A Conversation with Martin Plowman

We spoke to Dr Martin Plowman about UFO's and writing his new book.

Martin Plowman grew up in Melbourne with an Anglo-Australian father and Italian mother, who arrived in Australia as a child from Stromboli, a small volcanic island off the coast of Sicily consisting of just 200 - 300 people, with the exception of the tourist season. Martin's mother was one of many Stromboli residents who migrated to Melbourne after World War 2, when Martin's grandfather, a sailor who survived the sinking of his ship during the war, returned to Stromboli to find no work. Martin’s family history is now playing a big part in his current work, as he is in the process of writing his second book. The story is set in Italy during World War 2 and also in Melbourne just before the 1956 Olympic Games. This is a shift from his previous area of expertise, where he worked for over a decade researching and writing about UFOs and the people who believe in them. Martin did his PhD in Cultural Studies on the history of people’s belief in UFOs, and went on to write the esteemed book The UFO Diaries.  

We had to ask about the highlights of his research, which included seeing UFO conspiracy theories 'hot spots' like the famous town of Roswell in New Mexico and crop circles in Wiltshire, England, along with conversations with Mexican shamans about their direct contact with extraterrestrials, aka alien abductions! Being the first Australian to do a doctorate of philosophy on “ufology,” (as UFO believers call the study of UFOs) the curious question that people invariably ask over his career is about his own belief in Unidentified Flying Objects, which he understood as a means to "gauge if I'm a weirdo or not". We jumped onboard the list and asked; Martin remains a skeptic.

With Martin’s writing ritual now dedicated to his new book, writing days are spent in his studio at Neon Parlour where he starts with coffee, then some fictional reading to get into the rhythms of story telling, before delving into his own words. We see him emerge, from what sometimes seems like another world, in time to pick up one of his two sons from school. And as if Martin needed more intrigue, he also runs a blog about games. He is fascinated with the idea of games as an untapped artistic form, and especially roleplaying games which are a kind of storytelling within new worlds that encompasses a heavily interactive relationship with it's audience, different to that of other traditional modes of story telling like novels, films and performing arts.

You can check out Martin’s blog Games vs Play at gamesvsplay.com
UFO Dairies is available here, and accessible through your local library.

Interview by Peachy Fulford-Wierzbicki