Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Some of you may know of Richard Thomas, who has written for Binnall of America and Stuart Miller's now-closed down Alien Worlds magazine. Well, Richard has his first book out right now, titled Para-News (for all the details, click on this link).
Richard asked me if I would write the Foreword for his book, which I was pleased to do. And although this blog essentially focuses on my reviews of new books, the Foreword (copy-pasted below) will give you a good idea of its contents, style and scope.
Here it is:
When Richard Thomas asked me if I would be willing to write the foreword for his very first book, saying "Yes!" was not a problem at all. Over the last few years, I have followed Richard's work at Binnall of America, and in the pages of Stuart Miller's unfortunately short-lived Alien Worlds magazine. And not only have I followed his writing: I have also seen it grow and develop in scope, depth, subject-matter, and style.
Plus, as is very clear from his written output, Richard has a great passion and enthusiasm for those puzzles, people, and places of the outer-edge variety that he pursues. All of these are (or certainly should be!) essential character traits when it comes to investigating weird phenomena, and/or interviewing Fortean experts in their respective fields.
There's nothing worse than tired, old has-beens, utterly jaded and worn by their time spent chasing the ufological, the cryptozoological, the paranormal, and the supernatural. Thankfully, Richard is none of these! What he is, is someone who is constantly striving to learn more, share his data with others, and to do the latter in an informative, entertaining and thought-provoking fashion.
So, if your interests include (A) strange and ominous beasts of a type that science says cannot, and do not exist, but that cryptozoologists say otherwise; (B) weird and enigmatic outer-space conspiracies; (C) the intricacies of time-travel; (D) spooks and spectres from the other side; (E) the way in which science-fiction and science-fact often cross paths to truly astonishing degrees; and (F) and the ominous Orwellian road that our society seems to be evermore traveling down, then this is most certainly the book for you!
Monday, May 9, 2011
Originally published more than twenty-years ago, Monstrum! A Wizard's Tale is a book that, if you didn't read it first time around, you most definitely should now. Why? We'll, here's why: the good folk at CFZ Press (Jon & Corinna Downes and Co.) have just made available a brand new edition of this mighty, monster-driven classic.
Penned by the legendary Tony "Doc" Shiels - truly a phenomenon as much as a man - it's one of those books that should not just be carefully devoured by cryptozoologists everywhere, but also by ufologists, ghost-hunters, and just about anyone and everyone with more than a passing interest in what has come to be known as Forteana.
I read the original edition of the book around 1992, re-read it a few years later, and still continue to do so now and again - most recently, of course, when Jon Downes generously forwarded me a copy of the new edition for review.
It has to be said from the outset that Monstrum! is the type of book that will most certainly polarize its readers into two camps: (A) those who (like me and Squire Downes) believe that Shiels has perhaps come closer than most to truly understanding the real nature(s) of the many and varied anomalies of our world (and particularly so that curious band of enigmatic critters that includes the Loch Ness Monster, Owlman, Sea-Serpents, and Mothman); and (B) those souls who outright reject the words of its author, largely because they don't understand (or fail to fully comprehend the significance of) Shiels' character, his outer-edge talents, and precisely what it is that he is telling them, revealing to them, and even inviting them to partake in - if they dare, that is.
That Shiels is part-"Wizard of the Western World," part-Trickster, part-stage magician, a conjurer of "things," and someone whose approach to monster-hunting hardly endears him to regular cryptozoology ("regular cryptozoology," of course, perhaps being the ultimate oxymoron!), has led more than a few observers to view Shiels' words, findings, conclusions and photographs (of Nessie, no less) to be less than sound.
Too bad for them.
Those who hold such views have utterly failed to understand and appreciate what it means to be Doc Shiels. His is a world filled with a deep understanding of the real nature of magic (chaos and ritualistic), the secrets of invocation and manifestation, of the game of the name, of twilight realms just beyond - and that occasionally interact with - our own, and that aforementioned Trickster-like phenomenon.
Doc's is also a domain where, when we dare to imagine the fantastic, when we decide to seek it out, and when we finally accept its reality (but not forgetting that it can be as manipulative and malignant as it can be illuminating and playful), we perhaps provide it with some form of quasi-existence.
If you're someone for whom the Nessies just have to be plesiosaurs, the Bigfoot are giant, presently-unclassified apes, and sea-serpents are simply hangers-on from an era long gone, and who stubbornly refuse to go the way of the Dodo, then take careful heed: for you, I can say with absolute certainty, the journey is most definitely going to be a distinctly bumpy one.
If, however, you recognize there are deep - very deep - problems borne out of the fact that the Bigfoot never get hit by cars, and they never finish up shot dead in the forests; that lake-monsters are often seen poking their long-necks and multi-humped-backs out of ridiculously small bodies of water that just could not adequately sustain them; and that a literal, giant bird-man simply cannot be lurking in the darkened woods of Cornwall, England - even though you're fully aware that people have clearly seen the nightmarish entity on many occasions - then the winding, rollercoaster trip will be as welcome as it will be informative and enlightening.
That Shiels is a skilled, excellent and atmospheric story-weaver is a major-plus, too, when it comes to digesting and comprehending the message that Monstrum! projects. He carefully captures our attention from Page 1, takes us back to an era-long gone - the mid-to-late 1970s, when strange, dark and disturbing things were afoot in ancient Cornwall, England - and sets the scene for what sounds like a sadly-never-made 1960s Hammer horror-film, starring such stalwarts of the scene as Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, and Michael Ripper.
The main-act takes us into the hidden realms of the wee-folk of centuries-past, of occult high-jinks, of witches and ritual, of the raising of monsters, of dark goings-on in ancient woodland (often, appropriately, at the witching-hour), and of torturous and terrible things - some called upon, others manifested, and some, perhaps, resurrected in new guises to suit the mindset of the latter part of the 20th Century.
And out of all this intriguing high-strangeness, spill forth the undeniable stars of the saga: the Owlman, Morgawr, and the creatures of Loch Ness. And not forgetting the Shiels clan itself, in all its surreal (in the truest sense of the word) glory.
When most of the action took place, I was barely 10 or 11 years old. But, I still have vivid memories of that blisteringly-hot summer of 1976 when the British Isles were hit, blighted, blessed (take your pick) by a wealth of definitive monstrous madness and a pummelling sun. And Shiels was deep in the heart of it. Hell, an extremely convincing argument can be made that had Shiels not been on the scene, there would not even have been a scene - at all.
It's important to note this is not a veiled allusion on my part to Shiels-inspired hoaxing or fakery. Rather, it's a reference to the (in my humble opinion) undeniable fact that the monsters of our world need us just about as much as we need them. And when mood, mindset, and setting are at their most harmonious, then reality, fiction, surreality, fantasy, hoaxing, magic, and trickery blend in ways that many dismiss, that others ignore, but that some - hopefully you! - come to appreciate as the means by which, in simple terms, weird shit really does happen, and the creatures of the deep, of the shadowy woods, and of monolithic, snow-capped peaks, come calling.
The worst thing you can do is to ignore Monstrum! Carefully reading it, and understanding it, may be one of the defining moments of your life.
If you're in the United States, you can buy Monstrum! by clicking on this link. And if you're in Britain, here's where to go get hold of a copy.
Friday, May 6, 2011
The very latest in an excellent series of titles from the husband-and-wife team of Brad Steiger and Sherry Hansen Steiger, Real Aliens, Space Beings, and Creatures from other Worlds, is yet another winner, I'm pleased to say.
Running at almost 400-pages, and packed with superb artwork (paintings, photographs and drawings), this is one of those books that is not only highly informative, but (just like all the books from our Iowa-based Dynamic Duo) it's written in an entertaining and atmospheric style that captures the imagination of the reader from page-one, and holds their attention throughout.
With that said, what about the content? Well, now we get to the really good stuff. Whether you're a Ufological veteran or a relative newcomer to the scene, Real Aliens will serve as a perfect resource tool - one from which you'll (a) learn a great deal about the nature of the UFO puzzle, (b) gain new insights and appreciations of cases old and recent, and (c) come to realize the sheer enormity and multifaceted nature of the phenomenon.
The book is split into specific sections, which I particular enjoyed, as it allows the reader to dip into whichever area they choose to first, and doing so doesn't affect one's ability to understand and appreciate the data under scrutiny either.
So, we get sections on the many and varied types of entity that have been reported over the decades, including, of course, those pesky, black-eyed dwarfs: the Grays. Detailing intriguing and, sometimes, harrowing data, as well as the possibility that the Grays may well be time-surfers, this is an excellent section that gets to the heart of the agenda of the pasty, skinny abductors from beyond.
Those long-haired hippie-like E.T.'s that came tumbling out of the deserts of California, Arizona and Nevada in the early-1950s - the Nordic Space Brothers - are also the subject of an excellent chapter that provides a very good, solid account of this particularly engaging (to me anyway) aspect of the UFO issue. Who are the Nordics? Are they friends? Messengers? Deceptive entities with devious agendas? You know what to do to get those answers: buy the book!
Our fearless authors also take another very welcome blast into the past: in search of hairy humanoids, such as those diminutive types that popped up in the early '50s, and, of course, the world's most famous hair-covered man-beast: Bigfoot. I've said it before, but that won't stop me saying it again: Bigfoot is not just weird and elusive. Rather, Bigfoot is just too damn weird and elusive! And Brad and Sherry make this amply clear in Real Aliens, by chronicling a number of significant cases that push Bigfoot into distinctly Fortean territories.
I was very pleased to see a whole chapter devoted to one of those ufological beasts that doesn't usually get the attention it deserves, and as a result, often languishes in somewhat of a degree of enigmatic obscurity: the Praying Mantis. Insect-like, slightly ominous (and almost echoing imagery of the classic 1950s movie, Them!), one gets the feeling from reading this particular chapter that these entities (whatever their origins) play a substantial, and under-appreciated role in the non-human agenda.
And there are further chapters on the other-world critters too, including the more-than-ominous Reptilians, and robotic types reminiscent of Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still (I mean the 1951 original; not the recent remake).
Moving on from specifically the alien entities themselves: if you're into stories of underground bases, underwater installations, and cavernous abodes of a type that would have had Richard Shaver and Ray Palmer foaming at the mouth, you're in for a treat. Have beings from other realms of existence secretly established outposts on (and under) our world? Do they secretly move among us, at night, after surfacing from their darkened abodes? Might some of these creatures represent the last vestiges of a very ancient race of terrestrial - rather than extraterrestrial - origins? You'll find a great deal of food for thought on these very issues in this particular chapter.
Have you ever wondered what it might be like to have sex with a blistering hot, Barbarella-style space-babe? Go on, admit it: of course you have! After all, who could say no to Truman Bethurum's flirty and curvy Aura Rhanes?
Certainly, the most famous of all such cases - described in detail in Real Aliens - is that of a certain Antonio Villas Boas of Brazil, whose October 1957 encounter with an attractive chick of the cosmic kind, is now near-legendary. But, as the Steiger's correctly note, some such cases seem downright malevolent, and appear to demonstrate characteristics suggestive of encounters with incubus and succubi, rather than with flesh-and-blood E.T.'s. So, after reading this chapter, you might want to be very careful with respect to what you wish for...
Kind of on a similar path, the highly controversial issue of alien-human hybrids is also given the Steiger treatment. To many, this issue is all indicative of a clandestine, genetic program - and maybe one that has a disturbing agenda. Namely: to infiltrate our society with human-looking aliens. Sleepers, in other words. I was, however, pleased to see that Brad and Sherry note the deep and undeniable parallels between alien abduction, hybrids and kidnapped babies, and the centuries old stories of people who claimed to have met the fairy-folk. Are we dealing with real E.T.'s? Or is this a presently unfathomable puzzle that, depending on the culture, the people and the time-frame, manifests in a multiplicity of forms: extraterrestrials, fairies, goblins, Djinns, etc, etc? All in all, this is a very good section of Real Aliens that demonstrates one of the weirder aspects of the entire phenomenon.
Certainly, in my opinion, the most fascinating chapter is that titled Aliens: Deceivers or Deliverers? This one gets to the very crux of the saucer enigma, and demonstrates (a) the undeniable fact that just because some entity, or disembodied voice, claims to have alien origins, it may be pure folly to take it at its word, and (b) the notable crossovers and parallels between messages from alleged aliens and those communications secured via psychic means. Friendly entities from far away, or our ultimate nightmare manifesting in kindly, camouflaged form? I hope the former; however, I often suspect it's really the latter...
And, in summary, you'll also find a wealth of data in the packed pages of this book on the E.T. connection to religion (both in times-past and times-present); astronaut encounters with UFOs; an absolutely classic early Man in Black experience; connections between the Nazis, UFOs, and the occult realm; presidential knowledge of UFOs; and a great deal more.
Real Aliens is a highly enjoyable, deeply absorbing, and immensely informative title that - by covering so much wide and varied territory - makes it abundantly clear that there is a very real UFO presence in our world. And it's one that has been interacting with us for a very, very long time - and often at a deeply personal level, too. But, it's also a phenomenon that clearly has the upper-hand. Sometimes it exhibits friendliness, at other times it displays Trickster-style characteristics, and on more than a few occasions it's downright malevolent and malignant.
So, in summary with respect to Real Aliens, what can I say but: A definitive encyclopedia of the extraterrestrial variety!