cover image Alien Abductions: Creating a Modern Phenomenon

Alien Abductions: Creating a Modern Phenomenon

Terry Matheson. Prometheus Books, $32.98 (300pp) ISBN 978-1-57392-244-9

Matheson, an English professor at the University of Saskatchewan, attempts to unpack alien abduction narratives. By examining the structure, narrative and tone used by such writers as John Fuller and John Mack, he finds that early accounts tended to portray extraterrestrials as benign, while more recent depictions present aliens with ""intellects vast, cool and unsympathetic,"" in the words of H.G. Wells. Matheson discusses how authors try to establish their credibility with tactics such as including an introduction by a presumably impartial observer or detailed verbatim transcripts of hypnosis-induced accounts. In published abductee reports, he says, the abductees are presented as coming from normal backgrounds, often bewildered by their experience. A concluding chapter suggests that abductees create aliens as projections of themselves, seen as advanced slaves of a joyless technology. Believers (roughly half the population, according to some surveys) are likely to have read many of the accounts analyzed here and may find Matheson's critical remarks unwelcome. The more skeptical may consider his summaries tedious, preferring Carl Sagan's balanced and inclusive book, The Demon-Haunted World. (Dec.)