Don's diary: I've got UFO under my skin

October 22, 2004

March 2000
My students have fallen in love with extraterrestrials. They wear T-shirts bearing smiling alien faces, and the little green creatures on their key rings glow when I dim the lights to use the overhead projector. Someone even has "Alien Love" scrawled on his backpack.

Meanwhile, the invasion films of the Fifties strike these same students as preposterous. What's going on? Didn't we used to hate aliens? I decide to write a book called Alien Chic to find out what all this means.

May 2001
The new vice-chancellor visits the department to find out what cultural critics do. I talk to him about inflatable aliens. He looks politely sceptical. I retire to my office and await a letter of dismissal.

July 2002
I'm received as a lunatic at a conference on ecology. It's probably my fault for talking about alien abduction. A well-known professor tells me I'm "barking up the wrong tree". Meanwhile, a breakaway group has gone into the trees to be at one with nature. I quip that, like Woody Allen, I'm happier being "at two with nature". No one laughs. I eat lunch alone.

March 2003
I apply to the Arts and Humanities Research Board for research leave, even though a colleague says it's "a long shot". My anxiety levels rise when we put our flat up for sale just as the Bath property market dies.

April 2003
The invasion has begun. My work is regularly interrupted by the unannounced arrival of our estate agent. While one viewer is occupied in the loft, I'm advised to stop telling prospective buyers what I'm writing about. I retitle the book My Estate Agent Is an Idiot . But it's not all bad news - the AHRB decides to fund me.

May 2003
I'm in Ghent to talk about the book. When I tell the hotel receptionist why I'm here, she whispers that she has proof of alien life, and promises to bring it in the next day. I sleep with a chair wedged under the door handle. The next morning, she fails to appear.

August 2003
We finally move house. A sigh is heard when I won't let the manuscript go in the removal van. Our buyer's lender wires the money to the wrong account. We spend four hours outside the new house on the phone. I retitle the book My Solicitor Is an Idiot (Allegedly) and long for alien abduction.

October 2003
I visit Rugby School to tell the sixthformers that aliens are, like, really cool. This is the first time I've set foot inside a public school. I'm not sure how I'll be received. I'm actually asked the most intelligent questions I've ever heard, even though I inadvertently mock Matthew Arnold's definition of culture.

December 2003
The completed manuscript goes off. Three days later, Beagle 2 disappears, ruining my introduction.

March 2004
Beagle 2 is still missing, so I'm forced to rewrite things. Damn you, Pillinger!

October 2004
Alien Chic lands in the shops. I spot several typos. I retitle the book I Am an Idiot .

Neil Badmington teaches cultural criticism and English literature at Cardiff University. Alien Chic: Posthumanism and the Other Within is published by Routledge.

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