I gather from some of the comments I have received on social media that a good number of my followers think I post too much on Twitter about the material I am researching for my new book rather than my usual diet of UFOs and pyramids. In pre-pandemic times, I imagine I would have bounced ideas off people in real life, but I don't have that luxury as often today. Now, I grant you that it is very different content, and sometimes more explicit, but I do not control history. If people see a significant difference between writing about James Dean's much duller than you would imagine sex life and George Adamski allegedly paying blond teenage boys for sex while telling people they were Venusians visiting his hotel with cosmic secrets, I can only shrug and wonder. But, good news! I have finished more than ten of my book's twelve chapters, and there is not much left. Then I will have nothing to talk about!
Kevin Burns, the prolific Emmy-winning producer of such pseudohistorical and reality television programs as Curse of Oak Island and Ancient Aliens, died yesterday, according to social media posts from friends and colleagues. Burns was 65 years old.
War of the Gods: Alien Skulls, Underground Cities, and Fire from the Sky
Erich von Däniken | New Page Books | Sept. 2020 | 214 pages | ISBN: 1632651718 | $17.95
Years go by with the inevitable cycle of the seasons repeating their majestic rounds. After winter, summer. After summer, winter. And with the regularity of the season, so too does Erich von Däniken release a new book, and with the same repetition as the seasons. Each book is the same as all the books before, and each one begins with the ritual of pretending otherwise. War of the Gods, originally published in German 2018 but released in English for the first time this month, starts with a letter in which von Däniken (henceforth EVD) proclaims with great excitement news that he imagines will surprise his readers: “In this book, I present new findings!” Unfortunately, there is an ominous note: “But it is only possible by building on previous experiences.” Each winter brings a different snowstorm but you always know it will snow. So, too, do you know that whatever soupçon of new material appears in War of the Gods will be buried in a blizzard of recycling. He frequently refers to his own books, the books of guests on Ancient Aliens, and to claims made on the Ancient Aliens television show itself, recycling in an endless loop of previous claims tracing back to his own earliest efforts to recycle Morning of the Magicians to his own advantage.
On Thursday, CNN’s website ran an article on the ancient astronaut theory by Jen Rose Smith. The piece frames questions about the origins of UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Giza pyramids and the Nazca lines in terms of Erich von Däniken’s version of the ancient astronaut theory. It then devotes most of the article’s space to describing how “mainstream scientists” reject the ancient astronaut hypothesis, with lengthy quotes from archaeologist Sarah Parcak.
On the Narratively website, California college student and journalist Reed Ryley Grable provided a poignant and thought account of his father’s gradual slide into Q-Anon conspiracy madness. Grable describes his father’s growing paranoia and social isolation, and he talks eloquently about how his father’s strident conspiracy theory advocacy has alienated him from his family and his friends. While I am not particularly interested in Q-Anon conspiracies, I was neither shocked nor surprised to read Grable’s account of how Ancient Aliens served as a gateway drug leading his father from a nebulous interest in the mysterious and the bizarre to a raving world of online conspiracies.
Last week I receive a request from someone who is consulting on a documentary to take a meeting with a producer who works with Netflix about adapting one of my books into a documentary or potential documentary series. Normally, I don’t let this sort of thing get very far because it is always a huge waste of time, but since I have been stuck in quarantine, I figured it would serve as a bit of a distraction. So, we set up the meeting, and before the appointed day, I suggested that the producer should probably be aware that my work is not pro-alien. Regular readers of this blog can guess the rest. There was no meeting at the appointed hour. It wasn’t unexpected, but even so, it is disconcerting.
Ancient Aliens is not on tonight, so I am taking the day off. However, before I sign off for the day, I wanted to provide a quick overview of the week in pseudo-historical and paranormal TV. Rob Riggle: Global Investigator actually rose in the ratings for its alien-themed episode, reaching 355,000 live plus same day viewers, its highest viewer haul since moving to Thursdays. What made that more amazing is that the show rose in the ratings while airing out of prime time, in its late-night exile slot. Its total, however, was still only half of what Discovery usually pulls on Thursdays, and it still failed to outdraw the similar Forbidden History, the obscure UK import airing on the little-watched Science Channel. Its latest episode had 400,000 viewers. Curse of Oak Island was up to 3.6 million viewers this week, while Secret of Skinwalker Ranch stubbornly remained at 2.1 million. Last Saturday, Ancient Aliens clocked 1 million viewers, while The UnXplained sank to 852,000. Overall, where we should have expected to see some ratings spikes as more people are trapped indoors watching TV, instead, everything is basically the way it always is, suggesting that these shows have a relatively inelastic audience.
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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