UFOs in A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke

What do science fiction fans think of the UFO phenomenon?

Clarke’s novel A Fall of Moondust got me thinking about it again. The setting is around 2040 AD. A tourist bus on the moon is trapped under the surface and rescuers race against time to save the passengers before they run out of oxygen.

When things look really bad, one of the passengers, an accountant from New Zealand, reveals a new problem. He is a firm believer in UFOs and is certain that the aliens have arranged this accident to eliminate him because he has learnt too much about their activities on the moon.

Writing in 1961, Clarke’s narratorial voice says it was very surprising that there were still believers in UFOs in 2040, as he thought they would die out with the greatly increased observation of space from the time humans first entered it.

Re-reading this book today, it is not so surprising to think of UFO believers still being around in 2040 AD. I remember clearly at school in the late 1970s being accused by a teacher of narrow-minded ignorance because I said I thought that the then very popular UFO sightings and fuzzy photographs were either hoaxes or the result of naivete (probably not in those words).

The fad for spotting UFOs seems to have calmed down from the 1980s on, but it will surely still be around when tourists reach the moon, just as Clarke predicted.

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