Okay, I confess. I have a weird side. It is not so much a side, honestly, as a whole hemisphere. There are entire continents of weirdness – vast high plains of Oddness, rivers of strangeness, unexplored jungles of bizarreness.
What I mean is, take whatever it is people do of a Saturday night to kind of have fun, and I (and my family) are likely to do something odder. About the most normal thing we do is get together with friends, but often the talk/meal/whatever with friends is … different. People who tolerate us, much less like us, tend to be slightly askew, too.
Which brings us to – what brought this on, Sarah? How strange do you think you are?
I realized how strange I am when I realized I have a great and odd love of the odd. As in, if I start browsing on the net, instead of spending my time reading up on some Hollywood cutie’s life (I’m not even likely to know who most of them are) I end up browsing you tube for “squirrel brought up by cat.” Or “videos of bathing baby elephant.”
It gets worse. Brace yourself my friends, because the strangeness gets … stranger.
I have an absolutely irresistible interest in the … uh… tinfoil brigade. I don’t mean in the political sense. Most of those end up being somewhat pathetic, the excuses of people for why they didn’t, why it couldn’t happen, why—
Even if recent scandals have led me to believe there’s more of conspiracy to history than I’d have credited before, political conspiracy theories are still boring. They can sound “real” or just “OMG, where did you get that?” but they aren’t FUN. (Politics are no fun at all. They’re responsible for the wrinkles on my forehead. I read the news, and next thing I know I have wrinkles.)
No, the fun stuff comes from overarching theories of how the world really works, you know, behind the veils.
I still remember the time I was trying to find out about continental formations before pangea – I was, I think, researching for time-travel – and found myself reading about the spaceship full of grays orbiting the world.
I should have got out of there in a hurry, but I didn’t. The only way to find that kind of crazy when I was growing up was to listen to the village drunk who, usually after he was prone by the field on the way to the new village, would give long speeches and disquisitions on what held the universe together. (In the notable one I remember? Red Wine. … yes…)
But now we can stumble on these all dressed up in Sunday go to meeting words, and looking properly respectable, and we don’t have to cringe or think the people will attack us. Which makes crazy all the more interesting and amusing.
I also haunt cryptozoology sites.
But why Sarah, you say? Is it a wish to mock and make fun of the poor lunatics?
I’ve always been fascinated by the edge of belief and non belief, the place where crazy turns to genius and vice versa. It’s possible that, unlike what Pratchett said, there never really was a time where it was universally believed a good stink was the only defense against disease. And we do know that Columbus didn’t prove that the world was round (rolls eyes) but there have been several counterfactual and unproven ideas throughout history.
More than that, there’s been an inability to know what we don’t know. If we tried to describe our present living conditions to someone in Shakespeare’s day, it would make us feel as though we are post singularity. Can you explain the screen as anything other than “magic.”
And there is to things like Egyptian funerary practices, or some strange wordage in archaic language, to the drawings in Mexican temples, to … there are the things that make you think “we were there before. This civilization thing isn’t new. It’s probably cyclical. We build civilizations as beavers build dams, and then we lose them through a well established cycle.”
In those circumstances, it’s impossible to read about things like the three Neanderthals, likely the last in Europe, found in a cave, facing the ocean, as though waiting for rescue. You can’t help thinking “They hadn’t reproduced, but surely there must be some of their kind elsewhere, right? And they’d come…”
Now, is this likely. No. I mean, I do believe there is strangeness and wonder in our origins, but despite all the linguistic markers pointing to it, it’s unlikely we had a highly advanced technological civilization before.
But dreaming of it and interpreting markers is so much fun. It’s, in a way, part of the writing process, because then you emerge and you think “but in this world, this could totally be true” or “They would think this wasn’t true, even though it was” or…
And it has led to some fun books in the past. There was Clifford Simak’s Space Engineers. And I wanna say Keith Laumer’s in which the main character was R’thur (I think) clearly supposed to have inspired Arthur, and the Earth a penal colony for the insane. It was a bit human-put-downish, but still fun.
Then there was in Ric Locke’s Temporary Duty the clear implication we’d come from the stars. I like that. Yes, most of us know it’s not true (or not likely to be) but it’s so much fun to dream.
Of course, through all this, you have to make sure you know what reality is. But if you do, there’s no harm in enjoying other’s strange theories. So long as I don’t start looking up at a full moon for the spaceship orbiting the Earth – or looking suspiciously at Denver ponds, less the lizard man should come out.
On the other hand, while re-reading Methuselah’s Children, I was struck by the discarded plan of sending the Howards up into one of the solar system planets and then closing them off, never traveling to them again. So as to keep the humans from knowing the much longer lived Howards were still alive and thriving up there.
Supposing, just supposing that colonization really went as we expected, but it was secret. And some group was given residence in moon tunnel colonies – or in a Mars that’s much better than we thought (hence the robot probes only, they can be directed to barren wastelands) or…
What kind of group would be so dangerous, so full of forbidden knowledge that our own government would so far as to give up on Space and to make NASA an agency to appease Muslims? Could any group be that dangerous? What would they be?
And if not, why did we give up on Space?
Um… It was probably the Grays.