust by the ray beam. Stargate SG-1 jumped in with aliens pretending to be Egyptian gods.
But did you know that in 1952, unidentified flying objects (UFO) were spotted over Washington, DC? It was a cluster of 7 UFOs, so it wasn’t just one flash of light everyone got excited about. Then it happened again a week later — now 12 UFOs. It was labeled an inversion layer, though people still have doubts today.
But let’s take a step further. When I was at Marscon, they had a workshop on the military and the zombie apocalypse. What if aliens did land in Washington, DC? How would the military respond?
In just about every movie about UFOs, it seems like it’s always the Air Force. UFOs fly, planes fly, so it seems logical. But once the aliens land, it might be a little different. Probably no Navy involvement, unless the UFO ended up in the Potomac River. Irwin Allen did that on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, with the episode “The Terrible Toys.”
I think the Marines would get called in. They always go in first. A former Marine told me, “If the Marines can’t stir up trouble, there isn’t any trouble worth stirring up.” The Army would probably send in 82nd Airborne and the Rangers. I don’t think the aliens would be treated as friendly forces by the military — honestly, you call in the military, it’s not for high tea.
Of course traffic would instantly snarl up for miles and miles in either direction. Heck, even a few raindrops will do that will send drivers into a panic. An alien invasion? Oh, yeah. The resulting road blocks that would likely occur would definitely add to this problem. It’s bad enough here when the Cherry Blossoms bloom!
Meanwhile, downtown workers would be trying to get past the roadblocks to go to work. The aliens clearly aren’t a threat, and the workers need to finish their work. (Trust me, people do think like this. We have a fire drill, and there are always employees who want to stay back and continue working). Since martial law probably would have been declared (then again, not; that would be really bad politically for any politician in DC), the military would be arresting workers. The military would also be especially concerned by the other types of people arriving — family members demanding alien abduction victims be returned; alien groupies; people wanting to “shoot me some aliens”; and reporters hoping to get the money shot of the aliens.
It would be complete chaos!
What do you think would happen if alien spaceships landed in Washington, DC?