Tonight the History Channel is rerunning its 2009 special, Ancient Aliens, which features a full-screen shot of my Skeptic magazine article, "Charioteer of the Gods" (2004), the article that formed the basis for my 2005 book, The Cult of Alien Gods: H.P. Lovecraft and Extraterrestrial Pop Culture.
In the documentary, my article is displayed full-screen as the narrator, Peter Coyote, discusses vicious "skeptics" who attacked Erich von Daniken's "bold" theory that aliens were responsible for human civilization. My article is the only piece of skeptical literature shown, and my name, clearly visible throughout the discussion, is the only one used to illustrate skeptical viewpoints.
This might have been flattering, but the producers suddenly invert my article so the text transforms from normal black text on white paper to ominous white text on black paper. While this transformation occurs, dramatic music wells up, and flaming scare quotes from other authors--never identified and therefore attributed to me--burn across my article, quotes declaiming von Dankien as a fraud and a liar, things I never said in the piece shown.
Prometheus Entertainment, the company that produced the program for the History Channel, never contacted me for permission to reproduce my work, nor did they ask me to appear to defend myself against their attacks. Attempts to reach Prometheus and the History Channel to protest their unfair treatment of me and my work were unsuccessful.
Last night I received a highly contentious email that was, unfortunately, far too typical of the type of letters I (and many other authors) receive. To give you an idea of what I receive on a daily basis, please enjoy the following letter from one of my readers. I have lightly edited the letter for space and clarity as well as to remove derogatory statements directed at my appearance.
Wow, how to describe your spurious intellectual train wreck, 'Cult of Alien Gods?' Should I start with your juvenile thesis about the decline of western civilization due to old horror stories that no one but you ever took seriously? Or perhaps the way you conveniently overlook the fact that Lovecraft wasn't writing about aliens at all (surely there's a website on-line that can 'cliff-note' you through Lovecraft's actual mythos) or your pathetically foolish notion that 'alien astronaut' investigation (as you so ineptly express it) is bogus because "it all just references each other's work" R U retarded? … [You] never have any answers of your own, or even try to formulate a half-decent explanation, you just sheepishly hide under the concretized lies of the establishment, whining about "Indians losing their cultural heritage" and so on....sad. How does acknowledging that Mayans observed the stars for 30,000 years rob them of anything? It robs you of your expensively obtained, degree-based ego-trip, and nothing else. Also, your transparent depiction of yourself as a 'true believer' turned skeptic was very superficial and contrived (not to mention exceedingly brief) you should have let somebody else, a better fictionalist, write those lies for you, then they might have been a little more convincing. Wow, you're dumb. SCARY DUMB. … I don't know what they're paying you to make an ass of yourself in print, but it's not enough. … Next morning, when I wake up and look in the mirror, I'll be saying "THANK GOD I'M NOT JASON COLAVITO!!!"
Well, that was interesting. Many of the negative letters I receive demonstrate an obsession with the faults of college degrees, which is humorous since those who know me know well how little stock I put into my own college experience. Also, though I have edited it from the letter, many writers also insist that I was somehow a miserable object of high school torment, another odd notion that I imagine says more about the writers than it does me.
Too good to pass up: According to Ben Radford at the Center for Inquiry, SyFy's Ghost Hunters International managed to find "evidence" for the ghost of Rose Hall, an apparently famous Jamaican apparition. Unfortunately, there's a catch: The White Witch never existed. She was a character in a 1929 novel of the same name. Oops.
On the other hand, if the Ghost Hunters make it over to Britain, they might be able to find equally persuasive evidence of a ghost, a vampire, and a werewolf living together on the set of BBC Three's Being Human, which wrapped up its excellent second series last night, to air later this summer in the US on BBC America. I must admit that when I read that production was moving from Bristol to Wales for next season, I had images of the three supernatural creatures piling into a U-Haul, but I was pleased to see that the transition is being handled a bit more gracefully than that.
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.