7 | SPECIAL FEATURE: An Essay by Bruce Pennington, Winner of the British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Artist
Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Bruce for granting me permission to publish this wonderful essay, which appears on his website. It would be a great understatement to say that I am thrilled to be able to do so. I am beyond thrilled. Ecstatic really. Thank you also to Nigel for being my most cordial point of contact in this endeavor.
Bruce’s thoughts on the ever-intriguing UFO phenomenon provide an engaging, insightful, and knowledgeable perspective on this most perplexing of subjects. UFOs have provided a source of inspiration for some of Bruce’s brilliant artwork, a brief selection of which can be seen in this magazine. I highly recommend that you visit his website to see more. Linger there a while, and find yourself transported to fantastical realms of limitless imagination.
I am honored to present the following essay. Enjoy!
Flying Saucery: Bruce Pennington on UFOs
Of all the modern enigmas, it is the “UFO” that bears the crown above all its rivals, in my opinion.
Although it rose to global fame in 1947, its roots go way back into prehistory, where even paleolithic cave paintings clearly depict strange aerial forms very similar to the classic UFO shapes so regularly described by witnesses of the phenomenon.
In fact, many “UFOlogists” have collected an abundance of data from historical archives to prove beyond any doubt whatsoever that the UFO has been with us since time immemorial.
But before “UFO purists” suddenly jam the internet in protest, I must emphasise that there is a difference between U.F.O.s and the ‘UFO’.
The three initials simply refer to any aerial objects that has yet to be identified whilst the word “UFO” really means a lot more, bearing connotations of alien visitors from other galaxies (or dimensions) and exhibiting regular characteristics so familiar to “UFO buffs” who hold conventions throughout the world to update the latest sightings and swap information on the subject.
The phonetic rendition of the word “UFO” says it all when transferred back into legible form to make two distinct words – “YOU FOE!”
Book cover art by Bruce Pennington, Aliens from Space: The Real Story of Unidentified Flying Objects by Major Donald E. Keyhoe (Panther Books, 1975)
This immediately conjures visions of Kenneth Arnold’s first sighting near Mt Rainier, USA in 1947 of nine fast-flying objects that defied explanation as they looked exactly like “saucers skipping over water”, giving birth to the term “flying saucers”, and the possibility of a superior technology from beyond this planet, which by its very implication could be a threat to humanity itself.
My own interest in the subject began in the very same year that I started my career as an SF illustrator, 1967.
As the autumn unfolded, strange reports were coming in from all over the UK of hundreds of peculiar flying objects unlike anything seen before.
Newspapers and TV programmes were devoting in-depth attention to the subject which had begun to be a national obsession, with even the most sceptical observers admitting they were totally baffled.
The following year I discovered the magazine Flying Saucer Review which gave a thorough survey of the most interesting cases from the previous year’s “flap”.
This, along with a serialised report in several issues of Penthouse got me hooked on the subject, which became an abiding interest for me from then on.
To pre-empt the question of whether I’ve ever actually had a personal experience of one, the answer has to be yes.
Not that I ever needed any firsthand contact with the phenomenon to reinforce my opinion that they are “real” in the objective sense of the word.
I also believe in the validity of them on an archetypal or Jungian level as well.
For those who would like to know more about my own personal encounters – they began back in that fateful year again, 1967, with a ‘pseudo-sighting’ as I wish to define it.
The autumnal ground mist of the time was acting like a vast magnifying glass, distorting even the humblest aircraft light into a glowing, pulsating ball of plasma gaining dimension the closer it gets to the horizon.
For several minutes I was enthralled, until an aircraft flew over soon afterwards, duplicating exactly the same illusion when it became submerged in fog, causing one of its lights to become prodigiously large and bright like a UFO. Dilemma solved.
More recent events though have defied such easy explanation and I hope in due course to give a full account of them here [Bruce’s website].