Category Archives: Roswell

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.

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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.

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