By Sabrina Hornung
Photo provided by Martin Keller
North Dakota native Martin Keller is no stranger to the pen, in fact, he went from working as a freelance journalist and staff writer and editor, contributing to publications such as City Pages, The Star Tribune, the Mpls-St. Paul Business Journal, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Final Frontier, and countless others, to working as a publicist for Dr. Steven Greer, MD, who founded the controversial Center for the Study of Extraterrestrial Intelligence (CSETI) in the early 90s in Asheville, North Carolina.
In Keller's latest book, “The Space Pen Club: Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind, UFO Disclosure, Consciousness and Other Mind Zoomers” he writes about his experience working for Dr. Greer – and his lifelong interest and experiences with the UFO/UAP issue – in a manner that would make Hunter S. Thompson smile.
HPR had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Keller, who now lives in Minneapolis, prior to his appearance at Valleycon on Saturday October 14, about his fascination with the great beyond, “the boys upstairs" making the news and his work as a pop culture journalist in the Twin Cities.
High Plains Reader: So, your fascination with UFOs, how did that start?
Martin Keller: I was a space nerd as a kid. I was really excited by the early NASA space programs, The Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. I actually wrote to NASA and asked for information about the space programs, and I got back these thick packets of information that had been created for the public, describing each program, plus autographed photos of the astronauts. I picked some of my favorites and put them on my wall alongside my Beatles and Dylan posters.
And I had a UFO sighting with three other high school friends outside of our high school in western North Dakota, in Dickinson, during a really brutally cold February night at halftime during a basketball game. But having said that, there had been UFO sightings all over that part of the state that entire week. And we ran outside without our coats to see it, a spherical-shaped object, luminous and hovering over the NDSU Extension Service office, which was probably a quarter of a mile away. We watched it for a while and then somebody said, you know we should get in my car and go over there and get a closer look and I think I was the guy that poo-pooed that idea since it was really cold, and we'd left her coats in the bleachers. In retrospect, I guess I would like to have a mulligan on that.
I also read all of the UFO magazines of the day. Up until the dawn of the internet, there had always been a UFO trade magazine, if you will. But frankly after high school and college and into my early professional career, I didn't really think at all about the subject until the early 90s, when some strange things started to happen in my Minneapolis house and also inside my head.
I had some really interesting lucid dreams, including a precognitive dream that I had in Minneapolis that played out in Boston six to eight weeks later. It was a waterfront setting in my dream and I actually found myself staring right at it on a small footbridge in Boston Harbor weeks later, one summer day on my way to meet my parents to go to Fenway Park. And that's all pretty well detailed in my book, especially in chapter one.
HPR: You covered so many different bases and so many different points in “The Space Pen Club” you dip into psychology, history and folklore. There are so many different lenses here, how long did it take you to write about your journey– what was your favorite part of writing it?
MK: Well, it took me about 10 years. I didn't write for every one of those 10 years, in fact, I think there was an 18 or maybe even 24-month period where I didn't do anything with it just because I was either too busy working in public relations, and we moved at one point, which is always a big ordeal!
But I also wrote two other books in that course of the 10-year period. One was my other memoir, about covering pop culture here for 10 or 15 years called “Hijinks and Hearsay: Scenester Stories from Minnesota's Pop Life,” which you can get from the Minnesota Historical Society Press that published it, or on Amazon.
That's a fun book! There’s everybody from Dylan and Prince to comedians like Louie Anderson and Lizz Winstead, who co-founded The Daily Show. It’s packed with backstage, behind-the-scenes anecdotal short stories, and 150 black and white photographs with my esteemed photographer Greg Helgason, who shot many of the interviews I did.
It’s a wonderful book about the Twin Cities music scene from the late 70s to the early 90s, with stories like Paul McCartney scolding me during a large press conference for asking a second question, or the time Bob Marley, who early on in the interview, whipsout a spleef the size of a banana, and the interview goes in many different, unpredictable directions.
My favorite part of writing The Space Pen Club I suppose -- the easy answer -- is finishing the damn thing. You know, you never really finish with a book. I still go back and read it to see what I might have done differently or see what still resonates. I'm keeping the “Space Pen Club” alive on my blog that sits on the book’s website, www.thespacepenclub.com.I posted recently because there's been so much going on in mainstream news finally, especially in Washington DC, about this subject -- especially if you've been interested in it like I have, and probably millions of other people around the world.
That last congressional hearing we saw broadcast was hard to believe. It featured two pilots and former intelligence officer and whistleblower David Grusch, who has been claiming that we have downed spacecraft and the bodies of deceased occupants from some of those craft. All three were under oath! It was just astounding stuff that none of us in this long-suffering world of Ufology ever imagined being discussed so candidly –and during a nationally televised congressional inquiry. And it's not over yet…
In 2017, the New York Times blew up this whole subject on its front page, December 17, 2017, about the secret UFO study program at the Pentagon that ran for seven or eight years. But that coverage really changed the narrative and it actually shifted in a very dramatic way. The news media's approach to this subject has historically been extremely marginalized. Before the NY Times story, it’s the kind of story where a reporter would be assigned to find some jollies for readers: “Let's do a UFO story, let's find some people that are wearing tinfoil hats.”
The Times really legitimized serious discussion on this topic. Again, a lot of us never thought we'd see that happen, especially on the front page of The New York Times. And they never used the verbiage “conspiracy” or “conspiracy theory” which was quite refreshing.
HPR: So what do you think the catalysts were? Why is this all coming out now?
MK: Well, that's a great question. That's the proverbial $64,000 question. Back in 2017, when we entered this so-called disclosure period, a lot of us were asking that question. And I think there's some obvious answers like, well, the New York Times made it okay to report on this subject, and a lot of congressional people have taken an interest in this and started to have hearings. There's a new UFO study group at NASA now, an AARO office that's been set up under the Department of Defense. Are these game-changing events? Maybe.
Another thing that I write about in the book is, maybe it's the visitors or “the boys upstairs” as I call them, my kind of kooky shorthand for the occupants of these UFOs or UAPs (unidentified aerial phenomenons). Maybe they have indicated it's time that we get off the dime and start revealing this reality because it needs to happen. But who knows what their agenda is ultimately.
That's one of the things I liked about Dr. Greer’s organization: it took trying to find the truth out about UFOs away from government authorities and agencies and gave it to the grassroots through the Close Encounters of the 5th Kind Initiative – human-initiated contact -- and later three disclosure events, years before what we’re seeing in DC now!
I spent about five or six years working with Steven Greer as his publicist and we had some “interesting” adventures in places like Mexico’ s volcano zone – a UFO hot spot -- and on a South Dakota Indian reservation for the first Indigenous-led “Star Knowledge Conference,” and other places.
But I first came into Greer’s arena as a freelance journalist in the early 90’s and I wrote what I thought was a really good 20-page story, on what he was doing and how it seemed to be the next link in serious UFO research. His Close Encounter of the Fifth Kind platform seemed like both a crazy and captivating idea! But I couldn't get it published even though I sent it to all the major magazines, the Atlantic and Vanity Fair and a few others. Back then the UFO discussion was really nowhere to be found anywhere near the mainstream. Of course, today, with the advent of the internet, I could publish any number of places, and maybe make 10 cents if I were lucky!
At Valleycon, I’ll talk a little about that period with Greer. And with some multimedia images and video, I’ll also give an historical overview of this complex subject and revisit the dramatic UFO incursion at the Minot Air Force base where a very large object witnessed by numerous airmen interfered with the base’s nuclear missile silos and controls – something that has happened at other Air Force bases around the country. I discuss this incident at length in the book, and hey, it’s a major, verifiable North Dakota UFO event, so let’s dive into it together while we’re all in the Rough Rider state!
IF YOU GO
Oct 13th - Oct 15th, 2023
Holiday Inn, 3803 13th Ave S, Fargo, ND
YOU SHOULD KNOW
“The Space Pen Club” and other works by Martin Keller are available on Amazon.
April 23rd 2023
March 15th 2023
March 8th 2023
February 12th 2023
August 17th 2022
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