This morning the Washington Post ran a review of a collection of century-old science fiction novellas by the relatively unknown Franco-Belgian SF novelist J.-H. de Ronsy (actually a pair of brothers writing under one name*). One of the three novellas making up the collection Three Science Fiction Novellas: From Prehistory to the End of Mankind (Wesleyan Early Classics of Science Fiction) is called "The Xipéhuz" (1887) and concerns the appearance in pre-Sumerian Mesopotamia of mysterious extraterrestrial beings composed of energy and communicating through light.
I had never heard of these ancient astronauts prior to today's review, and it appears that the story has only rarely appeared in English, primarily in a 1970s edition and the current Wesleyan one. Obviously, the Lovecraftian echoes in the description made me eager to find out more.
Fortunately for all of us, the Theosophists found the story a good fit for their weird theory that SF authors were channeling Theosophical truth subconsciously from a parallel universe, so in 1903 they produced a detailed précis of the novella, which I have posted here.
The anticipation of Lovecraft's many and varied monsters--Yog Sothoth and the Great Race come first to mind--is obvious. But the idea of a ring of beings godlike in their power anticipates, too, what we have learned about Gobekli Tepe, whose rings of standing stones were meant as stylized depictions of the gods. Surely ancient people really did stand amidst circles of "gods" (i.e., the stones) and imagine themselves communing with the world beyond worlds.
What is perhaps most amazing of all is that the novella displays infinitely more imagination than anything the ancient astronaut theorists have come up with.
* Just to make it more fun, after 1909 they started writing separately as J.-H. Rosny "aine" (senior) and "jeune" (junior).
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.