As I’m writing my first (perhaps only) Roswell alien tale, I’ve been thinking about the history of this town. The character of the town was subsumed by aliens, at least to the outside world. When living here, you get used to seeing green alien statues around town, but the aliens are just a façade. It isn’t the town’s true history.
I’m thinking about this because I’m imagining what the town would be like in a post-alien reality. That is, if UFO sightings have become commonplace around the world, international travel to this small New Mexico town would largely cease. It might still be a pilgrimage site for alien researchers, but the novelty would have worn off, especially given the context. In my book, the aliens have spread a virus which is curbed through a series of inoculations. The setting is a post-inoculation world, where most of the population has been successfully treated for the virus. Those who haven’t responded well to the inoculations still have extant viral side effects, mostly madness.
For the record, this is not meant to be a post-apocalyptic tale. My previous book, The Minäverse, isn’t really post-apocalyptic, either; it’s rather a picture of future consequences given trends in human behavior, the economy, and robotics. Post-apocalyptic story societies, on the other hand, are ones that have been utterly destroyed and are at the point where human extinction is inevitable if people don’t have the wherewithal to band together and start anew. Of course, warring factions rise up because of the power vacuums, thereby creating story tension. Calling The Minäverse a post-apocalyptic tale is, therefore, exaggeration, as none of the above exists in its near-future Albuquerque world. This is a bit of a digression, but it makes a necessary point. One reviewer criticized The Minäverse for life merely going on in a “dystopian” society, thereby normalizing it. But the society isn’t dystopian any more than it is post-apocalyptic, and that’s what life does — it goes on for better or worse in sometimes less than optimal circumstances, such as an economic recession.
Likewise, my current book is a vision of future consequences given trends in human behavior, economics, and alien visitation. The alien virus was a plague that killed and sickened a lot of people, but it wasn’t that different from, say, the Spanish Flu. It didn’t cause world-wide collapse of infrastructure. However, being that aliens have not only become commonplace, but that the world has obviously soured on them (being sick isn’t all that intriguing), much of the infrastructure has changed for Roswell, NM. It’s reverted back to its original economy: agriculture.
Roswell, you see, was originally at a crossroads where cattle would come to be watered at the springs. It was a cattle town. Later, a large aquifer was discovered when a local resident drilled a well in his backyard, which led the way to an increase in agriculture. Now, the town is known for growing pecans, alfalfa, pumpkins, and corn. Not to mention the continued running of cattle. Even after the Lincoln County war, the town subsisted as a place for ranches and dairies. To this day, when you sit at the Starbucks, you can hear the cattle lowing. And the local cheese factory is one of the biggest local job providers.
Stripped of aliens and international tourism, that’s what you have here. Yes, like most of New Mexico, the military and science/tech have long had a presence; in fact, it was probably a combination of these elements that led to the original 1947 UFO crash. But the military base is now a community college. And it isn’t a stretch to believe that the aircraft company currently in operation could just as easily remove itself to a state offering something better. Also, oil — at some point, somebody will get the local oilfields shut down.
So that’s how I imagine the Roswell of the future: a town kept going by the making of cheese and the tending of nut groves. It’s a sleepy town — the Roswell Bubble, I call it — in a future world that exists in a curious state of peace. But while no apocalypse has occurred, and neither has the society become fully dystopian, the humans who continue living in normalcy don’t have a clue who is really in charge and what those entities want. It’s easy for them to ignore the stories that don’t add up because life is normal. When you go to work and return home daily to eat a nice dinner with your family, you forget the undercurrent of “something not quite right.”
Remove the cute façade of aliens in Roswell and your adequate night out dining (despite the tourism, there are no good restaurants here*), and the history might unsettle you, too, if you think about it long enough. After all, it does have a “true” history. But don’t worry too much; eat your steak and swig your beer. The sun still shines, and the sky outside in the “Bubble” is still delightfully blue.
*Some of them are adequate restaurants, but nothing rises to fine dining, unless you consider Red Lobster to be fine dining. That’s the best restaurant experience I’ve had in town.