I wanted to let you know briefly that I will not likely be posting much for the next week. The publisher of my Legends of the Pyramids has returned the typeset manuscript to me for proofreading and indexing. This is a time-consuming process, and they have given me far less time than comfortable to complete this work while also doing my actual job. Since I need to complete at least 15 pages per day to make the deadline, I will not have time to write blog posts on top of everything else. I hate indexing, but I loathe the idea of hiring an indexer who will charge more money to index the book than I will ever make back in royalties.
After some final discussions with the last people on my team to weigh in on the title for my new book, we have come to an agreement on the working title we will be using:
Yes, it's different than the one I though we would be going with just this morning, but I like it. It recalls the sort of melodramatic titles that 1950s movies had: Rebel without a Cause, All That Heaven Allows, The Day the Earth Stood Still, etc. The next step will be sending the proposal and manuscript to editors, which should take place this week.
As part of my book research, I came across several references to the suicide of either one or two girls in Hamburg, Germany sometime between 1959 and 1964, connected in some way to James Dean. They were said to have killed themselves, as David Dalton put it in his 1974 biography of James Dean, "on the anniversary of his death, leaving a note to their parents that 'this was the anniversary of the day Jimmy died and life was intolerable without him.'" James Howett repeated the story, in briefer form, in his 1975 biography, obviously copying from either Dalton or their common source. The lack of primary sources and citations led me to think the story was an urban legend, but it turns out to be true (though Dalton recounts details incorrectly), and worse than Dalton summarizes. Since no English source seems to have reported the account given by the Germans, I want to make it available after reading it today.
For years now, I have ended each trip around the sun with a summary of the preceding twelve months in fringe history, space aliens, and the weird. Most years, these summaries run into the thousands of words because so much happened. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic and the American presidential election severely curtailed the number of extreme claims made about ancient history, as conspiracy theorists turned their attention toward disease and politics. Last year, I said I was ready for a long, difficult year to end, and now those look like the good old days. This year I published a new book and wrote two more, and I look forward to what I hope will be big things next year when publishers get a look at my newest manuscript. In the meantime, we can look back in sadness and anger.
After so much work and so much effort, it’s hard to believe that I am closing in on the end of my new book. As I come to the end, though, I have a few areas where I have to come to some decisions about how to present contradictory information. One particular question that keeps coming up revolves around the role that books played in James Dean’s life. I’ve mentioned this before, but the insistence in the literature that he didn’t actually read books sticks in my craw. I’m not sure why. It doesn’t really make a lot of difference, but the insistence against what seems to me to be plain fact bothers me. Since I can’t reconcile quite clearly opposed testimonials, I had to decide which to throw out.
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!
I have now sent my agent the final revision to my book proposal for my book about James Dean, flying saucers, and midcentury panics. My agent seems confident that publishers will be interested, and it is out of my hands now. I imagine this is the point when I urge Apollo and the Muses to intervene. “Happy is he whom the Muses love: sweet flows speech from his lips. Hail, children of Zeus! Give honor to my song!”
My first and most influential book, The Cult of Alien Gods: H. P. Lovecraft and Extraterrestrial Pop Culture, was published fifteen years ago this week. In the crush of work on my two new books, I nearly neglected to mark this important anniversary. When I published the book back in 2005, I received heavy criticism both from those interested in H. P. Lovecraft and those interested in space aliens. Both groups felt I had done a disservice to them by explaining how the modern ancient astronaut theory grew out of the influence of Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos on the authors of one of the hypothesis's key texts, Morning of the Magicians. But now, after all this time, this conclusion is so widely accepted that some who discuss it no longer credit it to me, for it has passed into the realm of fact. It is an honor, I suppose.
The Cult of Alien Gods is not perfect, nor is it the book I would write today. I was only twenty-three when I wrote the book, twenty-four when it was published. Despite selling thousands of copies, I have never seen a dime of profit from that book. (I earned some initial royalties which did not cover the costs incurred writing the book, and since then the magic of accounting has kept the book perpetually shy of the threshold for receiving a check.) Nevertheless, it both made my reputation and locked me into a niche from which I only now have a chance to grow beyond.
I have mixed feelings about this anniversary. For the realm of the mind and for the historical record, it is good that I wrote the book. Without it, I would never have discovered so many secrets about history and culture. But I do wonder if I had held off whether I might have been able to grow my career in a more mainstream direction. I can remember how proud I was of having a published book when I applied for jobs in publishing back in 2005, 2006, and 2007, only to have editors turn up their noses. They published literature, you see, and I wrote about déclassé aliens. They couldn't have me on their staff lest I corrupt their Olympian literary taste. Yeah, but you can Google my name and see how many people have built on what I've done. No one knows who any of those editors are.
My recent book The Mound Builder Myth is now available in audio book format, narrated by Charles Henderson Norman. The audio edition runs eleven hours and eight minutes. The publisher did not share the audio version with me, so I have only heard the brief sample available through Audible.com. Not being an aficionado of audio books, I cannot say whether this is typical of the narration of others. I would have preferred a more emotional reading with a greater range of vocal intonation, to match the dramatic rhythm with which I wrote. But that is just me.
In other news, I completed my review of the edited manuscript of Legends of the Pyramids and returned it to the publisher for typesetting. I also wrote a new overview for my James Dean/flying saucer book proposal and am waiting for my agent's office to finish their review to see if I hit the mark for a more personal and passionate case for the book. I hope to hear back on final changes this weekend.
Since I am working on my books and not blogging this week, I am cross-posting my newsletter news items for those who do not subscribe.
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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