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.
Weekend Omnibus: Younger Dryas Volcano, Elon Musk's Ancient Astronaut Tweet, Steve Quayle's Plagiarism, and More!
Yesterday was an extraordinary day for news of interest to my readers. Let’s take a brief survey of just some of the things that happened.
I’ll put the science first. A new study in Science Advances concludes that the global cooling triggered during the Younger Dryas was not the work of a comet or meteor but was instead brought on by volcanic activity. From the press release announcing the study late yesterday:
I had intended to write a full blog post today, but this week turned into a series of bad news leading to worse. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on my household's employment and finances, and a literal midnight email about mandatory pay cuts and furloughs will only make it worse. I was not in the mood to blog. However, I did feel up to working on the proposal for a new book I have decided to write, based on my recent article about Rebel without a Cause and the three 1947 national panics over communists, gays, and UFOs that turned out to be deeply interconnected.
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.
If you are a regular reader of Graham Hancock’s website, you know that he offers a slot each month to a fellow fringe author to promote their oddball claims and newest books. You have probably also noticed that a growing number of these articles involve ancient astronauts. While Hancock insists that these featured slots don’t constitute endorsements, it’s nevertheless true that Hancock is giving significant exposure to increasingly extreme content. The latest article is a summary of Bruce Fenton’s new book Exogenesis: Hybrid Humans, which argues that humanity is the result of a genetic experiment conducted by space aliens 780,000 years ago. The book carries an endorsement and foreword from Erich von Däniken, the most famous ancient astronaut theorist. Von Däniken famously argued that space aliens had sex with apelike human ancestors to create humans, and that their first foray resulted in the Black race, which they considered a failure and replaced with whites.
If you can believe it, this is my 3,000th blog post. What better way to mark this milestone than with an episode of a cable TV pseudohistory show featuring ancient astronauts, lost civilizations, Nephilim, the occult, and glowing descriptions of Nazis? It’s everything we have criticized and debunked over the past ten years in capsule form.
Over on Graham Hancock’s website, Hancock has published the latest in a series of articles by Shawn Hamilton making some extreme claims about the Hopi. Hamilton is nothing special as far as fringe history believers go. Forty years ago, he worked with Oswald “White Bear” Fredericks, a Hopi who was heavily influenced by postwar pop culture and New Age ideas when he told an idiosyncratic version of Hopi mythology to Frank Waters in the 1960s. I have discussed White Bear’s ideas many times, but the issue, as I wrote previously, is that his version of Hopi mythology does not correlate with versions recorded prior to the 1960s, but does correlate with pseudohistory books of the preceding years. He talks about Atlantis by name, for Pete’s sake, so it’s fairly clear that he wasn’t drawing on unadulterated ancestral truths. His mythology, I wrote in 2016, was:
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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