A town discovers manna crashing from heaven and becomes the capital of america's alien nation

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    Consumers who are interested in learning the thoughts of true believers unmediated by people who drive Land Rovers can turn to the Internet, of course, and to local bookstores. Over the past decade, the publishing industry has pumped out dozens of books on Roswell and hundreds on UFOs in general. In fact, according to Books in Print, there are nearly as many titles available about UFOs (256) as there are about the Kennedys (266), who probably represent the gold standard when it comes to unwarranted public interest in a subject. Not surprisingly, many more Roswell books will be hitting the shelves just in time to capitalize on the Incident's anniversary. The most notorious is Pocket Books' The Day After Roswell, the volume that features a foreword by Strom Thurmond that the Senator disavowed two weeks ago when he learned what the book was actually about. Written by Philip J. Corso, a retired Army-intelligence officer and former member of Thurmond's staff, The Day After Roswell numbers among its many revelations the claim that ever since 1947, when the Roswell crash put the military on alert, the U.S. government has been fighting "the 'real' cold war" against what Corso says the military calls EBEs, or extraterrestrial biological entities. Fortunately, it turns out, Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative tipped the balance of power. As Corso writes, "[The U.S. and U.S.S.R.] both knew who the real targets of SDI were... When we deployed our advanced particle-beam weapon and tested it in orbit for all to see, the EBEs knew and we knew that they knew that we had our defense of the planet in place."

    With the '80s finally explained, we can return to the question of what really happened at Roswell. According to which experts one chooses to believe: there may have been more than one crash site; the U.S. government may have recovered dead aliens (the number varies) as well as a salvageable spacecraft; the craft may have been a secret government prototype and the dead aliens may have been test chimps with their fur eerily singed off or, as Popular Mechanics hypothesizes this month, imported Japanese pilots who had been flying similar experimental craft during the war; then again, the wreckage may really have been extraterrestrial, and one of the aliens may have been taken into custody alive (the docudrama Roswell, which aired on Showtime in 1994, even implies that the suicide of James Forrestal, Harry Truman's Secretary of Defense, was caused by his inability to deal with the enormity of what had been communicated to him telepathically by a captured alien); government scientists may even have reverse-engineered alien technology, as Corso claims, and come up with Stealth bombers and computer chips.

    If alien society is anything like ours in its leanings toward tragicomedy, the most believable explanation may come from Kristin Corn, the daughter of Hub and Sheila Corn, ranchers whose property 30 or so miles outside of Roswell is home to one of the alleged crash sites (Sheila offers pleasantly homespun tours at $15 a head). Kristin's theory: the crash was caused by alien teenagers who slipped away from a mother ship and went for a joyride, little knowing that alleged film of one of their autopsies would one day appear on the same network as World's Scariest Police Chases.

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