Notes from underground

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Archive for the tag “UFOs”

Dreamcatcher: a book review

DreamcatcherDreamcatcher by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m never sure what to expect with Stephen King novels. Some I think are very good, some very bad, and most somewhere in between. The ones I liked best are Needful Things, Pet Sematary and The girl who loved Tom Gordon. I’ve generally enjoyed his supernatural horror stories rather than his science fiction ones or other genres, though The girl who loved Tom Gordon, about a girl lost in the woods, is neither science fiction nor horror.

I read a couple of his science fiction ones, including a UFO novel, The Tommyknockers, which I thought was his worst. So when I picked up The Dreamcatcher at the library, I wasn’t expecting much, but thought that as it was only a library book, I didn’t need to feel I had to finish it. In the end I did finish it. It was a page turner, in the sense that I wanted to see what happened, but it confirmed my opinion that King is better at writing about spooks than about space aliens. Dreamcatcher was better than The Tommyknockers but not much.

The story line was disjointed and made little sense, and thoughout the story telepathy seems to be overused as a deus ex machina. The eponymous “dreamcatcher” is never really explained in any coherent way. The main characters are unreal; we are told virtually nothing about their families, and they hardly ever think of them or miss them when they are experiencing tough times.

But there is also a kind of moral thread running through the story. Stephen King clearly has a lot of sympathy for bullied children, and one could say that there is a moral in the story: be kind to bullied and disabled children.

A possible explanation for this might be that King had been in a serious accident, and appears to have written this book while recovering from it, and one of the characters experiences a similar accident, and goes through similar suffering. The girl who lived Tom Gordon, written shortly before the accident, was a much better book.

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Understanding the Dark Side

An interesting review of Christopher Partridge, Understanding the Dark Side: Western Demonology, Satanic Panics and Alien Abduction, Chester University Press, (2006).

Understanding the Dark Side:

Although the subtitle promises to be a survey of western demonology, Satanic panics, and alien abduction Partridge’s survey is more a deconstruction of UFO religion and the eclecticism of its sources. The extra-terrestrial religious ideas may have had their origin in theosophical strains of Eastern thought but the religion of groups such as Heaven’s Gate is in fact more rooted in western demonology, specifically the adaptation in popular culture of the idea of the nephilim (Gen 6: 1-4). In the space of a short lecture Partridge has done a good job at delineating the dialectic between theory and popular culture and so, from the perspective of those interested in alternative and fringe religions the author has done a good job in charting the field. However, for those like my self who do not spend much time thinking about the theology of the Raelians a more interesting phenomenon – why as the stranglehold of ‘Christian’ understandings of the world been dissipated have these religions relied on parodies of Christian demonologies. In understand that popular culture is tapping into a latent understanding in invoking such ideas from Christian sources – however, the fact that the UFO religions have followed suit strikes me as a far more interesting question both theologically and sociologically.

Father Seraphim Rose, a Western convert to Orthodoxy, in his book Orthodoxy and the religion of the future maintained that UFOs were in fact demonic manifestations.

UFOs, however, are one area where I’m inclined to be modernist rather than postmodernitst or pre-modernist; in fact I’m altogether prosaic and literalist about them. As I see it, if you believe that you have established that UFOs are demons, or creatures from another planet, they are no longer UFOs but IFOs — Identified Flying Objects. A thing cannot be both identified and unidentified at the same time.

A few years ago I was visited by a member of an Old Calendrist group, Paul Inglesby, who seemed quite obsessed with UFOs, and was trying to drum up support for his campaign of appealing to governments to do something to stop the abductions by space aliens that he was convinced were taking place. He simply didn’t see my point at all when I said that if he had identified them as craft of space aliens they could no longer be UFOs (he pronounced it “you foes”). It wasn’t exactly a UFO cult he was advocating, more like a conspiracy theory.

He asked me if I “believed in” UFOs. I said I didn’t believe in them, though I had seen one. He asked me what I thought it was, and I said if I knew that, it wouldn’t be a UFO. For what it’s worth, here’s what I wrote about it at the time, on an autumn evening in 1964, when I was at university

In the evening I went over to the Union to phone Fr Hallowes. It was about 6:00 pm, and as I walked across the car park I saw a red object travel across the sky from south to north. It was almost due West of the Union, and then it looked like an artificial satellite, moving slowly across the sky, very much as I saw the first Sputnik moving, nearly seven years ago now. That was the only satellite I had ever seen before, and I almost stopped looking and went on to the Union, But then I stopped, because when it was almost due west it seemed to stop, and then moved in a series of jerks. Then it started to move round a star — at least that’s what it looked like to me, but parallax probably meant that it only looked like it. Neil Perrett came along then, and we both watched it. It was higher up in the sky moving back more or less the way it had come, still in jerks, and it seemed less bright. Obviously it was not an artificial satellite, but must be an aircraft of some kind. Too far away for a chopper, but it may be a fast plane, very far away, but somehow it didn’t look like it. Not a satellite, not a plane, what the hell can it be? A piece seemed to fall off it, and then it was travelling back, moving north to south, when it dropped a few more pieces, and finally disappeared — disintegrated altogether. I went on to the Union, and Neil went back to res.

Not a bird, not a plane, not an artificial satellite, not an alien spacecraft, not a demonic manifestation, simply an unidentified flying object – a UFO.

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