As a child in Chingford (London, UK) I took great delight in being
able to go to the library all by myself, or take along one of my
younger brothers. The library was a special place. The shelves were
full of adventures to be taken home and experienced page by page
in the solitude of a quiet corner, or my room. There were heroes
and heroines, historical events, and stories about far away places
that whisked me away from my own quiet life and filled me with a
thirst to learn more. I knew there was more to life than what I
was experiencing in my own, and by the age of fifteen I had moved
past teen romance stories and was seriously searching for information
on things other than this life.
On one of my evening visits to Gananoque's (Ontario) public library,
upstairs in the old town hall, I ventured into a different aisle
and found myself in adult fiction. There under “A” I
found a new direction in life. Two books seemed to jump right out
at me, Inside Space-Ships and Flying Saucers Farewell,
both written by George Adamski who described in great detail, with
photographs, his encounters with life from Mars and Venus. I secretly
hid away in my room and devoured every word as I read about other
life forms, about their philosophy, and about methods of transportation
that used magnetic force fields instead of gasoline for power. Adamski
told of other planets orbiting beyond Pluto in our solar system.
This fact was proven to be true a number of years later, but in
the meantime, 1965, this was either unknown or not public knowledge.
I embarked upon a secret battle with the librarian who kept shelving
these books in fiction. I know that was where I had found them but
after reading them I really felt they needed to be in some area
of science, so while the librarian wasn't looking I would remove
them from fiction and quietly make my way on the squeaky wooden
floor into the next room and place them on the science shelf. Sure
enough, on my next visit to the library I would find the books back
Two years later my favourite geography teacher took a leave of
absence for a year and was replaced by a very strange young fellow
who seemed far too small for his clothes. He was quite unkempt and
wasn't a particularly attractive man, in fact, he wasn't handsome
at all. What he may have lacked in appearances he gained in genius,
but even so, he had great difficulty in communicating his knowledge
to his students. He was ripe for the insults and mockery that came
from the boys at the back of the class. The poor man just couldn't
cope. He was so full of information it was oozing out of him, but
he just couldn't express it.
On one particularly bad day, when the boys at the back went one
step too far with their rude comments and ridicule, he stood at
the front of the class in silence, then began, "I have been
doing my best to give you information and knowledge, but I just
don't understand you people. I just can't seem to communicate with
you. You have such an entirely different culture from what I am
used to. Where I come from there is more respect and caring. When
I came here I didn't know it would be so difficult. You see, I'm
At this the boys just burst into fits of hysteria. Now I understood.
George Adamski had written about extraterrestrials spending time
on Earth. My heart went out to this man and I sensed I was the only
one in the classroom who believed him. We never saw him again. I
often wonder where he went and where he is now. Maybe he went back
to Mars to get more training in dealing with rude Earthlings.
Science, fact or fiction?
My journey into investigating things other than this life
was beginning to creep into my school projects. When we were asked
to choose a subject for a math term paper I chose The Dimensions
of the Heavenly Spheres and gathered a stack of books and a
recent Scientific American (October 1967) to plot the heavens
and begin calculations to illustrate that humans "have been
able to determine the sizes and distances of the heavenly bodies
and to construct systematic and rational accounts of the irregular
and puzzling motions of the mysterious wanderers in the sky."
I was excited with the discrepancies I found. The most recent encyclopaedias
reported Venus as rotating counter-clockwise, while Scientific
America, in it's article on the Arecibo telescope in Puerto
Rico, showed that Venus rotates clockwise on it's axis. The telescope
also proved that Mercury rotates in 59 days rather than the 88 days
as recorded in encyclopaedias. In addition, the telescope was expected
to bring about an answer to the question of how the world began,
with a result expected in about five year's time (1972).
History and science, as we knew them, were changing.
I immersed myself in exciting mathematical equations and geometric
drawings showing how to determine distances between stars and planets
without the aid of a telescope, and encountered the works of Anaximander,
Luecippus, Plato, Democritus, Eudoxus, Apollonious, Hipparchus,
Ptolomy, Copernicus, Tycho Brake, and Kepler, all great astronomers
and philosophers, all with their own interpretation of the heavens.
I filled pages with notes and diagrams on the radius of the moon,
velocities of Earth and Mars, the distance between Venus and Earth,
Venus from the Sun, and the sizes and distances of stars. I even
threw in some information on U.F.O.'s and, just for fun, calculated
a trip to Mars. It was a bit presumptuous of me, an excited teenager,
to think that we would be travelling to that planet within twenty
The response from my math teacher was a once-in-a-lifetime
My English teacher was not so open minded when I handed in a beautiful
piece of fiction, called "Orphan of the Sea", that touched
on the surreal, metaphysical. It was valued with a "B"
and the comment, "There is nothing suggested or implied to
justify this ending." It was worse with history. I barely scraped
by with a pass after starting to explain history the way I saw it.
So what is fact, and what is fiction? And from whose point of view?