Operation Lightning Strike - Interview
Popeís attendance at the 19th Leeds International UFO Conference
gave UFO Magazine the opportunity to
speak exclusively to him about his new book, his current research and his views
on the current state of British ufology. Nick
Popeís candid and at times hard-hitting comments make for interesting reading
and give an insight into the mind of one of the most controversial figures in
UFO: First of all, can you tell us something about your new book?
NP: Operation Lightning Strike is a direct sequel to my previous novel, Operation Thunder Child. That said, itís entirely self-contained, so you donít have to have read the first book. Itís a science fiction techno-thriller about alien invasion, but it incorporates real information about UFOs and the way in which the government and the military handle a national crisis.
UFO: So itís fiction, really?
NP: In a sense, yes, because thereís material in the book that stems from
my official research and investigation into UFOs.
If you look at the small print at the beginning of both books youíll
notice that neither novel contains the standard disclaimer beginning ďThis is
a work of fictionĒ. That simply wouldnít have been true, so for legal reasons
we had to draw up a disclaimer that acknowledged some of the events as real, or
based on things that actually took place.
UFO: I understand that the Ministry of Defence had to clear the book?
Iím afraid I canít discuss that.
UFO: This must be the first time that a sci-fi novel has required official government
Sorry, no comment.
UFO: How long did it take you to write the book, and how easy has it been making the
transition from non-fiction to fiction?
It took almost exactly a year to write.
Itís difficult moving from an academic treatment of a subject to
writing about it in a fictional way, and it was especially tricky having to
handle concepts that simply arenít an issue with non-fiction, like
character-building and dialogue. But I did enjoy writing the book, not least because it gave
me an opportunity to say things I could never have said in Open Skies, Closed Minds or The
UFO: But did you still have to research certain things?
NP: Absolutely. The information on biological weapons is based on material in
Ken Alibekís book, Biohazard.
Prior to his defection in 1992 Alibek worked on the Soviet biological
warfare programme. The design of
the alien mothership is based on material from NASA, the Los Alamos National
Laboratory and JPL, who are actively studying the feasibility of advanced
propulsion systems using nuclear fusion or matter-antimatter annihilation.
Those are just two examples.
UFO: Thereís a lot in the book that will arouse the suspicion of conspiracy
theorists: Menwith Hill, the Aurora programme, Echelon, the idea that the
ballistic missile defence programme was designed to deal with an alien threat.
Are you trying to tell people something?
Iím trying to tell a story that will be thought-provoking and
controversial, but the fact that I feature something in the book doesnít
necessarily mean that it exists, or that itís used in the way that conspiracy
theorists believe. I canít
possibly give a line-by-line explanation as to which parts of the book are real,
which are based on something real and which are pure fiction.
UFO: But thereís no truth to the theory that these books are part of a Government
campaign to acclimatise the public to a hostile alien presence, prior to some
sort of official announcement?
Iím certainly using the books to expose some of the possibilities and
ideas that I floated while working in Secretariat (Air Staff), but the books have
in no way been commissioned by the Ministry of Defence.
UFO: Thereís a lot of information in the book about the way in which public opinion, parliament and the media can be manipulated. What can you say about ďspinĒ?
Iíve been media trained by the MOD, which happened because the first
television interview I gave was during my tour of duty in Sec(AS), putting
forward the ďno defence significanceĒ party line on UFOs. Iíve also been involved in drafting press releases, letters for
Ministers to send to MPs and speeches for Ministers to give in Parliament.
We live in an age where presenting information is important, and the book
gives people an insight into this.
UFO: Iím interested, given that youíre a ufologist, in whether youíve portrayed
the aliens as good or evil?
NP: Without wanting to give too much away, and if youíll excuse the pun,
there are shades of grey. I wanted
to get away from the idea that something must be either good or evil.
All too often writers and directors present something where the public
know which side to cheer for. Thatís
lazy, and lifeís not like that. So
in Operation Lightning Strike
thereís room for debate, because both humans and aliens do some terrible
things. But thatís not
necessarily indicative of evil. Very
few people deliberately set out to be evil, and those who do bad things
generally do so for what they genuinely believe are good reasons.
UFO: The book contains some strong statements about environmental issues.
What can you say about that?
This is another area that Iíve researched thoroughly, not just with the
usual sources available to the public. I
was shocked, and itís clear that weíre in much bigger trouble than even most
activists realise. All the environmental information in chapter 7 is true, and
even that understates the problem. The
stunning NASA photograph of the 11 million square mile gap in the ozone layer
that was released in September illustrates one problem.
But the biggest threat comes from what global warming will do to the
Earthís climate, and the recently published photographs of open water at the
North Pole are only the most graphic illustration of just how much the polar ice
cap is melting. Unless greenhouse
gas emissions are significantly reduced, quickly, weíre in big trouble.
UFO: Is it true that Operation Thunder Child
is being made into a film?
The TV rights have been optioned by Carnival Films who made Bugs,
Shadowlands and Poirot. The screenplay
is being written by Christopher Russell, whose credits include Bergerac,
Eastenders, The Bill and A
Touch of Frost. I hope to have
more news about this shortly.
UFO: What is your next writing project?
I want to write a third sci-fi novel, entitled Operation
Storm Cloud, not least because every sci-fi author dreams of writing a
trilogy! Iím also working with
Brigitte Grant on a book - The Alien
Within - about her extraordinary UFO and abduction experiences, which are
unparalleled in the literature. Finally,
Iím working on a Gulf War techno-thriller entitled Desert
Fury, which is a sort of ďwhat ifĒ novel where things go very
differently from what actually happened. During
the Gulf War I worked in the Air Force Operations Room at the Joint Operations
Centre, and that was very helpful in the research for this book.
Again, I hope to have some firm news about this very shortly.
UFO: Will you stay in the Ministry of Defence, or leave at some stage?
Iíve been there over fifteen years now, have done some fascinating jobs
and worked with a great bunch of people. Iíve
seen things and done things that have changed my life for ever.
But as for the future, who can say?
At some time I might decide to write and lecture on a full time basis.
UFO: And yet there must have been tough times too, when certain people tried to ban
your first book?
Iíve only ever had problems from one or maybe two individuals.
The vast majority of my colleagues and managers have been interested in
my UFO research and investigation, and supportive of my decision to go public.
Iíve always played by the rules, and submitted manuscripts to the MOD
well ahead of publication, making changes where called upon to do so.
This is no different from the way in which Gulf War Generals such as
Patrick Cordingley and Sir Peter de la BilliŤre wrote their books, based on
officially gained knowledge and experience.
Thatís why itís a nonsense to call me a whisteblower, as some people
UFO: Youíve made some fairly outspoken comments about the state of British ufology
lately. Can you say something about
What most concerns me is the lack of work being done with regard to cases
of alien abduction. I get about thirty new cases each year, and many of these
people go on to tell me that other authors or UFO groups theyíve contacted
havenít even written back. Undoubtedly
there are some people doing very good work out there. James Millen is one - he runs the Witness Support Group named
in honour of the late Ken Phillips. Brigitte
Grant, who founded the Southwest Witness Support Group, is another. But
there are not enough people doing such work, and we are way behind America,
where investigators such as Budd Hopkins can call upon a network of therapists
for help in dealing with cases and helping the people concerned come to terms
with their experiences.
UFO: Aside from abductions, where does British ufology go next?
This Autumn will be a critical one for British ufology, not least because
the publication of two major books may see a welcome resurgence in public
interest. This fell away somewhat
after the summer of 1997, when the 50th anniversaries of Kenneth
Arnoldís ďflying saucerĒ sighting and the Roswell incident saw interest at
a peak. Timothy Goodís new book Unearthly
Disclosure will help here, but the big news and indeed the big test for
British ufology will be Georgina Bruniís sensational new book on the
Rendlesham Forest incident, You Canít
Tell The People.
UFO: Why do you say that?
NP: Georgina has spent three years researching this case, and has written
what I believe will come to be seen as the definitive book on the incident.
Sheís re-interviewed most of the key players, eliciting further details
on a number of important points. The
most significant thing about her book is the inclusion of testimony from new
witnesses and comments from politicians and senior military figures.
But Georgina is a strong personality and her relentless approach in
pursuing the truth about these events has already upset a few people.
The book will dent a few egos, mainly where people have been exaggerating
their role in the case or trying to write themselves into the story, either as
witnesses or as researchers. And
without wanting to give anything away, anyone who has been associated with the
theory that the UFO might have been a mistaken sighting of the Orford Ness
lighthouse is going to look very, very foolish.
UFO: Youíve written the foreword to the book?
NP: Thatís right. Itís no
exaggeration to say that this may be one of the most significant UFO books ever
written. Thatís why, as we approach the twentieth anniversary of the
events, itís important for British ufology, because itís British ufologists
who should be in the forefront of following up some of the information that
Georgina has uncovered, and taking things forward. This case could be as big as Roswell, but people need to set
aside their preconceived views on the case and react in a positive fashion to
the new evidence that Georgina has uncovered.
But I have a nasty feeling that some of the sceptics have made up their
minds before theyíve read the book. I
hope Iím wrong, but on past evidence I suspect Iím not.
UFO: On a different subject, I was surprised to hear you talk at the Leeds conference
about psychic matters and channelling. Whatís going on?
You canít ignore the data, and Iím not afraid to change my mind about
things. And thereís no denying
the link between psychic matters and ufology - most notably in abductees who
have developed psychic abilities or had them enhanced somehow.
I have case after case where the person concerned has a history of
paranormal experiences, and this simply canít be ignored, even though I admit
itís more convincing to talk in terms of scientific analysis of radar tapes,
photographs or alleged landing sites. But
I must pay tribute to Brigitte Grant for this - sheís encouraged me to look
into such things and has taught me a lot about the psychic and spiritual side of
UFO: What has been the reaction to your speaking out on this?
NP: Very positive. After the conference I got more feedback about this than
about anything else. People were
coming up to me and saying how refreshing it was to have this subject aired.
In the September/October edition of UFO
Magazine I wrote about the conference held in Istanbul in June this year,
successfully bringing together scientists like John Mack and Stanton Friedman
with channellers such as Lyssa Royal and Marcia Schafer.
This made for a fascinating conference and showed that scientific ufology
and a more New Age approach are not incompatible.
UFO: Any final comments?
Leave personal attacks out of ufology.
Approach everything with an open mind.
Always try to learn from other people.
And perhaps most importantly, remember that although ufology raises some
serious issues, it can be fun and enjoyable too.
Donít take yourself too seriously and donít be afraid to have some
UFO: Thank you, and good luck with Operation
Thank you very much.