Saturday, April 15, 2006

Here's a preliminary draft of the introduction to the book I'm working on:

I began this book pursuing the commonalities between the UFO phenomenon and the equally bewildering spectacle of our emerging technological future. I was especially intrigued by the prospect of humans becoming something other than strictly biological, increasingly viewed as a necessary evolutionary step in the wake of an imminent "Singularity": a moment in history in which our intelligence, augmented and disseminated by machines, transcends the imaginable.

My working hypothesis -- that alien visitation was best viewed in cybernetic terms -- remains an essentially valid paradigm for interpreting the arrival of an alien intelligence on this planet. But the more I read and contemplated, the more my "postbiological" theory seemed lacking; while I could readily envision a global "invasion" directed by an unseen machine intelligence, the enduring nature of the UFO spectacle forced me to rethink my assumptions.

Like ufologist Jacques Vallee, I viewed our response to the "paranormal" -- specifically, the appearance of apparent nonhuman vehicles in our skies -- as the work of deliberate psychological conditioning (probably but not necessarily benevolent). Contrary to popular perceptions, UFOs are far from a recent occurrence; written and oral accounts point to an experience of exceptional age and patience. If "alien encounters" were the work of some godlike artificial intelligence, an omniscient pacemaker sowing memes in an effort to ensure our evolution conformed to some unknown alien ideal, then we might reasonably expect it to remain "hidden."

This would neatly account for the lack of "hard" evidence that would force the UFO question out of theoretical limbo and into the mainstream. A postbiological overseer -- something along the lines of the inscrutable black monolith in "2001" -- would have a vested interest in obscurity. As biological beings, we might even lack the perceptual acumen to properly discern its presence. This, I reasoned, explained the UFO phenomenon's recurrence in world folklore; perhaps it had succeeded in insinuating itself into our collective unconscious. As abductee Whitley Strieber has suggested, "alien" contact -- whatever "alien" might ultimately mean -- might be what the process of evolution looks like to the human mind.

The primary challenge to this mythological approach was the explicitly biological nature of so many encounters -- including, but by no means limited to, the relatively recent epidemic of "abductions," in which witnesses report being kidnapped from workaday surroundings and subjected to novel medical tests. This seemed remarkably crude for an intelligence as subtle and abiding as the entity I had imagined. If recent developments in our own technology are any indication at all, we will probably harness much less instrusive techniques within the next few decades; for an intelligence thousands or millions of years superior to our own to stoop to such clinical levels struck me as absurd.

Of course, the very idea of an artificially emplaced psychosocial conditioning system hinges on absurdity. Vallee and researcher John Keel, author of the paranormal masterpiece "The Mothman Prophecies," have written extensively on the nonsensical element that accompanies so many accounts of assumed extraterrestrial visitation. This absurdity only makes sense if the phenomenon isn't as it seems, but rather appealing to our collective unconscious (for reasons we can only guess).

Or so I thought. Finally, I wondered the unthinkable: What if the antics of the "absurd humanoids" documented by Vallee weren't the work of some overarching intelligence? What if they happened just as reported, without the need to invoke externally imposed psychosocial thermostats?

This notion struck me as deliciously ironic. It suggested that the encounters with nonhumans that haunt our folklore were real, not necessarily projections preying on our gullibility. Could "fairies" and "elves" -- and all their mythical successors -- be distorted representations of an actual species?

While curiously appealing, the idea seemed totally orthogonal to science. Psychologists maintain that legendary "little people" are beings of the mind, the brain's instinctive attempt to populate the darkness. They're also quick to point out that modern accounts of spindly gray aliens are almost certainly due to fantasy-prone personalities, poorly trained therapists and hallucinations experienced during episodes of sleep paralysis.

This analysis is attractive on several levels. It neatly does away with the specter of the "other" we repeatedly encounter in myths. It assuages our fears that our world might be fair game for dispassionate ET scientists, with their glittering probes and omnipotent saucers.

Alas, it fails.

This book documents a most unconventional slant on the enduring UFO mystery. In [insert title here], I attempt to reconcile mythological and contemporary accounts of "little people" into a coherent picture. In many ways, the image that emerges is at least as frightening as my original cybernetic premise: it's much closer to home, vastly less abstract, and -- tantalizingly -- amenable to scientific testing.

I propose that at least some accounts of alien visitation can be attributed to a humanoid species indigenous to the Earth: a sister race that has adapted to our numerical superiority by developing a surprisingly robust technology. The explicitly reproductive overtones that color many encounters suggest that these "indigenous aliens" are imperiled by a malady that has gone uncured throughout the eons we have coexisted. Driven by a puzzling mixture of hubris and existential desperation, they seek to perpetuate themselves by infusing their gene-pool with human DNA. While existing at the very margins of ordinary human perceptions, they have succeeded in realms practically unexplored by known terrestrial science, reinventing themselves at will and helping to orchestrate a misinformation campaign of awe-inspiring scope.

For too long, we've called them "aliens," assuming that we represent our planet's best and brightest.

That is precisely what they want us to think.


W.M. Bear said...

Mac -- I greet you at the start of a brilliant-sounding book. Here's a related thought (for what it's worth).

You note:

Driven by a puzzling mixture of hubris and existential desperation, they seek to perpetuate themselves by infusing their gene-pool with human DNA.

This observation would seem to imply strongly that, in evolutionary terms, "they" actually belong to the same genus, (to wit, homo) as we do. It also seems to imply that, at some distant point in the past, the two species (ours and theirs) actually split off from each other. Theirs evolved in the direction of developing their psychic abilities while homo sapiens went in more for material technology. Different (but closely related) species belonging to the same genus (horses and donkeys or lions and tigers, for example) can interbreed, so that would explain the DNA copping by them. I also think that if your theory is true, they must be "masters of illusion" and so abduction experiences may be an interesting mix of the real and the illusory, the real part being the physical presence of these beings themselves and the illusory part possibly being both their specific appearance (as elves or ETs depending on their "audience") and the "stage props" they make use of to impress/intimidate/molest/mystify their victims.

You were looking for a name for them besides "ultraterrestrials" (which, I agree, is basically pretty dorky). How about Homo chameleonis?

Mac said...


Good thoughts. I agree, and will be covering this particular territory in some depth.

I was wondering about an alternative to "ultraterrestrials" as well. How do you think "cryptoterrestrials" sounds?

Homo chameleonis -- nice! :-)