This weekend, fringe history believers gathered in Colorado for the Earth-Keeper Star-Gate Conference, which was scheduled to see lectures from some of fringe history’s biggest names: Graham Hancock, Giorgio Tsoukalos, Robert Schoch, Scott Wolter, and William Henry. The event was auspicious, organizers said, because they used astrology to plan its time and date. Tickets ran $488 for a four-day pass ($555 for “premium” access), but entry did not include the extra fees for one of eleven “master healers” to use “earth energies” and “crystals” on attendees in private session. The speakers all planned to deliver their standard spiel keyed to repeating claims from their latest books, TV shows, and web appearances. Giorgio Tsoukalos promised to hold a book signing, which must be quite a feat considering he has never written one.
Since the publicity materials promised no new material to come out of the conference, I thought I’d instead talk about one of the overarching themes of my research in light of an article I read last night. I’ve frequently pointed out the way the science, pseudoscience, and speculative fiction feed into one another. Thus, Helena Blavatsky could claim that science fiction writers were channeling ancient truths of Theosophy, while ancient astronaut theorists could blithely cite H. P. Lovecraft as proof of prehistoric contact with space aliens, while Lovecraft drew on Blavatsky’s Theosophy. These sorts of connections are so commonplace in fringe history that we see them even in my first paragraph today: The “Star-Gate Conference” takes its name from the 1994 movie Stargate, which spawned an entire sub-field of the ancient astronaut theory by depicting a portal to an Egypt-themed alien planet.
Our example today comes from the field of the Gothic, where Anne Rice made her name writing vampire fiction. She turned to Christian fan fiction for a while before going back to her vampires, and her new novel has the vampire Lestat from Interview with the Vampire visiting the lost continent of Atlantis. Why Atlantis? I turns out that Anne Rice is a fan of Graham Hancock. She told Atlas Obscura that she researched her book by “reading books by Graham Hancock on catastrophe theory.” Rice said that the Atlantean research she conducted inspired her to write more: “I want very much to go on with the story of the survivors of Atlantis and the vampires,” she said.
This prompted me to look into Rice’s connection to Hancock a bit more. It turns out that she gave a blurb to Hancock’s last book, Magicians of the Gods, recommending it: “I do so recommend this book. Hancock is an enchanting writer, and such a curious and thoughtful and intuitive investigator of the mysteries.” Since Hancock wrote about me in that book, I guess that means Anne Rice knows about me! On the other hand, Hancock trashes me in the book, so there’s that.
It’s a little weird that Anne Rice would be a huge Hancock buff, if only because the strange version of history that Hancock provides is essentially the opposite of Rice’s own (current) belief in God and Christ. (She has been an atheist, a Catholic, and simply spiritual at various points in her life.) Hancock literalizes mythologies, turning angels and demons into prehistoric white inhabitants of Atlantis, reducing the narrative of Genesis to an amnesiac’s misremembered time in Atlantis, and leaving no room for Father, Son or Holy Ghost, the heavenly host or the community of the saints. Perhaps the answer is that Rice now rejects formal Christianity in favor of her own idiosyncratic belief in God and Christ. She said in the past that the core of her faith “was the sense, profound and wordless, that if He knew everything I did not have to know everything, and that, in seeking to know everything, I'd been, all of my life, missing the entire point.” To that end, Hancock’s threadbare mysteries seem to be an extension of faith, a hope that there are unknown realms beyond the mundane world—and that, to whatever extent, mirrors Rice’s lifelong belief that literature is a sort of analog to religion, a way to escape the limits of time and space. “Fantasy fiction embraces the highest literary values: plot, spectacle, suspense, great persons, tragedy, pity, catharsis,” she told Atlas Obscura. Perhaps, then, Hancock’s moralizing view of history, of great civilizations brought low by powers beyond their control, and of the damage wrought by rejected ancient and sacred spiritual truths, appeals to that instinct in Rice. Hancock give us history as a simple story, rather than a messy account of the complexities that occur when there is no hand guiding the tale.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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