Over the last year, my former literary agent sent me outlandish descriptions of the various reasons publishers gave for rejecting my book. Frankly, I always had it in the back of my mind that he was making them up. When publishers told him that in “this political climate” a book about a queer topic was inadvisable, or when an editor claimed that there was no reason to ever mention James Dean’s sexuality again because it had been discussed in 1975, I wondered if this could possibly be serious. Then this week I received the most dispiriting of rejections, one that left me flabbergasted.
This morning, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities held a hearing on unidentified aerial phenomena, i.e. UFOs. The most newsworthy statement came from the director of the Pentagon’s All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office, Sean Kirkpatrick, who told senators: “I should also state clearly for the record, that in our research AARO has found no credible evidence thus far of extraterrestrial activity, off-world technology, or objects that defy the known laws of physics.” Kirkpatrick made this statement after writing a paper with Galileo Project director Avi Loeb speculating that these same UFOs that show no evidence of extraterrestrial, physics-defying traits nevertheless could be probes sent by an alien “mothership.” After the hearing ended, members of the public watching the hearing offered Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the driving force behind the Senate’s UFO efforts, stories about their own UFO interests and encounters, and one man gave her a copy of his UFO book.
Regular readers will remember that former New York Times reporter Ralph Blumenthal published a book about alien abduction researcher John Mack two years ago in which Blumenthal concluded, preposterously, that Mack was a heroic figure whose transcendent greatness would transform humanity—by talking about aliens probing people’s butts. Blumenthal’s current claim to fame is his role in writing the 2017 Times story that set off the current round UFO mania that will see the U.S. Senate take up another UFO-themed hearing next week as the Pentagon’s new UFO office continues its interviews of looney tunes ufologists at the behest of a handful of UFO-addled legislators.
Two centuries ago, the clergyman and antiquary John Bathurst Deane published The Worship of the Serpent (1830), which attempted to explain the entirety of non-Abrahamic religions worldwide as a unified, prehistoric serpent cult descended from the first idolaters, who worshiped the Serpent from the Garden of Eden, i.e. Satan. To make the claim, Deane took an exceedingly common motif—serpents, after all, can be found everywhere and appear regularly in myths and art as a result—and abstracted from it a unified faith that didn’t exist.
This week, I took the difficult step of separating from my literary agent after he was unable to place my book with a publisher and had fallen out of a communication with me since late last year. I did not take this step lightly, but going forward, I realize that I need more aggressive and supportive representation for my manuscript if I am to make a success of it. My now-former agent said, in his parting message, that he surveyed other agents who agreed that publishers are not interested in the “Americana” field and have difficulty seeing a book about celebrity as “serious,” which tells me that my agent was probably not selling my book on its strongest or most relevant points. I have some potential plans and options for moving forward, but in the meantime, I will be taking some time to revise the manuscript to make it the best-documented book about James Dean every written, not least so no one can challenge my conclusions on the facts.
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I felt a sense of relief this week when I discovered that Ancient Aliens wouldn’t be airing a new episode. On the other hand, it leaves me with little to write about. It’s been a very slow season for alternative history, the paranormal, and UFOs. I’m not sure why. I wonder if part of the reason is that most of the lower-tier TV series that used to drive the conversation have moved from cable to streaming, where they are locked behind paywalls and harder to see. (That may change when Discovery+ merges with HBO Max and I get bombed with them against my will.) Another factor may be the move away from traditional media outlets toward social media. Less material gets the full TV / book / magazine treatment and instead burns out quickly in a Reddit thread, a TikTok video, or a tweet storm. In my own little corner of the world, ever since Inner Traditions stopped sharing galleys for their upcoming titles, I’ve seen many fewer fringe books. But even Inner Traditions, the largest occult history publisher, has virtually stopped publishing fringe archaeology and has returned to its traditional specialty, New Age occultism.
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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