The History Channel has canceled the semi-annual Alien Con after nearly a decade. A representative told New York Post journalist Steven Greenstreet that the company would instead focus on its Ancient Aliens and Secret of Skinwalker Ranch touring live shows because they make more money. “We make money on the tours,” a spokesperson for History’s parent company, A+E Networks, said. And of course they do. The traveling shows feature a few guys sitting in chairs, and even orthopedic chairs cost less than all the overhead that goes into putting on a full convention with all the trimmings, especially as the shows’ ratings decline and the incentive to travel a thousand miles to a convention declines. It’s much easier to get casually interested audiences to go to a local show.
Longtime UFO huckster Jaime Maussan showed the Mexican Congress two alleged “fossilized” alien bodies whose “DNA” was one-third “unidentified” in a presentation attended by Mexican and U.S. officials. Maussan claimed the bodies had been recovered near Cusco, Peru and had been carbon-dated to at least 700 years ago. They looked very much like crude clay sculptures of Steven Spielberg’s E.T., and an x-ray showed small bones embedded within them. (Previous, similar fakes were made from the bones of human fetuses and/or animals, some looted from graves; experts identified these fakes as sand-covered paper mâché over animal bones.) The bodies were first publicized in 2017. At the time, the World Congress on Mummy Studies declared them a fraud. Avi Loeb, who told the Telegraph this week that his critics are mostly “bloggers” who aren’t fit to judge him, judged Maussan via video link and requested that scientists be allowed to study the alien bodies, something he hasn’t yet allowed for his own alleged extraterrestrial discovery. The Mexican UFO hearing occurred shortly after Jesse Michels released a multi-hour interview with U.S. UFO “whistleblower” David Grusch, who endorsed various Majestic-12-style conspiracy theories and speculated about a number of Ancient Aliens-style ancient astronaut hypotheses.
Nicolas Binge | Riverhead | 2023 | 352 pages | ISBN: 9780593539583 | $27
British novelist Nicholas Binge’s first American release, Ascension, garnered a large number of reviews because of its irresistible hook: In 1991, a mountain taller than Everest suddenly appears in the Pacific and a mysterious organization assembles a crack team of explorers to uncover a cosmic secret lurking upon its icy summit. Told in flashback as a series of increasingly bizarre letters from a possibly unreliable narrator, Ascension had all the elements to be an exciting, mind-blowing exploration of the uncanny and the unknown. However, the book ultimately proves itself to be a derivative remix of familiar tropes, married to paper-thin characters that alternate between unpleasant and unbelievable. When one character triumphantly notes that no one had noticed his frequent absences, I shrugged because the writing paid so little attention to the characters none of them was noteworthy a absence.
The frame story involves the discovery that scientist Harold Tunmore is not dead, as his brother had presumed, but has spent three decades locked in a mental hospital. When the brothers reunite, Tunmore promptly dies, leaving behind a series of letters written in the 1990s. The letters form the bulk of the novel, outlining how Tunmore came to be recruited to explore the new mountain alongside a team of forgettable, mostly military, associates, including his ex-wife. As the story progresses, tentacled Lovecraftian monsters pick off the crew one by one as a cosmic mystery involving the mystery of life unfolds and Tunmore reckons with the poor decisions he made in the run-up to and aftermath of the death of his adopted son years earlier and the collapse of his marriage. The story becomes, then, an effort to achieve emotional closure in the face of transmundane horror, paralleling the life of a family and fate of humanity—and it is no spoiler to recall that in the prologue set after these events, Tunmore’s mind is already shattered. The symbolism in the novel is, let’s say, not subtle.
A fair warning: The rest of this review will contain spoilers. If you plan to read Ascension, save the rest of this discussion until you’ve finished the novel.
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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