Lemme start by saying that I am not a superstitious person, but it’s hard to deny some things in this world (let alone universe) defy our comprehension and will probably continue to do so for eons to come. What could this be? Alien beings, parallel universes, otherworlds seen in myth and legend? Beyond the fantastical, we have theories of sinister organizations working underneath our thumbs, pseudo-government tyrannies run by companies, among other things. Sounds like science fiction and are probably inventions of creative minds, but what amount of truth can be found in those statements? Sure, this is quickly starting to sound like the beginning of a poorly written creepypasta, but it does make one wonder. Whether intended for plain old entertainment or an attempt to broaden our horizons, various bits of media have wondered what lurks within our own world, as well as what lurks beyond ours. And beyond the media, such notions are ingrained into countless cultures around the world. Even if it’s popular mythology, these stories continue to live and breath much like we do. Let’s have a look at some examples I personally enjoy.
It would be almost absurd not to start with The X-Files, for many reasons. Sure, it’s not the first mystery show that involved diving into the paranormal and conspiracies. To be honest, I doubt Kolchak the Night Stalker was the first either! One could argue that early modern occultists helped popularize the idea. But none the less, the show resonated with legions of people who wanted to believe. While many of the actors and crew (such as William B. Davis) are open skeptics, many fans of the show saw it as justification for their pursuits into conspiracies, the paranormal and general research of the bizarre. While subjects such as ghosts, demons and incomprehensible horrors have been touched upon; the main subject was the intertwining conspiracy involving alien colonists and the shadow government that kept them hidden. Some even said that show creator Chris Carter was being forced to say the show was fake, out some conspiracy involving the government itself.
While some debate a lot of things about him, I always enjoy jumping back to the works of H.P. Lovecraft. One of the ideas behind his stories is that we’re ignorant of the cosmos around us. The cosmos is alive and has been for countless ages. We are young and insignificant in comparison. And when we begin to unravel the lies we have told ourselves in this reality, it begins to eat away at our minds. We’re on bought time, owned by forces that care not for us. At any moment, they can squash us like little bugs, if they so desired.
While not as much within the paranormal, cyberpunk brings up a conspiracy on the notion of “megacorporations” and how powerful they really are. Sure, the private sector is pretty much as powerful (if not more so than) most governments, but this begs the question of how powerful? In the case of this type of dystopian sci-fi, they control all. Sure, in-universe their power is usually pretty overt. But in other genres, they act as a shadow government enclave of their own. In many cases, they’re working in league with the shadow governments to suppress knowledge and thwart Hell, this happens to the case in the Fallout Universe (well, at least the 2nd game.)
Sometimes reality as we know it has been altered or augmented. This can be through the use of drugs, enhancements or something more strange. Many of the works of Philip K. Dick experimented with this idea, questioning if reality is our own. Or perhaps, is our perception of reality just a fabrication caused by some sinister group? Is it a dream crafted to keep us from knowing what the world is really like? One adaptation, Total Recall, tinkers with this in wonderful and weird ways. We jump between the double lives of a Mars rogue and a confused construction worker, questioning what’s actually real and what’s merely a facade. The movie begins to make its own metahumor revolving around the weirdness of warped reality.
And what’s sci-fi conspiracy without aliens? Now, one could say that almost every angle of this has been looked into. From the kindly stranger that’s merely visiting our world (E.T. and Close Encounters, both Spielberg) or a hungry hunter who feasts upon whatever it can get its claws on (Alien, The Thing); aliens have manifested in many forms. Just like the above examples of The X-Files, one can’t be too sure if they’ve already visited this world… and how many times at that. Sure, it’s likely a work of fiction that is constantly retold, but whose to say that the cosmos haven’t observed our relatively young planet for several lifetimes over? Perhaps they’ve been pushing it in one direction or another.
While popular culture is all well and good, historic accounts of the strange and unfathomable make for quite the fascinating research. One such place was the interesting town of New Hope, PA. During my time visiting New Hope over the weekend, I discussed with book shop owners and organizers of a ghost tour about various topics; history, plausibility behind the supernatural, other theories that seem just as strange, etc. And during the tour, I had my own experience with the very unusual with a regular “glitch in the Matrix”, complete with teleporting children in late ’90s garb. No matter what actually happened, it’s enough to make me ponder what’s plausible. Was she a ghost? An extremely acrobatic kid? The result in some weird space-time malfunction? Proof this song is both awesome and real? Whatever the case may be, it was a mystery that will last me a while.
And beyond sci-fi, countless strange conspiracies populate our world; only so many having enough proof to fully debunk or prove. Among the most famous that fascinates me is project MKUltra, experiments to see what would happen if mind control drugs and other techniques were unleashed various subjects and perhaps upon the populace. Another interesting Cold War case was Project Paperclip, in which ex-Nazi scientists were hired by the US Government to help fight the commies! And a lot of this was under the radar, so few were aware that they were more or less wiped clean of war crimes too. Good to know the government was doing good for their people… even back then.
While pretty much a disjointed ramble, subjects like these have fascinated me greatly. In fact, I’d enjoy talking about more of them in depth if this is something you would all enjoy. While talking on pop culture has always been a thing on this blog, connecting to real life moments and historical parallels would be fun too. Please, let me know if you have any ideas.