24 April 2009


Well, that's it then. The last issue of Magonia, printed, posted, done and dusted. How do I feel about it? A strange sense of release perhaps, which may - or may not - at some point in the future morph into an aching void somewhere deep in my being. But not just yet.
I look at the cupboard next to my desk, with its piles of old Magonias, all carefully preserved for the expected rush of orders for back issues now that the magazine has gently faded away - or alternatively carefully packed to make it easier to take them over to the recycling centre - and wonder just what has been achieved by all the effort they represent.

Well, most obviously, and most importantly, many people with lots of valuable and interesting things to say have had the opportunity to put their ideas in print and present them to an interested group of readers. It's a source of pride that Magonia over the years has carried articles by most of the influential figures in ufology in this country, Europe and the USA. It's particularly gratifying that one or two of them became influential as a result of being published in Magonia.

I have to say that I find it amazing that a magazine which has never had a circulation of more than - how can I put this tactfully? - the low hundreds, became so influential in the field. Even now, 'Magonian' is used as a term of abuse on some American websites!

I've said before that the main reason I decided to close the magazine was because I felt that ufology was just recycling the same material again and again, and the thought of embarking on a second hundred with pretty much the same old stuff, was just too much. Although ufology has some first-rate historians - and here I namecheck Jerome Clark and David Clarke - the subject as a whole has very little sense of history. Each new generation of ufologists seems to have to re-discover the subject for itself, presenting as new ideas topics which were discussed ten, twenty, thirty years ago.

Of course, some things have changed very radically, one being the status of UFO magazines. When I look back at the very early, slowly fossilizing layers of the Magonia files, I find a few crumbling copies of the 'Merseyside UFO Research Group Bulletin', the near-legendary ur-Magonia, just a few pages of stencil duplicated foolscap. On the back page of one of them is a list of exchange magazines: Allen Greenfield's UFO Sighter; Probe, the Controversial Phenomena Magazine; CFSIB Newsletter; UFOLOG, from the Isle of Wight; René Fouéré's Phénomena Spatiaux; GESAG Bulletin from Belgium; the American magazines from APRO and NICAP, and dozens of magazines from small local groups around Britain. To say nothing of BUFORA Bulletin and Flying Saucer Review.

Obviously a great deal of what used to be in such publications now surfaces in cyberspace, so I shouldn't be too nostalgic about them, but it's depressing that over the past few years some people have lost considerable amounts of money launching overambitious news-stand publications. But this still demonstrates the lure of the 'proper' print magazine.

The UFO website and the blog now represent what one of my colleagues memorably described as the 'gutter-roots' of ufology. It is here where the first rough scrapings of reports and research appear. In a couple of pieces in Magonia Peter Rogerson has described the way that the raw story, with all its untidiness, craziness and internal contradiction, is smoothed and edited into the received narrative, which forms the framework of the paperback bestseller and the lecture circuit, and feeds back into the way the whole phenomenon is structured. Perhaps the internet is going to make this process more difficult in future, and the uncomfortable 'gutter-roots' will sneak into the mainstream. This process is well advanced in politics, as anyone who's been taking notice of events in the UK over the past few weeks will know.
The Internet has hastened (but not caused) the collapse of the structure of UFO groups and the UFO magazine, but has done nothing but good for serious UFO research. MUFOB and Magonia's aim, from its earliest days, was the destruction of the system of local and national groups. This has happened, and we acknowledge the kind assistance of Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

I conclude this piece with the last sentences from my last editorial notes in Magonia 99:

"... with the demise of the membership organisation, which must always pander to the lowest common denominator, [British ufology] has become what MUFOB/Magonia has been seeking for forty years: a group of individual researchers with expertise in a range of subject, who co-operate informally and voluntarily without the need of a bureaucratic 'National UFO Group'.

"Our work here is done!"

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