14 January 2010


Nick Redfern. Science Fiction Secrets: From Government Files and the Paranormal. Anomalist Books, 2009.

With twenty five chapters covering a wide range, this is a rather difficult book to get a handle on. Some of the topics discuss government, mainly the US FBI‘s, interest in a variety of outrĂ© topics. A couple of examples of this suggest that they spent sizeable amounts of their taxpayers dollars following up things such as the allegations of the probably schizophrenic science fiction writer Philip K Dick about a Neo-Nazi plot to infiltrate science fiction, or a crank letter to Carl Sagan.
There are the UFO related stories, many based on allegations that science fiction stories and films, particularly those of Steven Spielberg, are part of a government education programme to condition people to accept that 'they' are here. Given than all of this has been going on for 60-plus years without any grand revelation, this doesn't seem to have been a very successful operation.

Some of the stories depend upon various claims by alleged whistleblowers, none of whom ever provide any evidence, as opposed to assertion. There are the people who claim to have been part of top secret teams, to have been witness to films of alien autopsies and the like. While some of the later may just have 'genuine' false memories, most are likely to be fully paid up members of the Universal Union of Liars, Bullshitters, Linespinners and Bandwagon Jumpers. Why anyone takes these people seriously for even a moment baffles me.

Of course it is not only the naive UFO buffs who can be taken in: the United States government, which seems to have such difficulties in providing proper health care for its citizens has no problems on throwing taxpayers dollars at some guys who claim to be a research organisation studying teleportation, or on an analysis of the annotated copies of Jessup's Case for the UFO.

Tales of teleportation, death rays, and other wondrous inventions which never see the light of day are, of course, exciting, they are good science fiction, and rather contrast with the often dull and methodical work of real science.

Ideas of conspiracy are also exciting. The idea that the world's governments are engaged on a great plot to fake UFO stories to unite humanity against a common enemy was the topic of the first flying saucer science fiction story, Bernard Newman's Flying Saucer published before any of the factual books on the subject, and was one of the sinister plots in the satirical Report from Iron Mountain both of which are discussed here, and in Hawkey and Bigham's Wild Card which isn't. This was an idea which President Reagan who often had difficulty in distinguishing real life from the movies was enamoured of. It's an idea I've speculated on a couple of times, and even given it the appropriate name of 'Project Far Stranger'. Whether there ever was a real life Project Far Stranger is a moot point.

It is also a moot point whether any of the bizarre tales one encounters here and elsewhere are deliberately circulated by governments to baffle foreign intelligence services and to protect real secrets and scandals with a bodyguard of cranks, or as black propaganda. The claims that the United States manufactured the AIDS virus as part of a biological weapons programme seems indeed to have been Soviet propaganda, and the claim, in another chapter of this book, that the Soviet Union was planning to breed an army of human chimpanzee hybrids looks like propaganda from the other side.

There is no doubt that Nick Redfern gives us an exciting read, but it has to be said that if there is a bodyguard of cranks, he doesn't half help it along. The true, the plausible, the implausible, the nutty and the obvious fakes get all mixed together. A jolly good read but keep a well-filled salt-cellar handy. -- Peter Rogerson

No comments:

Post a Comment