Since revealing his 1985 abduction by nonhuman visitors, the best-selling author has garnered as much attention for his opinions on alien life-forms as for his fiction. His new novel, 2012: The War for Souls, has been optioned by Warner Bros. for Michael Bay (Transformers) to direct.
What’s the significance of the date December 21, 2012?
That is the date on which the Mayans ended their Long Count calendar, and it has become a focus of expectation for enormous change. My novel is a bit of a send-up of the biblical legend of fallen angels, with elements of the UFO-related myth that certain powerful figures are evil, shape-shifting reptilian beings.
Michael Bay has signed on to direct 2012 . Is he a good fit? And what are your hopes (or fears) for a film adaptation of the novel?
Michael Bay has a great talent with really big movies, and 2012, which is set in three parallel universes, is going to be a really big movie. My hope is that the fun and excitement of my story will be intensified by its transformation into a visual experience. So far in my life as a novelist, I’ve had pretty good luck with film adaptations. The Wolfen, The Hunger and the Day After Tomorrow, which was partially based on my book The Coming Global Superstorm, were all very effective films, and the script of the Grays is amazing. So my fingers are crossed with 2012, too. With Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Michael Bay doing the picture, I’m anticipating that a strong story and a wonderful visual experience will be drawn out of my novel.
My fears also. Ah. That it won’t get made would be the major fear. Going from novel to film is a complex, exacting process.
Let’s talk about your earlier books—visitations by life forms of unidentified origin play a large role in your writings—both fiction and non-fiction. Have you reconciled to your own satisfaction which visitors were corporeal and which might have existed only in your mind?
I spent eleven years with the little creatures I wrote about in Communion. Scary, amazing, gorgeous years. Over those years, many people at my cabin in upstate New York also encountered them in one way or another. To explain it all would take far more space than is available here. But they are most certainly real, as real as you and me. What they are remains an open question, however. I suppose that the comment of one of the other witnesses—a woman who touched the hand of one of them when it came into the cabin—is most consistent with the physical experience. And that’s how it felt to be with them—as if one was with an animal, which shortly came to seem more intelligent than you were. I’ve written about maybe five percent of the experience I had with them. Whether I will write any more, I don’t know. What’s the point? Nobody believes me, so it’s just a waste.
Did the film version of Communion accurately portray your experience with the “grays”?
It didn’t. I wrote a script, but the director followed it only in broad outline.
How would you define “the real unknown”—the stated topic of your online audio program DreamLand?
I think of the real unknown as things like the visitors—real, but left in the realm of the unknown because none of our institutions that convert the unknown into the known will functionally address them. For many years, for example, fossils were part of the real unknown. They were real, but leading scientists saw them as unworthy of address.
You said earlier that “nobody believes [you]” vis-a-vis the visitors. What could you have said or done differently to make your visitor writings more credible to the general public?
Nothing. They are only credible to people who have actually had close encounters, and that’s the way it is going to remain, seems to me.
Which do you find more challenging, as a writer, fiction or non-fiction? Why?
I much prefer writing fiction. I don’t try anything that I don’t feel will be a challenge. The feeling I like best is that the story I’ve set out to write will be impossible. Early on, I wasn’t like this. Early on, I wanted to find stories I felt sure I could execute. Now, it’s the opposite.
Do careless readers confuse your novels with your nonfiction?
I don’t think of my readers as careless, or myself for asserting as fact things that seem fictional to most people. What’s the difference between fact and fiction in a world where Stephen Hawking can prove the statement that “the histories of the universe depend on the precise question asked”?
It’s a short five years to 2012. Do you care to speculate about what changes we might see in that time?
Without addressing the question of why the Mayan Long Count calendar happens to end during a time of such profound change, I can certainly speculate about those changes. First, I think that we are going to discover over the next few years that even the worst changes described by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will prove to be hopelessly optimistic. I agree with James Hansen of NASA that the models used fail to account for rapid economic expansion in Asia, and we are likely to see a general failure of essential environmental systems across the board, and the true extent of the peril will become clear over the next three or four years. I do not think that we have been effective in our efforts to prevent terrorism, and it is likely that major attacks will take place, and that city-destroying weapons could very well be deployed. Interestingly, some scientists are predicting that the upcoming solar max is likely to be the most intense on record, and this is bound to affect our increasingly fragile environmental situation in unanticipated ways. As climate changes, food and water supplies will be increasingly disrupted, and I believe that food and water will be the next oil, in terms of prices,