Did something happen to the pseudo-archaeology and pseudo-history writers over the past few months? It seems that one by one, the lights have gone out, and there is increasingly less to write about their follies and fictions. I don’t mean to imply that there is no pseudo-history on offer—YouTube, Sputnik, and the British tabloids see to it that this is never the case—but the high-profile, quasi-professional material seems to be slipping into a fallow period. If I had to guess, I’d say that the current political situation is sucking all of the air out of the room and leaving no space for other topics to gain traction.
I glanced at the major fringe history magazines and discovered that they are not really covering much history nowadays. Atlantis Rising devoted itself to satellite warfare in its current edition, while Nexus has increasingly moved toward psychedelic and alternative physics topics. The Fortean Times hasn’t had a good story about ancient history in months, mostly being a collection of ghost stories and monster tales that even that magazine doesn’t pretend to actually believe anymore.
The stars of Ancient Aliens have been mostly silent. Few of them have updated their websites or blogs in weeks or months, or in the case David Childress, years. Giorgio Tsoukalos only tweets self-promotion now. David Wilcock, who did not appear in the last batch of Ancient Aliens episodes, now blathers incoherently about right-wing fantasies of mass arrests of liberals and his recent claim that conspirators working with space aliens tried to assassinate Donald Trump, who heroically failed to die. He says he is now all-in on the Q-Anon conspiracy and that his “sources” will have “something big” to share soon. He is the Lindsey Graham of Ancient Aliens. Even L. A. Marzulli is off of ancient history and giants and focused now on proving that space aliens are really Fallen Angels in a series of books and DVDs. He recently described holding a so-called alien implant some guy had extracted. “I was amazed as I was holding in my hand an object that may have originated from the domain of the Fallen Angels. I held the object close to my eyes and examined it. Fallen Angel technology/Nephilim Architecture I thought. This would be a term I would later coin and use in my books, DVDs and lectures.” But did he trademark it? Satan is all about securing intellectual property rights; after all, the laws are practically demoniacal in their complexity. I do not trust these implant stories. I had one in my finger for about seven years. It looked just like the one seen on TV, but it was not alien. It was a shard from a lamp that embedded in my finger. The doctor missed it at the time of injury, and it did not show up clearly on the first x-ray. After continued pain, an x-ray two years later found it, but in those days I lacked the money for surgery to remove it (having a crappy bare-bones insurance plan that only payed a percentage), and it took several more years for it to work its way out. It popped out one day all on its own. I still have the lamp, but if I had not watched the lamp spike me, it would have been a mystery metal shard as far as anyone knew.
Anyway, as best I can tell, none of the major alternative history authors has a new book in current release, and the last (from Erich von Däniken) came out in the spring, and the next on the release schedule (from Graham Hancock) isn’t due until next year. I checked with the regular publishers of such works. Inner Traditions has no new fringe history books available for prepublication review, and New Page Books hasn’t updated its release schedule or listings since the spring. The websites for journalists providing access to galley proofs and prerelease digital preprints lists nothing for the next six months that falls within my purview. This, of course, doesn’t mean that there won’t be any, only that publishers are not making any such releases available for review. Even the fiftieth anniversary edition of Chariots of the Gods, which was supposed to have received a lavish launch this summer, disappeared into the ether. The hardcover rerelease came out in July without so much as a press release, and the publisher declined to send me a copy.
It’s just as well. Way back in the 1970s, Erich von Däniken promised to correct mistakes in Chariots that he admitted were errors. The new edition has not changed those errors a half century on. To be fair, he does finally acknowledge the errors in a new foreword, but not without bitterness. Upset that the supposedly unrusting pillar of iron in Delhi that he trumpeted in Chariots is actually rusting, he calls the monument a “piece of junk.”
The only new material is the author’s new foreword, written earlier this year. It was a disappointing performance. Instead of writing something useful or interesting, or even just reflecting on his own career as a spokesman for the absurd, von Däniken tossed off the laziest possible foreword, retelling the familiar story (well-known from his earlier books and interviews) of how he came to write Chariots after deciding that God’s ultimate transcendence meant that he could not be the material actor of the Mosaic narrative. His desire to cast his quest in religious terms, prominent since the 1980s, is on full display, as he writes about his “religious doubts” and his effort to root out aliens in order to discover the true power and majesty of the One True God. It’s a story he tells with clockwork regularity.
The publisher clearly didn’t give a hoot about the foreword either. About half of the “new” foreword retells information about the genesis of Chariots contained in the second foreword, written in 1999, and appearing on the very next page. Comparisons between the two show that in his dotage, von Däniken has lost much of his ability to tell a story coherently and with depth and detail. Why the publisher was happy to have an inferior copy of the same material added I can’t imagine. The person they had translate the new pages—German-born Ingeborg Venus, the director of postgraduate research at Yale (!! and, sigh)—did a less than ideal job, and even an ancient astronaut theorist should be able to see that where the translator makes the author speak of “old Greek” texts of the Bible, the “Ancient Greek” language (as opposed to modern Greek) is meant. (Von Däniken was referring to the Septuagint.) The publisher also let von Däniken get away with whitewashing his personal history, telling the story of his hotel management job and his world travels to “research” the book without acknowledging that he did so on embezzled money and that he was convicted of the crime and spent his jail time writing his second book.
All in all, it’s probably for the best that the anniversary edition of Chariots failed to attract any attention.
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.
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