a skyline in greyscale with a ufo floating overhead

Open Call: UFOs, Cover-ups, & Conspiracies

Deadline May 13, 2022

What were those neon lights in the night sky? What is hidden at Area 51? Have we been visited by aliens? And, more importantly, what do these questions tell us about ourselves?

The London Reader is looking for stories featuring UFOs, government conspiracies, and our relationship with the extraterrestrial. Poetry and art that feature the same are also welcome. Stories should focus on compelling characters with elements of science fiction or the unexplained while remaining firmly grounded in our world; however, any interpretation on these themes can be submitted.


The cold war saw the proliferation of nuclear arms and the space race as former allies turned rivals sought the edge in escalating rocket technology. Against this incendiary backdrop came an explosion in strange happenings: sightings of unexplained flying objects over the night sky as well as theories of government conspiracies, cover-ups, and aliens at secret facilities in the Nevada desert. Such headlines shaped the image of extraterrestrials in our imagination.

These stories were seldom what they seemed. Reports released by the US government since then have disclosed that in the cold war, the US Air Force knowingly misled the public about unidentified objects flying over America. In a misinformation campaign, the Air Force spread stories of aliens to conceal sightings of their own high altitude surveillance planes. No matter the cause, these stories illuminate how throughout the nerve-racking cold war decades—from the buzz-cut 1950s, through the psychedelic swinging 60s and 70s, to the 8-bit 80s—people terrified by the threat of nuclear war struggled to find meaning in stories that helped explain the unexplainable.


Possible story prompts:

  • A group of Ham radio enthusiasts in the 50s discover an unexplained Numbers Station that they’re sure is relaying information about extraterrestrials.
  • A woman finds top-secret smart glasses that contain classified government information
  • In the heady days of the psychedelic 60s, a “ufologist” in California attempts to make sense of the lights they see sinking into the Pacific.
  • A rural homesteader is contacted by a renegade pilot who has evidence of UFOs, but years later the pilot is revealed to be a CIA agent spreading UFO disinformation.
  • An astronaut scientist is asked by their commander to lie to the media and say they saw a UFO.
  • A black box discovered in the desert somehow contains the answer to the Fermi paradox.
  • A conspiracy-theorist teen tries to track down the alien autopsy tapes he’s sure must exist.
  • A hacker manages to penetrate the computer systems at NASA in an attempt to expose evidence of UFOs only to find themselves under criminal investigation and facing deportation.
  • A low-wage worker who thinks he saw a UFO is now being followed by Men in Black from the CIA.
  • 80s ravers in rural England have a close encounter with an extraterrestrial object.
  • The pilot of the first helmed Soviet satellite orbit discovers he’s not alone.
  • A private contractor is entrusted with scanning government data for UFOs but finds something else.
  • A man receives instant messages from someone claiming to be an alien lifeform.
  • A picnicking family in the 60s sees lights in the sky that turn out to be a government mind-control experiment.
  • Satellite radio broadcasts from Earth are received by hidden aliens.
  • Students out for a drive beyond the light pollution of the city spot something unexplainable in the sky.
  • A group of internet addicts camp at the fence of Area 51 hoping to spot proof of extraterrestrials.

How to submit: The London Reader submission portal for this call.

The above form requires a Google account, but if you cannot use the form, you can also submit by email. If you have any questions or difficulty submitting, email coordinator@LondonReader.uk

What to submit: Creative works can be stand-alone pieces or collections, but should generally be fewer than 5,000 words or no more than three poems per submission. Multiple submissions, simultaneous submissions, and previously published submissions are welcome. Artwork should be favourably viewed on a tablet or single A5 page.

The deadline for submitting on this theme is May 13th, 2022.

Photo credit: Bill Brussard