As I think I mentioned in the past, I was (and still am) a fan of Peter Kolosimo, the Italian answer to Von Daniken of Chariots of the Gods? fame. Kolosimo’s books, like Timeless Earth, were a gateway to wonders and mysteries for a generation of kids in the 70s.
I particularly love his Cittadini delle Tenebre (Citizens of Darkness, but alas never translated in English), a survey of the paranormal and the ghostly published in 1971, and that I read somewhere in 1976 or ‘77.
Apart for the nostalgia factor, Kolosimo’s books are a great resource for writing weird fantasy and adventure stories: ancient astronauts, archaeological mysteries, stone age flying saucers, you name it.
For the same reason I have in the past read far and wide on a number of subjects, always feeling wonder at the concepts, always making notes about what I could recycle in my writing, always remembering that it is a game.
On the other hand I must confess a general unease I feel when observing the comeback of a lot of the Kolosimo/Von Daniken pseudoscience, boldly and rather irritatingly brandished by a horde of dorks that basically are refusing “official science” by embracing untested and unproven theories that make them feel good.
My unease is in part caused by the fact that never like in these days it is easy to acquire sound and verified information about the universe, and embracing pseudoscience seems to me a supreme act of idleness, more than selfishness.
But a big chunk of unease comes from having studied history, and from remembering how in the last centuries pseudoscience infected and fed totalitarian regimes, from Hitler to Ceausescu and beyond. Chanting gurus, secret masters, anunnaki from Nibiru, hollow-earth theorists, Horbinger and his Cosmic Ice, all the tons of crud written about race and (dramatically misunderstood) evolution. Social darwinism.
A few months back I met a woman my age, with a Maths degree, aggressively enterprising, apparently well adjusted and level-headed, that tried to convince me that she can influence reality by manipulating the quantum fields with her mind – when she wishes something, that something happens. Unless it does not, in which case it’s because the quantum field was not responsive at the moment. The same person tried to convince me that there are people out there that are not human, but only try and pass themselves for humans.
Having just published, after going through some soul-searching for fear of popularizing horrid racism or worse, a story with a similar theme (that actually made the cover of Dark Italy)I felt compelled to comment. Therefore I pointed out that when you start considering a group of people as not human, it becomes easy to send them to concentration camps.
The reply to my observation was “Never forget that history was written by the winner.”
So yes – a three step path from crackpot pseudoscience, to conspiracy theory, to Holocaust denial, all in one neat package.
This scares me.
But it is also a powerful – and scary – reminder of the fact that when we write or tell stories, our eyes firmly set on the idea of having some fun, we are actually handling pretty dangerous stuff. We are juggling dynamite and lit torches, and just a slip would lead to a conflagration.