So long, 2013. Professionally, it was very good, with a number of books coming out including Extraterrestrials and the American Zeitgeist and The Chaos Conundrum, along with the podcast and radio interviews those entailed. For those of you who’ve read TCC, the pic to your left is the actual crop circle I discuss in the book. I failed to unearth it in time for publication, so consider this a value added feature. For those who are wondering what the crop circle is about, I can only urge you to buy the book…
2014, so far, looks to be a year with a lot of work that will probably see the light of day sometime in 2015. Right now, chief among these is the working-titled Paranormal Paranoia, for Rowman & Littlfield, which explores the relationship between conspiracy and paranormal culture and television science fiction in the 1990s. I’m also working on secret-so-far projects codenamed SIENNA SMOKE, SLEDGEHAMMER GOLDEN, and EIGHTH WRENCH which I will only reveal once I’ve finished them…! Of course, there is also the looming (and priority-dominating) sabbatical project for Mott Community College.
So, if 2013 was the year of paranormal stuff, 2014 is going to be the year of heavy history, eduction, and pop culture stuff. It’s the other side of the coin I inhabit.
It wouldn’t surprise me if there are some other, smaller, projects here and there. In 2013 I did some writing for The Schlager Group’s Milestone Documents resource as well as collaborated on a revision and expansion of a test and assessment system for WW Norton’s Worlds Together, Worlds Apart textbook. Both of those projects were highly enjoyable.
I’m still mired in the research phase for the new book which, in this case, involves viewing lots of television and taking lots of notes. Dark Skies is a particularly dense watch and I’ll probably end up watching some episodes several times to map out all the (honestly) obnoxiously clever references. I’m most looking forward to checking out some of the background viewing from the 1970s like Project UFO and Kolchak as well as some “factual” shows like In Search Of… and the always-entertaining Alternative 3.
Anyway, happy new year to you all. Stay tuned.
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).
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.’”
NOW 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.
To the right is the cover to my new book, due out in time for the holiday shopping season.
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.
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.
(Cross-posting from the Saucerio Tumblr)
I just finished watching the documentary about Gray Barker, Shades of Gray. It’s very well done, but one thing I would have liked to see addressed is a different take on his hoaxing, misrepresentation (fabrication?) of stories, and colluding with various fakers and frauds. The film discussed Barker’s sense of humor about the subject, but I think there’s a case to be made for Barker’s hoaxing being a form of performance art.
I learned, a very tiny bit, on my trip to the Gray Barker archive about Barker’s personal life–particularly the ways his activities and sexuality didn’t fit particularly well with small-town West Virginia in the 1950s. I think, perhaps, that the Saucer exploits could have been a kind of pressure release valve . Enabling, through his editing and publishing, the creation of a world where an outsider status worked to his advantage. Unlike the world of Clarksburg, WV.
Religious Studies scholar David Halperin, back in February of this year, wrote of Barker, “When he wrote about Bender, he wrote about himself. The Men in Black, with their hush-up threats and their terror, hovered over Gray Barker each day of his grownup life. That was what gave They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers its tremendous emotional authenticity, calling out to a boy obliged to bear a different secret” (Gray Barker, the Men in Black, and North Carolina Amendment One). That says says it about as well as I could. Halperin discussion Barker’s status as a Myth Maker, creating stories of the Men In Black, reflecting the fear he must have felt as a gay man living in 1950s West Virginia. I think, however, his myth making goes further than that.
One aspect of Barker’s role that I think goes under-examined is his place as a publisher, distributor, and promoter of all manner of saucer and new age-related materials. His work work was about far more than the Men in Black, the Bender story, the IFSB. For a generation (at least), he was a major source for books, magazines, and pamphlets on The Weird. I believe this, as much has the MIB aspects of his life that Halperin described in the linked article, speak to his embracing of an outsider status, living in that particular time and place.
This is particularly true of the Contactees which, of course, are a longstanding interest of mine (Extraterrestrials and the American Zeitgeist! Coming in 2013!). Barker did a masterful job of promoting them without explicitly endorsing them; recognizing that their stories were interesting, even if not especially true. His editing of these works (such as Bender’s Flying Saucers and the Three Men and Gray Barker’s Book of Adamski) demonstrate a particular viewpoint. He was not just a myth maker, he was a world builder–helping establish the parameters of a collective reality.
The people behind the Gray Barker project at West Virginia University’s Center for Literary Computing put it this way, “Gray Barker’s work is a act of literary self-creation. If the postmodern novel troubled the notion of authorship, of intertextual relations, and of the margins between text and context, then the Gray Barker archive is the most extensive, successful, and aporetic postmodern novel ever written” (Gray Barker Project Description). They may be overstating it a bit, but there is no doubt that Barker’s collected output represents something huge and significant.
Gray Barker died when I was a child, long before I knew about flying saucers in any detail. I think there’s a word–that slips my mind–but the basic feeling I have when I read his words (and the words of that entire generation of saucer people) is a nostalgia for something I never experienced. Partially this is due to the utterly drab and nihilistic world of “UFOlogy” which my generation inherited in the 1990s. Partially also, I think, it is due to the utter fun of Barker’s writings. They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers is one of the few saucer books I can read over and over again. His The Silver Bridge (about the Mothman events) is the same way.
True or not (and whether he knew it or not) Barker was creating art which will outlast the more realistic and less interesting books on the paranormal which have been produced.
I think it’s why I keep coming back to Barker as a sort of touchstone of paranormal and Saucerlogical thought. Oh, I respect the work of others, especially the Jacques Vallees of the field but no one had the art and passion that Barker did. I think that may be because his work was great despite its intentions; subliminally great, if you will. Down there in the soul of the fast-buck huckster and hoaxer was a raw talent for making The Weird wonderful. Oddly, I have trouble putting my admiration for his work into words that seem to fit my feelings.
It’s probably an October thing, thinking about Barker and writing these ideas down. I first read They Knew Too Much on a few sunny October days off from work in 2000 and Autumn, for some reason, makes me want to think about Flying Saucers. The decay of the trees and grass and the year itself conjures feelings of The Weird.
Now, I need to do some real work and then–if I’m lucky and have time, I’m reading some Gray Barker.
(photo “Synchronicity” by Flickr user leef_smith, used under Creative Commons license)
Fifteen years later, the Whitley County Crop Circle still resonates with me. Part of the reason is that I had so much darn fun messing with earnest weirdos and suspicious, grizzled paranoiacs. Another reason is the set of coincidences that just seem (taken as a whole) to be slightly less than probable.
First, there was the tape. The recorder into which I repeated those “paranormal energy readings” stayed running in my jacket pocket, unseen by the people we encountered. It was, honestly, pretty funny. I played the tape for others one time, a few weeks later. Among those listening was my future wife and—five years later when we re-met, coincidentally, at a party—she remembered that tape vividly. I’m not saying we got married because she enjoyed the crop circle tape, but it didn’t hurt…
The tape disappeared after that one airing. I’m not saying it was taken by the government, but I don’t think I lost it. Maybe, it simply didn’t need to exist past that first listen. Yes, I know that makes no sense. I’m not sure it has to.
The UFOIA certainly did exist, and I was the lead investigator for Strategic Investigation Team 1310. They no longer do, though. I can find no trace of them on the internet, aside from a “UFO Directory” listing linking their old, now vanished AOL homestead website. The UFOIA provided a useful fiction for Doug and I to look at the crop circle, which led to the tape, which helped lead to my current happy life. Like the tape, the UFOIA vanished when no longer needed.
I certainly didn’t imagine the crop circle. The newspaper reported it and an experienced crop circle investigator named Roger Sugden looked into it. I ran into Sugden a few years ago at the Indiana MUFON state meeting. He told me, vaguely, that there were some “very unusual” circumstances to the Whitley County circle.
The upshot to all this is vague and I’m still working it through in my mind. Like just about every “paranormal” phenomenon, I think these things have meaning that is more significant on an individual level than on a universal, scientific one. The experience was meaningful for me and my life. The fact that it was in all likelihood a hoax doesn’t change that.