It is a documented fact that no interstellar traveler has ever been identified as such by a Human. This is simply a matter of the technology of space travel: any of the space-faring races within reasonable traveling distance of Earth could easily deposit passengers into the middle of Times Square on a sunny Saturday afternoon without anyone noticing. This stems mainly from the fact that you don’t know what to look for!
So the UFO phenomenon is of considerable interest to anthropologists throughout the central spiral arm. (Of the galaxy, that is.) UFOlogists have been the subject of intensive study, not only by Homelanders; but by Zerpickers, Chernians and others even more distant. That should give you an idea how vital everyone feels this research is.
All of the sightings and contacts these UFO societies make are bogus, though most are the honest product of wishful thinking or the misinterpretation of data. The funniest thing about them is that the very aliens they seek are right under their noses! One such society in California unwittingly elected an elderly Zerpicker investigator to the presidency of their organization! Of course, this happened during his absence, and he immediately declined the office when he found out. But he never was able to live that one down! Good-natured laughter followed him on the lecture trail for the rest of his life. His whimsical autobiography, Confessions of an Ex-Human was a best seller in three star systems.
The society I joined here in town is not very exotic and has not developed a religion around the alleged wisdom from the stars. Most UFO societies seem to think that all Human ills will be solved by aliens, but I hardly think we could. It is best to learn these things on your own.
This particular group consists of amateur scientists, science fiction buffs, and housewives who are simply interested in swapping stories and evidence for alien visits to Earth. In and of itself, this is a worthy pursuit. The meeting took the form of announcements and other organizational necessities, a presentation from a member, and a concluding social time with refreshments. I found the group congenial and blended in just fine, except that I really had to think on my feet when Mr. Anderson asked me why I was salting my brownie! Perhaps I was too enthusiastic about following the doctor’s orders.
The presentation this week was about the explosion in Siberia during the early part of this century. The point of the speaker was to eliminate all possible explanations other than a spaceship crash. He did a fine job of it, too; he definitely has a talent for polemics. But he was dead wrong, of course. Just by the Fifth Law of Mechanics you should know that is the least likely explanation. Our project began a few years before that crash, and we know what it was. It was a simple meteor collision, but your people are too inexperienced in astronomy to know that. It also was a sort of meteor your people haven’t discovered yet, even though you have all the information lying about.
I got into a very interesting discussion with a housewife whose husband evidently does not approve of the group. To her surprise, I opined that a marriage is more important than spotting an alien spaceship; but even after that rocky start, our conversation progressed most amiably. She maintained that intelligent life in outer space (not realizing that I considered her to be “intelligent life in outer space” ) would exhibit a broad variety of forms. She felt that aliens visiting Earth might be highly developed reptiles, or bird-like creatures or have other fantastic shapes. Naturally, I disagreed. I advocated the position that most intelligent life would be indistinguishable from Humans, arguing from the disadvantages of a cold-blooded biology and other (much simplified) technical grounds. I gave a good layman’s recap of the Theory of Convergent Evolution—variety decreases as complexity increases. Our conversation turned into a group debate, which was as friendly as it was lively. I lost!
It got to be late, so I decided to have one more cup of fruit punch before leaving. I nearly drowned in it when I overheard an astronomer (a real one!) argue convincingly that Tau Ceti could not support planets with life as we know it. They asked why I was laughing, and I replied, “And I had relatives there!” There was general laughter at what they thought was my joke.
I got home earlier than I thought, since Mr. Anderson kindly drove me home.