Ken Hollings's Welcome To Mars book

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A couple years ago, my pal Ken Hollings, a UK journalist and outré culture chronicler, presented a mind-blowing radio series called Welcome To Mars, about the "fantasy of science in the early years of the American Century." In the series, Ken maps the connections between UFOs, weird science, vintage science fiction, the space race, and LSD. It's an amazing series and now it's been followed by a fantastic book, Welcome To Mars: Fantasies of Science In The American Century 1947-1959, published by Strange Attractor Press. Timed with the book's publication, 3am Magazine have just published a fascinating interview with Hollings. From the interview:
The Flying Saucer, like the effects of LSD and the dangers of atomic radiation are all phenomena whose real power exists outside the human sensory spectrum: each in its own way defies detection and categorization in any conventional sense. They are, in the words of former RAND president Donald Rumsfeld, ‘known unknowns’. One way of studying them is to examine how large organizations, such as RAND and the Pentagon, respond to their existence; another is to examine them obliquely through popular culture, to see how the public imagination responds to it. Reactions to the Flying Saucer were conditioned to an appreciable extent by the spread of the new electronic media and the interdisciplinary approach to mass communication that accompanied them during the period covered in my book. It’s not an accident that 1957, the year which sees Sputnik launched into Earth orbit is also the year when Marshall McLuhan first publicly states that the medium is the message. Both incidents represent a threat to the established status quo which had previously been embodied by the Flying Saucer. Fantasy is only theory that has subsequently been rendered unworkable.
Ken Hollings interview (3am Magazine), Buy "Welcome To Mars" (Strange Attractor)


  1. Some of the best commentary on UFOs came from the great Robert Anton Wilson. Once he wrote a true-false test in which every question had an answer that was not clearly true or false, and he explained why.
    One question: UFOs are real (True/False)
    He explained that most people assume this means Flying Saucers, when all it really means is there are things in the sky we can’t ID. Sometimes I find unidentified things in my own closet, he continued, and sometimes even my wife can’t tell me what they are.

    He further noted that UFOs even predated the Flying Saucer epidemic of 1947. Before 1900 there were reports of mysterious airships, especially in 1896-7. Who knows, one or two of these mystery blimps may have been real, a product of secretive inventors.

    But my favorite daffy UFO panic has to be the hour-long UFO battle over Nuremberg in 1561. A contemporary artist drew it:
    Better picture:

    Even Mr. Sun looks confused!

  2. Technical note:
    Rummy was the Chair of the Board of Trustees of Rand for two periods, not the President of Rand. An important distinction.

  3. It’s a great book (and the CD is excellent as well). I reviewed it for Furtherfield –

    “Hollings combines the history of 1950s America as told by the New York Times with the same history as told by the Fortean Times. It’s eye-opening (sometimes consciousness-expanding) stuff, a look at the wiring under the board of the culture and technology of an era. […]”

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