On "Ancient Aliens" from issue 298.4

Richard Katrovas

How many of us don’t wish that flying saucers were real? Who doesn't fancy the idea that “ancient aliens” (the assonance is yummy) chummed with our ancestors, that humankind was even genetically hot-wired by visitors from afar? Well, most people filled with religious faith probably don’t, but the atheists, agnostics, and airheads among us gleefully slurped von Daniken’s fanciful speculations, and the extraterrestrial industry thrives and is growing.

I’m addicted to cable documentaries on the subject of aliens, ancient and contemporary, and on their cover-up by governments, most fervently by our own. Do I believe we have been—are being—visited?


I believe the world is filled with liars and crazy people. I believe that there are more liars and crazy people than there are rational truth tellers. I find it meaningful the fact that not
a single reputable scientist on the planet has expressed solidarity with any of the talking heads of the extraterrestrial industry. I find meaningful the fact that it would take literally millions of years, at the speed of light, a speed unreachable by material objects, for otherworldly beings to reach us.

Wormholes? Inter-dimensional travel?

I was adopted by relatives I didn’t know when I was fourteen. They took my brother and me to Sasebo, Japan, where my uncle/stepfather was the captain of the USS Phoebe, a “minesweeper coastal.” My previous residence had been the public housing projects of Norfolk, Virginia.

My father had been in prison; my mother had been dying of multiple sclerosis. We’d lived on $169 a month from welfare, forty of which went to rent. Sasebo, Japan, was light years from the projects. I’d gone from dirt poor to middle class, from a tragic, disintegrating family to a solid if unloving one, from the Other America to an American enclave afloat in an utterly mysterious otherness.

When I read von Daniken’s speculations, basketball, after masturbation, was my favorite sport. I was tall, skinny, a little pimply. I missed my mother and three younger siblings but didn’t know it. I even missed the projects, being poor. Puberty was madness; I wanted to fuck (almost) every female. I would have even had sex with a female alien, and often fantasized what one would look like.

“Ancient Aliens” is about a boy who wants to love and be loved in a world menaced not by aliens but by alienation. That is, by war and the cultural constructs determined by the fact of war, the will to dominate, to subjugate.

I saw five UFOs in a Michigan night sky several months ago. My yogini wife Krista and I were driving back to Kalamazoo from Grand Rapids. Four lights were suspended on the starry horizon, flashing red and blue. Two of the flashing objects began to move slowly in tandem, then, after a few seconds, the other two red/blue flashers angled off also in tandem. All four stopped abruptly, and then shot off at an enormous speed.

It is physically impossible that we are being visited by beings from other planets. It’s impossible that they could love us so much that they would come so far, or, at least, that is what life has taught me.

Perhaps they have come to fuck and/or eat us, not to enlighten us, help us build stuff. There are no aliens, and they are merciful.

Richard Katrovas is the author of thirteen books of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. "Ancient Aliens" will appear in his forthcoming Swastika to Lotus (Carnegie Mellon University Press). He teaches at Western Michigan University, and is the founding director of the Prague Summer Program. "Ancient Aliens" appears in the Fall 2013 issue.

Eric Piatkowski is today's featured artist. He originally worked as an actor before studying illustration at the Pratt Institute. He is now a freelance illustrator based in Des Moines, Iowa. Eric's first illustration for North American Review will appear in issue 299.2.