Hilary Hemingway, the niece of Ernest Hemingway, never got to meet her celebrated uncle, who took his own life shortly before she was born. The following article recounts the strange connection between Roswell and her father (Ernest’s brother) as well as a family vacation visit to Area 51.
Hilary Hemingway’s “Dreamchild”
By Sean Casteel
The UFO and alien abduction phenomena seem to have an endless capacity to surprise and generate new and strange relationships to the “real world.” For instance, it may surprise you to learn that Hilary Hemingway, the niece of Ernest Hemingway, often considered the greatest writer of the 20th Century, presently makes her living by writing novels that make use of current research into abduction and other UFO-related phenomena.
“I’m not from the side of the family that inherited money from the Hemingway estate,” Hilary said. “I have to earn my living. And that’s good. It keeps you writing and working hard.”
Hilary said that she and her husband and co-author, Jeffry P. Lindsay, have to produce at least one to two books a year to make a decent living. Their most recent release is a novel called “Dreamchild” (Forge Books, 1998), which is the second part of a trilogy of “truth-disguised-as-fiction” novels that weave the latest findings of UFO research into a suspenseful story where heroes and villains fight to gain control of, or at least to understand, the quickening emergence of an alien presence that dates back to the Roswell Incident in 1947.
It was Hilary’s father, Leicester Heingway, the younger brother by eighteen years of Ernest, who first planted the seeds in her mind that later blossomed into her consuming passion for the subject of UFOs. Leicester was an early member of the Office of Special Investigations, a precursor to the CIA, and was involved in wartime espionage against the Germans in the 1940s. Leicester’s connections with U.S. government intelligence officers made him privy to secret information concerning what Hilary later realized was possibly the famous Roswell Incident.
“At either Roswell or another one of the bases,” Hilary was told, “they had parts of a crashed disc that they were working on, back-engineering, and trying to figure out how it worked. So my Dad always said, ‘Look up in the sky. Don’t always spend your time looking down because you never know what you’re going to see.’ He himself had seen some strange lights, often when crossing the Gulf Stream.”
Hilary’s childhood interest in the subject continued well into her young adulthood. She kept a box of clippings on UFOs that she intended to keep hidden even from her future husband.
“My fiancee and I went back to the house where I grew up,” she said, “and we were getting ready to have our wedding when he discovered this box of clippings. I thought, Jeez, he’s not going to marry me now. He’s going to think I’m a lunatic and wonder what he’s getting into. But instead he said, ‘You know, I have a box of clippings just like that from when I was a kid.’”
The couple had already been writing together for four years at that point. When they realized their mutual interest in the subject, they sat down and wrote a screenplay called “Dreamland,” which they then took to Hollywood and pitched to whoever would listen. The couple had the good fortune of speaking in front of a very special audience one day.
“Probably the high-point of my Hollywood career,” Hilary said, “was when we were working with [actor, producer, director] Joe Dante and Steven Spielberg stopped by and listened to our pitch on ‘Dreamland.’ At the end, he shook our hands and said, ‘You’ve got a great story. I think Joe should do it. It’s always good to meet another believer.’ So I used to sign my books ‘It’s always good to meet another believer.’ I though that was cute.”
Hilary and Jeffry did manage to sign a deal with Orion Pictures to make a movie based on their “Dreamland” screenplay, but the company filed for bankruptcy soon after and their movie deal was canceled. Hilary said she interpreted the disappointment as a prod from God that they should get out of the screen-writing business and devote their time to writing books instead. Around that same time, Los Angeles began to lose some of its lure for Hilary, who was beginning to raise a newborn child.
“We had the Seven Signs out in L.A.,” she said, only half-joking. “We had riots, floods, and earthquakes. We had insecticides being poured by the buckets on everybody to get rid of the fruit fly. I had just had a baby girl, and I wanted to get out of the city. So we had an opportunity to move to Florida and write novels for a living, and it seemed like the right move.”
The story told in “Dreamland,” which was later rewritten as a novel and became the first part of the couple’s trilogy, began when they stumbled onto to a computer bulletin board being operated by Bob Lazar and John Lear, who were just beginning to go public about the events that soon after put the Nevada desert on the UFO map.
“They were writing about this alien base out at Area 51 called Dreamland,” Hilary said. “We thought this was real lunatic fringe. Who would believe anything like that?”
Still, Hilary and Jeffry downloaded tons of material on the secret base, in spite of their continuing suspicion that there was more craziness involved than genuine government cover-up. A couple of years later, during the 1991 Gulf War, National Public Radio announced that they were watching a group of Stealth Fighters coming up from the Dreamland Base at Area 51 near Groom Lake, Nevada. Hilary then realized, “Oh, my God, everything these guys have been saying is real.”
Hilary and Jeffry later made what they called their “UFO Odyssey,” a vacation trip that included stops in Gulf Breeze, Florida, and Roswell, New Mexico, as well as a visit to Rachel, Nevada, the tiny town located on the outer edges of Dreamland.
“We found the little black mailbox which marks the spot for Area 51,” she said. “We just stopped the car and looked around.”
The couple could see something off in the distance by the foothills that they assumed was the fabled Area 51. They decided to head down the only road in the area, and followed the dirt path as far as they could until they reached the infamous sign that reads, “Deadly Force Authorized Beyond This Point.” There were small video cameras trained on the family from behind the nearby Joshua trees.
“My four-year-old daughter had to use the bathroom,” Hilary said. “We’re out in the middle of the desert and there’s nobody around. I said go ahead. She went to the bathroom outside and we headed back up the dirt road. We were pulled over by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department, and they give us a ticket for violating a natural resource.”
While Hilary maintains that the real reason they were stopped was because of their unwanted presence near the classified facility, still the Sheriff’s Department apparently had video images of her daughter answering nature’s call and wrote them up a $15 ticket.
“We didn’t get thrown into jail,” she said, “or have guns shoved into our face, but I still think it’s kind of amazing. Then about a year later, I’m watching ‘Larry King Live’ and he’s doing a show from there. Now they’re even publishing road maps to it because it’s a tourist attraction.
“If we were really commercial,” she laughed, “we’d go out there and try to hawk our books. But that wasn’t what we intended. We just wanted to write a good story that was true to as much of the events as we were following and interesting enough that people would read it.”
Which brings us back to “Dreamland: A Novel Of The UFO Cover-Up” (Tor Books, 1995) and its sequels. Hilary summarized the plot line of the story so far.
“The first book was about a woman who wanted to have a child with her husband,” she began, “and was pregnant and then was not pregnant. She was suffering from nightmares and felt that something had happened to her. Ultimately she discovered that the fetus had been taken from her. At the end of the book, she learns that the fetus has been put back into her by the aliens but it’s been genetically changed. We’re left with a kind of uneasy family scenario where everybody has survived the ordeal, but how has this baby been changed? We don’t know.
“The second book is this same child at five years old,” she continued, “and seemingly very different from the rest of his schoolmates. His need is to be able to communicate. He does eventually begin to communicate and is the conduit between humanity and the aliens. Trying to understand what it is the aliens want? What is their agenda? We discover that their need has been to kind of move humanity along and that they HAVE been moving humanity along.”
Part Three, which is still in the early stages of conceptualization, will take up the child’s story at age fifteen and will include the successful back-engineering of an alien ship at Dreamland, the story’s starting point.
There are obviously many familiar plot elements in the series, elements that spring from the decades of UFO research conducted in the non-fiction world by everyone from Budd Hopkins to Erik Van Daniken. Hilary said that she and Jeffry are very up-front about the fact that they owe a tremendous debt to some of the better known names in Ufology.
“These guys, their books are wonderful,” she said. “From my standpoint as a fiction writer, I use them as text books the same way Ernest Hemingway looked to Zane Gray for fishing [information.] We’ve gone out to crop circles and watched them hauling off a cattle mutilation, but we are not trained researchers. We can observe, but that is not what we do for a living. But when you’re going to be true to your subject, you have to do the research. That means boning up by reading the people who are doing the real stuff.”
Hilary went on to give some specific instances in which the discoveries of researcher and author Budd Hopkins were translated into science-fiction plot devices for the trilogy.
“There was one line in Budd Hopkins’ first book [“Missing Time”] that mentioned a woman thinking her fetus had been stolen,” Hilary explained. “From that came ‘Dreamland.’ We thought, what a cool idea. Then in the second book by Budd [“Intruders”] was the information about the different children that had been seen on the ships. And I was thinking, Wow, how close it is, it turns out, to being reality.
“And if you don’t give credit to [these pioneering researchers], then you’re lying,” she said. “Because, realistically, nobody knows everything. You have to go back and see what other people are doing.”
Aside from the alien parts of the story, “Dreamland” and “Dreamchild” also draw on a great deal of mainstream science as well. In fact, many “hard science” discoveries were made during the writing process that seemed to be magically synchronized with Hilary and Jeffry’s needs at the time. For instance, “Dreamchild” has a lot to do with global warming, and as Hilary began to speculate about the possibility of an ozone hole opening in North America, one did in fact appear.
“You discover that what you’re writing is currently happening,” she said, “and then you have to write it in such a way that it’s past tense. Because it’s already happened by the time the book is published.”
Hilary said it would be possible to go chapter by chapter and describe both the things that are true or that she BELIEVES to be true.
“I would say that 99 percent of the science in there is real,” she said. “I would also say that 99 percent of the alien information in there I now believe. While I personally cannot vouch for it as a researcher, I can say that the people we took the information from are legitimate researchers. For instance, I DO believe there’s a Dulce Base in New Mexico where the government has been working with aliens. I DO think the major cattle mutilations that have been occurring in the Colorado area have to do with this stepped up alien presence.”
Given the huge amount of background research involved in writing the series, one begins to wonder how the co-writing process actually works for Hilary and Jeffry. Hilary said that their first step is to get the gist of what the story is going to be about, and then whichever of them feels the most passionate for the original germ of an idea writes the first draft. After that phase is complete, the other writes a second draft, cleaning up and editing the first draft and serving as a “second pair of eyes.”
Hilary says that since her original training was as a film-maker, her contribution is usually the action scenes while Jeffry’s is the emotional beat, which runs counter to most people’s expectations.
“When somebody says, ‘Oh, wow, that was a real rip-roaring action adventure and quite a bloody scene,’” she said, “they’ll congratulate Jeffry. And then they’ll come over and say, ‘Hilary, that was such a touching moment.’ But in fact we write just the opposite. I write the hard action and he writes the emotional, tender moments.”
Meanwhile, Hilary says her training as a film-maker has drawn the fire of literary critics.
“I write visually,” she said, “and then everyone who reads it says it’s just like a movie. That’s probably our most severe criticism: ‘She’s not really a Hemingway. She’s writing for Hollywood.’ Well, take a hint. People who are reading today are reading based on the three-act format from Hollywood. So I don’t find writing for Hollywood a bad thing. I think it’s still a way to convey a story well.”
And where is it all headed? “Dreamchild” approaches its subject matter from an apocalyptic angle and foresees a terrible time of disaster ahead for mankind. Whether from natural phenomena like a polar shift (which Hilary says may be recurring soon) or
manmade greenhouse gas, a three-hundred foot rise in sea level will be the inevitable result.
“That would eliminate a large portion of land,” she said, “and thus we would have a wiping away, as it were, of a large portion of humanity. Then, if we were to refreeze and the earth was to go back to the way it was, it would be rather beautiful, I would imagine, without all the smog and pollution and factories. And easy to colonize, because the people would be beaten up pretty good.”
There is a constant rainfall in “Dreamchild” that functions as an ominous warning lurking in the background, a metaphor for our coming helplessness in the near future as we struggle against elements of nature that have always been out of our control. Hilary said she took her inspiration for that motif from the movie “Chinatown,” where there’s dripping water in every scene, another link to her training as a screenwriter.
But wherever the search for the truth behind the UFO phenomenon takes the many researchers and experiencers on the twisting path to ultimate understanding, there will always be a place for a companion branch of literary expression: The UFO- inspired science fiction form. In movies like “The Day The Earth Stood Still” and “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind” and television shows like “The X-Files” and novels like “Dreamchild,” there exists a hazy, blurred line between what is present-day creative imagination and what is eventually-realized-fact.
“I think when you’re a writer, you’re also in a way channeling something,” Hilary said. “The stories are out there-and whether you’re aware of it or not-they seem to come to you when you need them. But I don’t necessarily see that the aliens are manipulating that. I don’t want to give them too much credit. It’s just that that’s what’s you need, and there it is.”
What is called fiction today may become the reality of tomorrow, and “Dreamland,” “Dreamchild,” and their eventual third and final companion could possibly turn out to have offered a genuine glimpse into our planet’s future. If only we can heed their dire warnings in time.
[Author’s Note: Hilary Hemingway and Jeffry P. Lindsay also host a yearly “International Hemingway Festival” on Sanibel Island in Florida. A web site with information on the various festival events can be found at: www.hemingwayfestival.com]