Putting the fun back in Forteana
by Anita Dalton
I used to love reading books about unexplained phenomena but over the past decade or so, it’s hard to just wallow in weirdness without having a lot of strident dogma crammed down my throat. It’s not enough just to marvel at all the possible explanations as to why Stonehenge is there. It seems that weirdness now comes with a price at times, and that price is selecting the reason why you think something odd happened and defending it at all costs, refusing to engage as you protect your theory.
Nowhere in Forteana has that attitude been more evident than in UFOs. Recent forays into books about UFOs turned into a tiresome experience for me, reading as history and science were twisted into almost unrecognizable shapes in order to “prove” the author’s pet theory. Gone was the fun that comes from discussing the impossible and trying on different explanations for that which ultimately cannot be proven. Rather, I was faced with an experience not unlike reading religious texts written by True Believers, a statement of “fact” that could not be denied. To deny it was to be called stupid for not seeing the “facts” or if I was unlucky enough to encounter one of the True Believers in person or online, the conversation could never deviate from the theory posited. Speculation and the fun of wondering about the unexplained just died.
What I’m trying to say here is that UFOs got old for me real quick.
Enter Mac Tonnies’ book, The Cryptoterrestrials. Though I discussed this book in depth, I knew nothing about Tonnies before reading this book and was appalled to learn he had died shortly before the book was released. He was only 34. That is a sickening shame because he has one of the most interesting minds looking into Forteana, especially UFOs. Luckily his family has kept his blog alive, and you should definitely read it if you get a chance.
In The Cryptoterrestrials, Tonnies posits that there are no little green men from outer space. Rather, the aliens are a humanoid species that developed alongside humans and for reasons we don’t understand, decided to remain hidden from us except for the times when they specifically show themselves. A theory fairly steeped in that which is unprovable, but Tonnies is not making such assertions because he is pushing a pet theory. My feeling as I read this book is that Tonnies just wanted the conversation to start again. New theories equal new discussions, and even if the theories cannot be proven entirely, discussing flawed ideas was a better option than just arguing dogmatic points. Dogma and Forteana do not mix, and this book really shows the absolute pleasure that comes from analyzing strange ideas just for the hell of it.
Take this, from a section wherein Tonnies is exploring why it is that SETI has yet to pick up a message from an alien life form:
Maybe one of the reasons we have yet to make irrefutable contact with extraterrestrials is because ET civilizations tend to reach a point of terminal decadence, an erotic cul-de-sac that precludes exploration. (Compare and contrast such an implosion to the “Singularity” many of us are waiting for with bated breath.) Sufficiently advanced ETs may while away the millennia in a hedonistic stupor, brains (or their equivalent) melded to pleasure-generating devices.
When statements like this are made outside of a need to “prove” them, they are delightful. Just speculating that the aliens are in their version of some Orgasmatron and have no desire to answer our call or call out to us is fun to think about.
The best part of such discussions, even as they veer off into the potential voluptuary habits of speculative humanoids, is that they are not just entertaining – they force us to consider all sorts of unlikely scenarious. They sharpen our brains as they amuse. They make us better thinkers as we search for all possible scenarios, as long as we don’t go digging into archeological finds and decide broken pottery shards were really depicting alien sex orgies and thus the Alien Orgasmatron theory is now fact.
Tonnies seems to me a man who understood the fun in just thinking of all the possible explanations and waiting to see what would happen next. It’s a shame he is no longer around to keep Forteana fun, but luckily he left a few books for us before he left. You should definitely check this one out.