Editorial Notes, Magonia 99, April 2008
Well here it is. Welcome to Magonia 99, the last in the series which has survived in one form or another since 1968. Firstly as Merseyside UFO Bulletin, then simply as MUFOB when the editorial base moved from Merseyside, and finally as Magonia. Peter Rogerson outlines our history in more detail elsewhere in this issue, so I shall concentrate here on my reasons for ending the publication at this point.
Some of you may have seen my piece in the February 2009 issue of Fortean Times. (And may I add here how incredibly flattered I am by the editorial in that issue in which Bob Rickard describes Magonia as FT's "philosophical elder brother") In that column I expressed my disappointment and frustration that the whole field of UFO research seemed incapable of making any kind of progress, and that it has deteriorated into an endless scrutiny of issues that were once considered settled. Of course, in many cases the level of interest in a report or personality is not dependent of the level of scientific interest in the object, but the level of financial interest.
Over the past few months we've been subjected to a seemingly endless flow of low-grade UFO reports in the tabloids, most notably the Sun. It's disappointing, but hardly surprising that one of the figures boosting this process is the self-styled former 'Head of the British Government's UFO Project'.
What's even more disappointing, though, is the way the British 'UFO community' (OK, silly phrase, but it seem to be the contemporary usage!) has tagged along in its wake, with endless and fairly pointless discussion about whether or not a UFO knocked the blade off a wind turbine, It didn't, OK? End of story.
At least the British UFO 'community' does operate with a considerable degree of scepticism and common-sense, unlike our transatlantic colleagues, who have invented a kind of ufological necrophilia, resurrecting cases which everyone though were dead and buried decades ago, It's not just Roswell, of course, but just about every case from the 'fifties and 'sixties - from Socorro to McMinnville - is being revived with 'death-bed confessions' or vague hints of sinister government involvement.
Having said that, there is still a great deal of positive work being undertaken. It would have seemed impossible just a few years ago that British ufologists would be working in conjunction with a government agency to publicise Ministry of Defence records of UFO reports, yet this is what's happening now with David Clarke and the National Archives. The historical research which David, Andy Roberts and others are undertaking is providing valuable information on the social background to UFO belief and activism in Britain.
And certainly it is true to say that the entire ethos of ufology, in this country at least, has changed quite radically for the better since this magazine began its long march; and I think not overly egotistical to say to a considerable extent because of what we have done in Magonia. Much of this was through bringing the work of the French researchers of the 1980s to the attention of British readers.
Looking back over the early issues of MUFOB it is amusing to recall the endless battles with the old fossils who ran BUFORA and some of the other UFO organisations of the period. These were often conducted with an overtone of class war - how dare these uneducated oiks (some of whom never went to Oxford or Cambridge or had not even been awarded a phoney degree from the University of Seven Sisters Road) challenge the wisdom of the classically educated ufological aristocracy?
British ufology has successfully re-buried the fossils, and with the demise of the membership organisations, which must always pander to the lowest common denominator of subscription payers, has become what MUFOB/Magonia has been seeking for forty years: a group of individual researchers with expertise in a range of subjects, who co-operate informally and voluntarily, without the need of a bureaucratic 'National UFO Group'.
Our work here is done!