End of Semester Updates

Fall 2013 is in the books, with grades all submitted.  It was a good one, with a lot of great students, few headaches, and more ideas that worked than didn’t.

This next semester, I’ll be on sabbatical, working on a fairly massive project.  I’ll be creating a set of learning and assessment tools for our four survey classes (US History to 1877/1877 to the Present; World History to 1500/1500 to the present) and setting up an online home for them.  If you’re interested (and I can’t imagine you would be, but still) here is the application document that I submitted almost a year ago.

Talking to people, they seem to think that the hard part will be the website bit.  Actually, I’m pretty convinced that coming up with the actual materials is going to be the hard part!  I’m also not entirely sure that not being in the classroom is going to be that great–I’ll probably be missing it by the end of January.  I’ve also transitioned out of my part time professional development gig to dedicate as much time as possible to the sabbatical project, so that will be a change as well.

Additionally, I’ve got the next book project going, having signed a contract with Rowman & Littlefield to deliver a book for their series on science fiction television.  My volume will examine 1990s paranormal and conspiracy theory-themed television series as well as the ways in which these things appeared in other shows and–in general–seemed to permeate the SFTV world at the time.  Surprisingly, there are a lot of shows out there that have not been examined to any great degree.  This all extended far beyond The X-Files.

In any case, I negotiated a year to finish and deliver the book, due to the sabbatical project being priority one.  There are some other small things cooking as well and the random project name generator has been getting a workout for both announced and un-announced things.  Thus, I’ll be working on and referring to BLACK SCREWDRIVER (the book project), ENDLESS WEATHER (the sabbatical project), SLEDGEHAMMER GOLDEN (secret), EIGHTH WRENCH (secret), and SIENNA SMOKE (secret).

Have a good  Christmas, Yule, Solstice, etc.  Signing off until 2014, except for random photos and automagically generated stuff…

Books to read, things to do…

Due

So, yesterday, my copy of Posthuman Blues, Vol. II (the collected 2005-2006 writings of the late Mac Tonnies) arrived in the mail.  I’ve devoured it over the past 12 hours and enjoyed it greatly  Expect a full write-up by the end of the week.  Offhand, it filled me with a bit of nostalgia  I’d have written something by now, but it’s the end of the semester and between grading, meetings, and gearing up for my upcoming sabbatical (and its attendant project), my time is limited.

Full disclosure, PHBv2 is published by Redstar, who published my recent The Chaos Conundrum (on sale for $6.99!).  20131217 014822869 iOS I paid my own money for the book though, so no bias or bribery here!  Also, I’m kind of geeked to be featured on the back cover blurbs (pulled from my introduction to Volume 1), possibly the only time I’ll be in the same group as Cliff Pickover and John Shirley.

Speaking of the sabbatical, I’ll be writing a bit about that and what I’ll be working on over the next few months.  It certainly won’t be a vacation!

Now, back to grading and drinking too much coffee.

Jim Keith’s “Casebook on Alternative 3: UFOs, Secret Societies, and World Control”

Alt3 CoverJim Keith’s 1994 book Casebook on Alternative 3: UFOs, Secret Societies, and World Control  (hereafter CoA3) is a book I’d been meaning to pick up for a long time.  I first encountered Jim Keith on some old radios shows from back in the 1990s including Sightings on the Radio, Paranet Continuum, and Coast to Coast AM.  These interviews largely revolved around his Casebook on the Men in Black.  It wasn’t until later that I discovered the far more interesting work Keith was doing on more down-to-Earth conspiracy theories.

That’s where Alternative 3 comes in.  I’ve long been fascinated by this story.  On June 20, 1977, an episode of Anglia TV’s Science Report aired on ITV stations in the UK. This episode discussed plans for the wealthy and powerful to evacuate the planet to escape the effects of climate change and other catastrophes.  It featured interviews with family members of missing scientists, people who had been hushed up, and an American astronaut who had seen things in space that he shouldn’t have.

The closing credits make clear that this was a hoax—it was intended to be broadcast on April 1 (mentioned in the credits) but network difficulties pushed it back to the summer.  Despite the unreal nature of the film, it has a thin patina of credibility.  It has made its way on to YouTube so you can see it for yourself.

A book based on the film followed soon afterward.  One of the authors was reported to have claimed that Alternative 3 was fiction based on fact.  This sparked the thing that me the most about Alternative 3.  It persists in the conspiracy and paranormal literature as a source of fact.  I’m currently working on a conference paper (which might turn in to something larger, stay tuned…) about the interplay between conspiracy culture and rhetoric and the media based on these theories in the 1990s.  Basically, to what degree did The X-Files play off of posts on the Usenet group alt.alien.visitors and vice versa.  Alternative 3 seemed like an interesting jumping off point.

I was thrilled to find a copy of ConA3 on half.com ( in decent shape and—bonus!–t with extensive and paranoid margin Margin notes omments from the previous owner), since I enjoyed the other Jim Keith books I’d read and was interested in his take on this televisual hoax.

I was a bit surprised that Keith readily accepts the April Fools’ Day nature of the show.  He sums up his angle of approach early on: “While perfectly secure in my knowledge that the TV show and the book are basically yellow journalism using scare tactics to makes a pound, I am a little shocked to realize that, at most levels anyway, the revelations of Alternative 3 are also true” (13).  Keith, in total, spends remarkably little time on the core text of Alternative 3.  Rather, he uses the themes of the show/book as a launching pad for discussing a variety of conspiratorial themes including mind control, Project Paperclip and Nazi influence on the American intelligence community, government sponsored drug trafficking, the use of the “UFO” phenomenon as a cover for various types of conspiratorial skullduggery, and so on.  

Keith’s book, then, is much more of a hodgepodge than I would have liked, although it was very well written and fairly well sourced (certainly as well-sourced as conspiracy texts usually are).  I was a bit disappointed by the book’s reiteration of well-worn themes (part of this is my fault—I’d read Keith’s Mind Control World Control and other books previously) but some of the themes he addresses were addressed in his previously published books Secret and Suppressed and Black Helicopters over America.  The inclusion of Alternative 3 is limited to the point of feeling a bit gimmicky—more of a selling point than a true and solid focus.

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This is not to say that CoA3 isn’t worth reading.  On one level, there is some good information about government coverups, corporate misdealings, and the like.  As a primary source for understanding approaches to conspiarcy theory in the 1990s it is excellent.  I’m still in the process of doing up some of the research for this conference paper but I’m increasingly intrigued by the adoption of Alternative 3 as a sub rosa disclosure of a wide variety of hidden truths.  One of the things I’m interested in is the place of Keith’s book in this strand of thought.  He does relate some of the writing of conspiracy personality Mae Brussell, who believed Alternative 3 to contain truth.  Keith quotes her saying the following on her radio program in 1977:

Now the thing about …Alternative 3 is that I’ve received many manuscripts and books from listeners throughout the years… but I can’t remember in 15 years of ever having a (physical) reaction…

This book made me nauseous and I wanted to vomit, and I wanted to faint. I wanted to cry, I wanted to bang the walls down, I literally had the shakes for about a week. It was so scary because it just could be the bottom line of these conspiracies.’

I believe it probably is the most important book I’ve read in many, many years…’

I don’t have any doubt in my mind that this is a very dangerous document to have, probably the most dangerous thing which I possess in my library at this point, and the only thing that will relieve the danger is to share it and disseminate the information… 

‘It’s the one book that puts into focus all the books and articles which I have received for the last fifteen years (Ibid).

Jim Keith’s considerable audience and reach would seem to indicate that CoA3 would have been an important link in this chain of incorporating the Alternative 3 text into the broader canon of conspiracy theory.

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The Chaos Conundrum: Now Available!

The Chaos Conundrum: “‘A compelling and very personal look at the impact the paranormal has had on the way we view ourselves and the world in which we live.'”

NTHUMBNAIL IMAGEOW AVAILABLE from the Redstar books online store, on Amazon in a few days, and in e-book versions as soon as we possible can. Nick Redfern, prolific author on the paranormal calls it, in his foreword, “A major contribution to paranormal research and observation.”

(I, of course, would never doubt the judgement of Nick Redfern :)

Writer and filmmaker Paul Kimball (who, through his wonderful work in editing the book, knows as much about what’s in it as I do), says that it is “A compelling and very personal look at the impact the paranormal has had on the way we view ourselves and the world in which we live.”

Personally, I’m excited to have this out there.  It’s an eclectic book, but Paul Kimball’s edits and suggestions made the book much more cohesive and compelling that it might otherwise have been.  It was the most thorough editing relationship I’ve had since graduate school and the book is much stronger for it.

There are some photos, ranging from a strange radio tower in downtown Flint to a family picture from 1932.  I look at everything from Roswell (ugh!) to the connections between religion, the paranormal, and extremist politics.  The best way I can describe this book (and one that I’ve used in conversations with friends) is that The Chaos Conundrum is what you’d get if you sat me down, bought me a beer and said, “Okay- what do you think about all of this?”

That said, it’s not what you’re expecting.  Honestly, it’s not what I was expecting when I started writing it.  But, in a way, it’s the sort of book I’d wanted to write for a very long time.

BUY IT HERE! (From Redstar)

BUY IT HERE! (From Amazon)

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The Chaos Conundrum- More information on the new book

To the right is the cover to my new book, due out in time for the holiday shopping season.

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I’m excited about this one, not least because it contains a foreword by Nick Redfern, one of the greatest authors on paranormal issues in the world today (not hyperbole, seriously).  From the foreword:

Aaron Gulyas’ The Chaos Conundrum is a thoughtful, and thought-provoking, compilation of papers on a wide variety of paranormal phenomena. Or, as it’s collectively known in circles where the unusual is typically the usual: profoundly weird stuff. A cursory glance at the titles of the essays, and their attendant subject matters, might make some readers assume they are stand-alone pieces with no connecting or unifying parts. Well, those souls would be wrong. Actually, they would be dead wrong.

The connection is not so much the issues and topics that Gulyas places under his supernatural microscope. Rather, it is the fact that the essays all invite us to do one thing: address and consider alternative theories, paradigms, and ideas to those that the established figures of the paranormal would prefer we adhere to.

I invite you to indulge yourself in the work of a man who has made a major contribution to the domain of paranormal research, writing and observation.

Read it, consider it, and learn from it. Just don’t be an ostrich about it.

See, that’s pretty dang cool, right there.

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This is a pretty diverse collection of essays on everything ranging from UFOs to religion to achaeoacoustics, which is pretty interesting.  I also get to talk a bit about Gray Barker, who I touched on briefly in Extraterrestrials and the American Zeitgeist.  As I wrote about here, a couple years back, visiting the collection of his papers in West Virginia was an incredible experience and it was nice to be able to write about his work and its effect on me from a more personal perspective.

This one has been a much more intensive and compressed writing experience and the editing has been a really nice experience, with Paul Kimball of Redstar providing some great insights.

At this point, I’m thinking this may be my last (or close to my last) word on the paranormal for a while (at least in this particular form).  I’m really looking forward to this one hitting the streets.

 

My Pseudohistory talk from Midwest PCA

Harappa seals

“Harappa Seals” by Flickr user germeister, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Over here (link!) and under the “Papers and Presentations” menu above is what is more or less the bones of the paper I presented at the Midwest PCA conference last week in St. Louis.  I deviated a bit (went over time–sorry, fellow panelists) and–more than anything else–came to the conclusion that this is something I need to return to, probably in the course of working on the largely top secret PROJECT MADOC.

If pseudohistory and its debunking is something you’re interest in, the two places I would send you before anything else are to the site of writer Jason Colavito (@jasoncolavito) and also to the website for a course on Pseudo-archaeology taught by Michigan State archeology professor Ethan Watrall (@captain_primate).  These are two folks who have been (whether they know it or not) an enormous help as I look into these things.