Truthout contributor and historian Jeffrey R. McCord has written and self-published a genre-crossing and bending first novel, "Undocumented Visitors in a Pirate Sea; An Investigation of Certain Caribbean Phenomena by Dr. Thayer Harris." The book blends history, UFO lore, science fiction, sailing and travel lore, the fractures of the national security state and idiosyncrasies of border policing into a potent sort of literary beachside rum punch, complete with a happy paper parasol. McCord responded to the an e-interview that follows.
Leslie Thatcher for Truthout: What is the relevance of your middle name "Roswell" to "Undocumented Visitors" and its gestation?
Jeffrey R. McCord: Roswell was an old name in my family – the first name of an uncle. I had never heard of the 1947 Roswell, New Mexico incident until I was in my mid-30s. The coincidence of my name inspired me to look into the alleged events at that Army Air Force base more closely. I read several books on the topic, paying particular attention to the first-hand accounts by purported witnesses. The eye-witness stories by former Army Air Force servicemen are difficult to dismiss.
I was captivated and intrigued by the idea that we were visited by beings from another apparently more technologically advanced civilization. The implications, of course, are enormous. What could we learn from them? Did they pose a threat to our civilization?
Roswell, NM, led me to look at other reputable reports and books on the subject. Most impressive were the first-hand stories by American and other military personnel and world leaders. For instance, the eye-witness accounts by Grenada's first prime minister – Sir Eric Gairy – and the well-documented UFO sightings by then-governors Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan ring true. These leaders had nothing to gain by speaking publicly about their experiences. Sir Eric Gairy went so far as to go to the United Nations and win a resolution calling for the peaceful exploration of space and the sharing of information gleaned from UFO investigations.
Another very credible source is former British Ministry of Defense UFO investigator Nick Pope, who among other books, recently published the most detailed and fact-filled account of what is often called "UK's Roswell" – the 1980s incidents at the US Air Force base in Rendelsham Forest. Witnesses to this series of sightings and incidents include senior US Air Force officers including the assistant base commander.
Because of the notoriety of Roswell, NM and arguments between believers and the dismissals by the US Government, I purposefully left that whole episode out of the book, focusing solely on the Caribbean; ditto with the Rendelsham Forest incidents in the UK.
How did this particular book come to be your first novel? What inspired you?
I have long been interested in the UFO phenomenon and the credible stories and sightings by unimpeachable witnesses. Like many, I was reluctant to write of these matters because of the potential stigma attached to those who do so. It was the Caribbean Sea that inspired to write a novel on this subject. And, the US Territory of the Virgin Islands has a real frontier feeling about it and is populated by some very colorful people. Most are connected to the sea, which I've used as a metaphor for space.
Talk a little about the relevance of Caribbean history to world events today.
When my family and I were fortunate enough to buy a home on the Caribbean island of St. John, I was immediately inspired by West Indian culture, the Native American and colonial history and the feeling that we'd entered a new and still evolving world. In the Caribbean, one vividly sees the impact and repercussions – good and bad – from the "Old World" discovery of a New World. To the Native Americans, the first Europeans were viewed as beings coming from sky – from a new world on vessels beyond the ability of their cultures and philosophies to fully comprehend.
And, of course, the effects of colonial and post-colonial eras on these small garden-like islands - and upon the descendants of slaves the Europeans left behind when they mostly departed - are still seen today.
The Caribbean seemed the perfect setting in which to explore the presumed reality of other, more technologically advanced worlds and what happens when they meet less technologically developed societies. Our history of Europeans enslaving Africans and Native Americans to develop and exploit the resources of a New World to benefit the Old certainly provides a cautionary note.
My story about how the US Executive Branch, national security agencies and the military might respond to contacts with a New World was informed in-part by what happened in the history of human first contacts and by the speculative writings of some UFO investigators.
How accurate are the fictional Dr. Thayer Harris' investigations into UFO history?
Dr. Harris' investigation into the larger phenomenon of UFO's and their history is very accurate. The professor relied upon the most credible, serious sources available for both the history of the relevant Caribbean islands and the UFO phenomenon. His scientific musings are also based upon facts, as I could determine and understand them.
In the book, however, the professor explores one specific example of extraterrestrial contact involving the death of a US Marine and a UFO sighting in the US and British Virgin Islands. These specific events and the professor's own contact episode are fictional, although based upon and inspired by first-hand accounts of similar and presumably real incidents.
I am a student of the Bible and religion and am impressed by the arguments of those who say many of our ancient Buddhist, Judaic, Christian and Muslim prophets may have been inspired by contact with "higher beings." These beings (call them angels, if you wish) seemed to teach the human prophets systems of morality.
For this reason, Professor Harris' extraterrestrial contact has a spiritual element. And, this, too, is frequently the case with people who say they have been abducted by aliens. Here, again, in describing the "abduction" of the professor, I relied upon the ground breaking work with abductees done by Harvard's Dr. John Mack, the most credible source available.
What haven't I asked you that you want to say about the book?
Since I have some journalistic and academic credentials, why didn't I write a non-fiction book about UFOs in the Caribbean? The answer is that I don't believe anyone has access to enough factual data to write a conclusive non-fiction book on this subject.
And, fiction enabled me to attempt to explore the full historical, sociological, scientific and even theological aspects of this profound subject.
Readers' Experiences and Reactions
After I published the book, which is on-sale in several stores in the VI and was the subject of an article in the Virgin Islands Daily News, several readers have told me they have either witnessed UFOs in our islands or know people who did so. One person told me of a sighting a few months ago by several people in a bay on the island of St Thomas. Just last week, someone sent me a purported photo of a UFO in that very bay. And, one reader from Nevada told me of a personal experience.
I was very surprised by these stories. They were totally unexpected. Obviously I was aware of sightings on other islands and on the mainland, but I did not anticipate people would contact me about their experiences.