Category Archives: roswell journals

Roswell Journals: a history and imagined future

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.


Alien Times

That should be my newspaper, although I’m guessing it’s not terribly original. And it’s not actually alien times, anyway, as the alien festival takes place in July — in about ten days, to be exact, since it occurs on the yearly anniversary of the Roswell crash.

I’ve now lived in Roswell for three years. Three long years. I’m still not sure why I’m here. Okay, I know why I’m here: my husband’s job brought the family here. But I don’t know why I’m here. There’s a subtle distinction in italicizing the why. It implies deeply rhetorical questions. Questions so deep, they’re lying with concrete feet at the bottom of one of the local Bottomless Lakes. Yes, every one of the lakes has a bottom; some of the lakes aren’t even that deep. The deepest is about 90 feet. So that’s how deep my rhetorical questions are.

Let me tell you about myself for a minute. I’m goofy. I like to engage my mind with goofy projects. But I haven’t had anyone to collaborate with since moving to Roswell. Generally, I don’t collaborate in my writing life. So don’t even try to convince me; I won’t do it. Collaboration is for acting, singing, and dancing. Not of a professional quality mind you — but of the kind where my daughter films an interview with me while I’m playing a dumb character. Or where I volunteer to dance for a kids’ event, and I get up on stage and jump around for a handful of easy-to-impress youngsters.

Last week, however, a writer friend suggested I help out her son and grandson, who would be traveling through Roswell on an extended film-making road-trip. Their film involved finding an alien artifact near Roswell; they needed someone to play a shopkeeper who would sell them a map to the artifact. How could I say no to that?

They managed to get the owner of the Saltcreek Mercantile, an antique shop in downtown Roswell, on board with the project. Just being behind the counter at the antique store was great fun. The store has an intense old vibe to it; it’s like walking into a different world. I know this is odd, but being behind the counter of the mercantile reminded me of working at the Alamo gallery in Socorro. The Alamo gallery is an art gallery/gift shop, but it has an eclectic group of vendors, including an antiques booth. And being inside feels like being in a parallel world. So I felt at home with the store.

I warned them I was no great actor. My crowning achievement was being utterly goofy while playing Mrs. Malaprop in the readers theater we used to do in Carolyn Woodward’s 18th C classes. But despite my lack of talent, taking this bit part in a student film was so much fun. It re-enlivened the dormant person inside my soul that just likes to be a bit weird.

I’ve thought before that it should be fun for a science fiction author and editor to live in Roswell. The first time an author client sent me a book at my Roswell address, he made a note of how awesome it was to mail his science fiction space romp to Roswell. Yet, my serious, stoic nature that exists alongside the goofy one has threatened to consume me over the last three years. Being too serious at my age — at any age! — is a black hole rather than a space romp. One can’t romp when being compressed into nothingness.

Meeting these amateur filmmakers has left me hatching schemes inside my head. Maybe I can start a readers theater group here. Would the locals be interested in having fun with me? Or I could just focus a little more on my Roswell alien novel, which has a working title of PenTriagon. Just in case you’re wondering, that’s a cross between pendragon and Penrose triangle. That sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?

I’ll leave you with that.


The Roswell Journals: Obvious Symbology Has No Less Power to Consume

Most people know by now that I’ve moved. I’ve talked about it enough. Stressed about it enough. Complained about it enough. I left behind my world in the land of the Shire, AKA New Mexico’s River Valley, and entered a land more closely resembling America’s Bible Belt. I don’t think it’s a big stretch to realize I don’t fit into this culture. In fact, I’ve long held onto a fair bit of animosity toward redneck culture — animosity I promptly shoved down inside when I moved to the Land of Enchantment. Sadly, as shoved things will do, the animosity has risen up again. Ah, the buoyancy of negativity! As light and airy as bubbles!

I don’t know how to write about internal and external interactions without creating a labyrinth. If you wander over to the tab “2015 Books”, you will find a book entitled Future Memory by one P.M.H. Atwater, who claims she heard the Voice of the Divine command her to “write her book like a labyrinth”. Through this labyrinth, her book would be written and understood. No offense to Atwater — it’s altogether possible she DID hear the Voice of the Divine — but I suspect it’s the ego that commands harried intellectuals to write in a labyrinthine manner. This is to put people off the trail, you see. Personally, it’s somewhat natural for me to think in a nonlinear fashion, so “writing the labyrinth” falls under the category of Natural Proclivity turned to Bad Habit.

Coming back around, I’m about to make a bold claim. Any post in my Roswell Journals will also be in my Coffee Memoirs. The labyrinth, you see. At the tail end of my life in Socorro, I gave up coffee. I suffered from headaches for a few days before I was free from the caffeine addiction I’d had since age sixteen. I’ve since taken up coffee again, and this is least of all relating to working in a coffeehouse again (I do). I needed coffee to help alleviate stress. Yes, how typical — I with my studies in languages (English, Spanish), with my degree that was consumed by the study of Enlightenment history, now work at a coffeehouse.

To be fair to myself, in earlier days, I did some translation work and have been working as an editor on and off for many years. These are directly correlated with my studies, and although I can make a lot more money off languages, I also can’t rely on the work to bring in steady money every month. Writers, you know, aren’t steady in how they write books. I can, however, rely on the work to give me carpal tunnel and keep me at the computer longer than I desire to be there, where it — ambiguous “it” referring to too much time at the computer — turns me into a mean, stingy misanthrope like my favored literary character, Scrooge. So. I work again in a coffeehouse, where people reputably talk politics, literature, philosophy, and freedom. Maybe. They do, indeed, gather and drink gallons of sweet beverages.

I appreciate coffeehouses, art museums, and libraries as a trinity of culture. Since I work in a coffeehouse again, my focus will be on libraries today, in order to avoid banalities and keep my job. Back in Socorro, I used to visit the library regularly. I loved the shelves of newly acquired books and the Southwest room. It was a very small library, though, and its offerings were limited. As a strange not-necessary-to-know fact, I was constantly frustrated by the missing books in the science fiction section. The computer said they were there, but they were evidently not. Recently, I learned from one of the librarians that science fiction books were commonly stolen, along with classics and crochet books. Socorro is a techie town; I can’t explain the rest.

My first day at the Roswell library, I was overwhelmed by its physical size. Roswell is a city of about 50,000, in contrast to Socorro’s 8000. The library may not compare to those I used to visit in Portland or at universities (Socorro has a university library, albeit primarily a techie one), but it’s enormous compared to Socorro’s city library. With a certain trepidation, I shuffled over to the science fiction section and was startled to witness empty shelves. There would be a clump of books, and then vast empty space until the next clump of books. This is insanity for somebody who prefers order. Where were all the missing tomes in the alphabetization? I ran over it again and again, wondering why it should skip from Stapledon to Stokes, etc. This reality, in fact, made me queasy. Where were the missing letters? Did this spell a secret code delivered from an evil Roswell entity?

A librarian took pity on my continuous loop from one stack of books to another. “The missing books are on carts at the ends of the aisles,” she informed me.


She pointed to the ceiling. “The roof has been leaking.”

As I looked up, the rain began to pour down again; it had been doing so on and off ever since we’d moved. The streams of water cascaded into buckets which I swore had not been there a moment before. What I couldn’t understand was why the leaks were concentrated over the science fiction section. It seemed to spell out something quite a bit more sinister than the missing alphabetization.

After a day at work yesterday, some reading, and some serious despondency, there was another tornado watch for the Roswell area. I had trouble falling asleep. This had nothing to do with the weather; it’s just the way I am. I always have trouble sleeping. But when I finally did sleep, the weather permeated my dream world. That and, no doubt, the unstolen Philip K Dick books from the Roswell library I’d read one after another (does it surprise anyone that many Dick books would be stolen in a Techie town?). My dreams had many layers and stages, with my old dream character, Oso, showing up. He is clearly my animus, or my domineering masculine element. Actually, I simply entered his house and found it was exactly what a house should be. He wasn’t physically present, though, so no domineering this time.

Before that moment of peace, I was kidnapped by a group of young redneck males, whose paid chauffeur was a woman. That is, the feminine element was complicit in the kidnapping. It wasn’t her plan, but she was happy to be paid. They drove me far away, and when I awoke in a new place, summer had aborted itself. Winter lay stretched out over flood waters, ice sheets eddying on the waves. We went out in a boat. I had a baby by this time, clutched tightly in my arms. I don’t know where the baby came from, but in the dream I said, “It was just beginning to be summer when winter set it. I didn’t get to experience the summer at all.”

Then a giant industrial set of windchimes rang out a warning, and before we could return to dry land, we were swept from the boat. I had a thought, a strange one, that this was deja vu — that I’d experienced this very reality another time and had lost my grip on my baby when the waters consumed me. This time I wouldn’t lose the baby. I’d hold it firmly in my arms and we’d both survive. I was very strong. My arms were strong. And I DID survive. That was the reason I ended up in Oso’s house near the end. The perfect house. A house I couldn’t have designed better had I done it myself. Which I had, as it turns out, because it was my dream.


The Roswell Journals: This Is Not the Memoir You Thought It Would Be

funnel cloud

It happened. One afternoon, I found myself in the city of Roswell…permanently. And I thought to myself, What am I doing here? It was a little late to have such thoughts, though Roswell happened like a sudden blow to the head. Oh, don’t take me wrong; there was talk of moving to this alien foreign land long before the move occurred. However, when it happened, it happened fast.

Hold on a second. I know you’re protesting my use of the word “foreign” for a city inside the borders of my home state. But honestly, Roswell is foreign to me. It’s not in the River Valley, for a start. No, it’s not even precisely desert — a kind of merging into the plains region — a kind of ebb and flow into the ghastly state of Texas. If this is still the Land of Enchantment, will someone ease me back into the dream?

Roswell is a long city, as though stretched out artificially for God-only-knows-what reason. I would make the usual joke, but I promised myself I wouldn’t use that word in this entire journal rendering of the place…

…where there are little green beings painted on shop windows and who peer at me from every corner.

Remind me where I am again.

Within the first 48-hours I was here, the air shook with sirens blaring out the impending arrival of a funnel cloud that couldn’t even be bothered with touching down, but rather pathetically chose to rip up an outbuilding to the west. What touches down in Roswell stays in Roswell. The funnel cloud clearly didn’t want to stay.

For unknown reasons, I am one of these disasters that’s touched down here. On my first afternoon, I discovered I’d be living in a dingy, small, mouse-infested apartment. After I swallowed my panic at having to clean the filthy place, I rented a steam-cleaner for the carpet. For the record, I haven’t had to live with carpet for the last thirteen years. I suffer from carpet paranoia — I’m likely certifiable, but that’s beside the point.

It fell apart from there. Literally. Everything. The vacuum, for example. I was overextended from working 20-hour days. I was at my last tether, already, you see. And this — this place where I had nothing wasn’t welcoming me. Even the little brown mice were running into far corners of the apartment as I tried repeatedly to clean the carpet.

When I say I had nothing, I mean that. I had driven down to clean before the rest of the family brought the furniture. I would ostensibly be sleeping on the wet carpet with the skittering mice, which, in my fertile imagination, turned into rabid predatory rats.

Therefore, I chose to sleep in my economy sedan of very small interior proportions. I filled a travel coffee mug with wine and carried it down to the car with a bag of sweet potato chips. I had my pillow and blankets, at least, as I was meant to be sleeping on the apartment floor.

So this is Roswell, I mused, as I leaned back as far as the passenger seat would go. This gave me a perfect view of the blindingly bright 24-hour gas station lights across the street. I drank the wine and slipped into a daze of exhaustion. After a bit, I actually fell asleep.

I woke and slept in fits and starts for the next six hours, my mind finally having stumbled on the truth (truth leads to sleep leads to…). Sometimes truth descends when you leave the enchantment of comfort behind you. In this case, “comfort” equaled the lush Shire of the River Valley.

Once I left comfort, I learned that in my waking and sleeping, my mind had the ability to alter the reality around me. When I closed my eyes and drifted into sleep, my mind recoded and thus reordered the world. When I opened my eyes, the air coalesced around me and exhibited the changed patterns. The leaves, the wind, the light — I had altered the patterns on everything. Such was my ability.

Due to this new reality, I could honestly claim when I woke the next morning that I’d slept better than I had in weeks.

Welcome to Roswell, the land of…