Tag Archives: history

A “Spectral Turn”?

From Cambridge’s Department of Geography’s page on Ghost Species: Geographies of Absence and Extinction:

This project explores the idea that there is a spectre haunting conservation policies in the twenty-first century: the spectre of absence. Drawing on the recent ‘spectral turn’ in the humanities and social sciences, this project brings something new to debates about extinction, de-extinction, and restoration. When viewed through the lens of spectral geography, absence is not a lack of something – the opposite of presence. Rather, absence is powerful – it reverberates through landscapes and memories (‘gone but not forgotten’) and disturbs the ‘when’ of spatiotemporal experience and the ‘how’ of perception. This animation of absence has implications for conservation policy in two distinct ways.

Since I’m not exactly plugged into cutting edge research I was not particularly aware there was a “spectral turn” taking place in the humanities and social sciences, but I’m not surprised. Looking around for more, I found a number of recent scholarly journal articles (most behind paywalls) about hauntological subjects—the atemporality that I discuss in The Chaos Conundrum and that others have seen at work on the fringiest of popular culture.

At the very least, this Ghost Species project looks fascinating. The next decade or so should see some exciting scholarly works.

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Suburbia and Saucers

Salon has a reasonably good piece up entitled Weird suburbia: How atomic bombs and UFOs created modern America, which is an excerpt from Welcome to Mars: Politics, Pop Culture, and Weird Science in 1950s America by Ken Hollings. It’s a nice introduction to the relationship between suburban growth, the military-industrial complex, and the RAND-style thinktank culture that dominated the postwar west. A snippet:

The Atomic energy Commission and Project RAND are soon studying the flying saucers, AeC chairman David Lilienthal going so far as to make a public statement discounting any direct relationship between such sightings and the effects of atomic radiation. However, the main connection between the saucers and the emergent military-industrial complex will inevitably be supplied by the United States Air Force: an organization that has had to wait until now for an Act of Congress to bring it into being. The 1947 National Security Act does as much to recalibrate the American war machine as von Neumann and Morgenstern’s Theory of Games and Economic Behavior. 

I will be interested to read Hollings’s book, not least because there might be (should be?) some overlap with my Extraterrestrials and the American Zeitgeist: Alien Contact Tales Since the 1950s. The 50s seem like they’ve been done to death by historians and pop culture scholars, but the overwhelming view of the era as Leave it to Beaver seems to persist for the general public.   

In any case, Hollings’s book is now on my to-read list. I hope I remember to look at my to-read list at some point…

Hat-tip to The Anomalist for pointing me to the Salon article.

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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…

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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.

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Interview, and a December Sale!

Rank commerce!

Through end of December, you can snag The Chaos Conundrum for only $6.99 right here!

Also, there’s now an easily listenable Youtubified version of my recent interview on Where Did the Road Go? with Seriah Azkath.  It’s embedded below for your convenience.

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Archaeoacoustics: Some Background

In The Chaos Conundrum I wrote a bit about archaeoacousitcs, the emerging science (or pseudoscience) of flooding ancient sites with wide-spectrum noise in an attempt to gauge how it was used (aurally, anyway) centuries or millennia ago.

Paul Devereux and Jon Wozencroft have done a lot of work on this, and there’s some interesting information about the procedure here. I first heard of this from a post on writer Warren Ellis’s website a few years ago (this one here, I believe).

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Saturday Night

The Mott Foundation Building- Flint, Michigan
The Mott Foundation Building- Flint, Michigan

It’s a Saturday night and this post is mostly to test out some automation stuff at a time when few(er) people are probably paying attention…

The picture to the right is of the Mott Foundation Building in Flint, Michigan.   I took the photo last night, around 11:00 PM, and cranked it about in Instagram to make it look a bit more faux-vintage.  I talk about some of the implications of this sort of atemporal treatment in The Chaos Conundrum of course, but I remain amazed at how easy it is to make these sorts of changes to photos.

As an historian, I find this a bit disconcerting–If new things can be made to so easily resemble old things, the old stuff may lose a bit of its cool-ness.  I don’t have any worries that it will lead to historical hoaxing (at least not any successful hoaxes) but…

Shocking slide of a Transformers cartoon DVD!
Shocking slide of a Transformers cartoon DVD!

The discussion, of late, about alleged slides of the Roswell aliens lead me to consider the uses of modern technology to create a new, previously-nonexistent past.  Now, slides are a physical thing and (the coolness of 3-D printing aside) there’s little danger that the physical slides could be successfully recreated.  But–and I’m really cynical here–the need to produce slides would come after a lot of the actual money and publicity had been garnered by…whoever.  Put some suitably manipulated pics online, drum up some interest, gain some notoriety, and then cash in.  Now, it’s UFOlogy, so the cash in question is pretty limited, but it’d be fun to pull a hoax like this, if I had nothing else to do.

Note: I’m not saying the current Roswell slide thing is a hoax–I’m just using it as an example of how modern digital photo trends could lend themselves to this sort of thing.  

Anyway, some things I’m thinking about tonight, between watching old Transformers cartoons and trying to decide whether I should grade papers tonight or tomorrow.

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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)

Chaos cover3a

 

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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.

 

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Mac Tonnies: 20 August 1975 – 18 October 2009

macstartimageToday is the anniversary of Mac’s death, four years ago.  He was a huge inspiration–an example of the keenest minds being able to find something interesting and useful in the morass of flying saucerdom.  At the same time, his work always shows us that the keenest minds also know that there is so much more than saucers, abductions, aliens, whatever.

Without Mac’s writing and commentary (as well as the work of of Paul Kimball, Greg Bishop, and others in that general orbit), I probably would have not gotten back into looking at the relationship between paranormal belief, culture, and history.  In a very real way, Extraterrestrials and the American Zeitgeist and the forthcoming Chaos Conundrum are his fault.

711GnZy1n8LWe were the same age, give or take a couple months and he always seemed like a kindred spirit.  I wish I’d been fortunate enough to meet him in meatspace rather than just cyberspace, but I never got to Kansas City and he never got near any of the places I was.  We’d mention it frequently, in email and on Twitter (@mactonnies–I still follow, can’t bring myself to unfollow) but it just never happened.  Like so many other things in 2013, this anniversary is a reminder to just make the trip–see who you need to see when you need to see them.

He wrote extensively online at Posthuman Blues and at his website.  His three books were Illumined Black (a collection of short stories), After the Martian Apocalypse, and the posthumous The Crytoterrestrials.  Paul Kimball has collected, edited, and published the first few years of Posthuman Blues: Dispatches from a World on the Cusp of Terminal Dissolution (for which he very kindly asked me to write an introduction–I’m as proud of it as anything I’ve written).

Four years–in internet time–is a long stretch.  It’s a tribute to Mac’s ideas and words that there are some out there working very hard to keep his memory alive.  Post-Mac Blues is an excellent collection of his work, and Macbots is a very nice memorial site.

As writer Warren Ellis said back in 2002,

Why does anyone write? I want to talk about what I see. I’m compelled to. I understand that all writing, really, is about where the writer is today and what they’re seeing in front of them, and I’m compelled to bring my perception to the table. (source)

Mac did that better than most.  Today, when I read, I’ll be reading his words.

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