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So I recently read this book: The Cult of Alien Gods: H.P. Lovecraft and Extraterrestrial Pop Culture, by Jason Colavito. Colavito is an alternative archaeology debunker - he writes articles and runs a website dedicated to discrediting/debunking von Daniken style theories of ancient astronauts and UFO cults and the like. More power to him--didn't I make von Daniken a baddie in my retro-pulp game?--though I'm not convinced that a few nutbars appearing on In Search Of in 1976 constitute "the demise of the Western rationalist idea itself."

Anyway, the argument of his book is this: that our man Lovecraft was the originator of the ancient astronauts meme. Not that H.P. believed in alien astronauts, just that Lovecraft's fiction is where the idea came from: that nobody else before him had floated the idea, in fiction or non, that alien astronauts visited Earth in the distant past and spawned myths of ancient gods. My first instinct was to call bullshit. Surely somebody, some Blavatsky-style Theosophist or Donnelly-style catastrophist or Moonbat-style hoaxer cooked this idea up before the 1920s? But I realized I don't actually know of any. Maybe he's right? If only I had some friends who knew a thing or two about Lovecraft, or old pulps and fantastic fiction, or just general weirdness... Any thoughts, folks?

Whether or not you buy that central argument, the book's a breezy enough history of ancient astronaut hokum. The main part that was unfamiliar to me was the French connection: Colavito pinpoints two French writer-fans, Louis Pauwles and Jacques Bergier, as the missing link between Lovecraft in the 1920s and the von Daniken types in the 1960s and 1970s, and also the point where the ancient astronaut meme jumped the rails from fiction to alleged non. I can't say it didn't make me want to run a game about French New Wave-style filmmakers in Paris 1959 delving into Les Choses Qu'On N'est Pas Censé Pour Savoir. Kind of a Jean-Luc Godard meets Jacques Cousteau thing: The Life Eldritch with Steve Zissou?

King Crank

Sep. 20th, 2006 08:51 pm
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Tags: Useless research. Yes, yes, clever of you to spot the irony.

So what was I up to in the Archives of Useless Research, you ask? Here (below the fold) is the prospectus for a paper I’ll be presenting in November at the University of Virginia, for a conference called “Inventing America: The Interplay of Technology and Democracy in Shaping American Identity,” loosely tied to the Benjamin Franklin tricentennial (I just can’t get away from that guy, can I?) and sponsored by the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. (I wonder if the AUR’s hollow earths, perpetual motion machines, and secrets of the pyramids revealed are the sort of invention and innovation the Lemelsons had in mind…)

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Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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Originally published at Route 96. You can comment here or there.

On the morning of my actual birthday, Pete and Derek bought me admission to the granddaddy of all mystery spots, the Oregon Vortex. First discovered by the white man in 1864, the “natural, historical, educational, scientific, authentic” Oregon Vortex is, we were told, the oldest and “most respected” gravitational vortex in America. The science behind this authentic natural wonder is a little too educational and historical to get into here, but suffice to say the vortex is a “famous” circular area with “unique” phenomena: balls roll up hill, squirrels fear to tread, and the harsh mistress of gravity takes a nap on the job.

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[livejournal.com profile] papersource has already done the work of sketching out our trip last week to New York. It was a great time, with large doses of two things I do find myself missing in London: big city life, and my friends. We got to meet Steve’s new girlfriend, who is bubbly and cute and wry and fun and a delight, and to reconnect with a dozen or so people we haven’t seen in way too long. We ate extremely well, saw Syriana—the thriller that’s more depressing than Traffic!—and checked out the spooky-tawdry nineteenth century spiritualist photographs at the Met.



In honor of the spiritualists, I coughed up considerable ectoplasm. I was fighting a wretched cold the whole time we were in the city, but my strictly observed regimen of air travel, beer, lack of sleep, and stepping directly into every frozen slush puddle in Manhattan somehow failed to vanquish the bug. The worst was at the newly reopened observation deck on top of Rockefeller Center, all cool and art deco and crazy high and windy cold. I got some sort of super-combination hiccuping cough going there, and basically rained down loogies of pestilence onto the crowds milling around the giant Christmas tree, seventy stories below. (I don't feel too bad, really. They were in line to see Alec Baldwin host his umpteenth SNL; their sensibilities can't have been that delicate.) The sickness finally lodged itself in my throat and rendered me utterly voiceless for much of this week.

Say, that reminds me: I’m quite tickled by reports of this new(-ish) Lovecraftian(-ish) RPG(-ish), The Shab-al-Hiri Roach. It's the game that asks: "Are you willing to swallow a soul-eating telepathic insect bent on destroying human civilization? Not even if it will help you get tenure?" Story of my life, man.
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Be a Volunteer Minister! Follow the link to a lavishly illustrated guide to the Church of Scientology (plus a brief history of all the world's religions) published circa 1976. Check out the secret wisdom. Check out the production values. Check out the groovy threads. Forty-four pages, and each one has something to offer, so take your time. At least until the Church's rabid attack lawyers take the page down.

(Courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] jwz.)

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