It’s A Big Conspiracy

In August of 1926, The Yale Review published a little sci-fi story that I suspect had much further-reaching consequences than the editors imagined it would. But some astute readers were paying attention and quietly began spreading the highly instructive message of “The Tissue-Culture King” by Julian Huxley.

Julian Huxley. Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Huxley tells the tale of a group of scientifically minded explorers that, lost in the African bush, follows a two-headed toad and stumbles into a giant engaged in worshipping a microscope slide. The party soon becomes acquainted with a previously unknown kingdom with a highly developed culture of blood and ancestor worship.

Also in the kingdom is another white man who had been captured fifteen years earlier and, with the aid of the King’s most important advisor, had managed to exploit the people’s religious rites for the purpose of scientific experimentation, thus giving rise to the worship of tissue cultures as the means to immortality for the king and beloved elders.

I admit that so far, the story sounds a little far-fetched, but I think it’s safe to say that’s just what They want us to think. Late in the story, just about the time this reader’s eyes want to glaze over, another type of ongoing research is introduced. The captured scientist reveals that, with the enthusiastic support of the King’s man, he has been experimenting with hypnosis and telepathy.

Excited at the possibilities of the experiments, the narrator begins to assist and soon the two are able, with group hypnotic suggestion, to send instructions in a wave over the entire kingdom. At this point the narrator thinks they might use their newfound scientific powers to put the kingdom to sleep and make their escape, if only they can find a way to shield themselves from the hypnotic suggestion.

Rory112233, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

To us modern readers, the answer is clear. The captives shield themselves from the telepathic waves by donning hats made of metal foil. It works, at least until they assume they are far enough away to abandon their protective headgear, only to discover that the King’s evil henchman has overcome and amended their suggestion to a simple, irresistible command to return.

Experts on tin foil hats, who are extremely difficult to find and are rarely willing to make public comments, suggest that Huxley’s fairly obscure story is the smoking gun in the truth about where the foil hat phenomenon came from in the first place. Of course, they also admit that could be a lie fed to us by the government. The world may never know.

What we do know, thanks to the incredibly important work of some MIT grad students who allegedly have too much time on their hands, is that there may be more to the story. In 2005, the students released the results of a groundbreaking and mind-shattering study which revealed that aluminum foil hats actually amplify the radio frequency bands allocated for use by the US government.

Image by iirliinnaa, via Pixabay.

It’s worth noting that the MIT researchers did not receive so much as a whiff of interest from the Nobel Prize committee. And I suspect we all know why that might be.

This leaves us, I think, with some questions. First, if Julian Huxley’s story really is the first mention of the protective nature of tin foil hats, then how did that idea first occur to him? Could it have been fed to him telepathically by a government intent on amplifying the private thoughts of its citizens? Was Huxley, instead, involved in the elaborate plan? Was the editorial staff of The Yale Review complicit? Is the MIT study merely an attempt at misdirection by the Feds?

Or did Julian Huxley never intend for any of his readers to actually wear tin foil hats? And was the point of “The Tissue-Culture King” exactly as stated in the story itself, that the increase of scientific knowledge and the power it may lend to those who would yield it for their personal gain, might carry with it some consequences well worth considering? Eh, that seems a little far-fetched.

Bigfoot, Mormons, and Smoking Guns

Earlier this year, on January 22, the Washington State Department of Transportation made an unexpected discovery. While reviewing footage from a camera near Sherman Pass on State Route 20, they spotted…something.

That’s right folks, Bigfoot is alive and well and living in the mountain passes of Washington State. Maybe. It’s a fair bet that people are paying closer attention to the WSDOT twitter feed these days and that’s a good thing. These cameras are supposed to show potentially dangerous environmental conditions along the state’s most treacherous roads. They are not necessarily intended to reveal the presence of cryptozoological creatures, which lends maybe the smallest hint of sort of credibility to the video.

The WSDOT certainly isn’t staking its professional reputation on the discovery. After all, they are only “a little stitious,” but I suppose it’s possible they have found the smoking gun in one of the world’s greatest mysteries.

Not a literal smoking gun, of course, though that does seem to be how the phrase may have originally been used. One of the earliest examples is found in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1893 short story “The Adventure of the Gloria Scott” in which a “smoking pistol” in the hands of a criminal demonstrates his guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.

smoking gun
photo credit: AppleDave Smoking Gun via photopin (license)

The phrase didn’t gain much traction as a metaphor for another eighty years when the US press pretty universally adopted it in reference to the hunt for evidence in President Nixon’s impeachment case.

Since the more metaphorical resurgence of the phrase in the 1970s, its use has blossomed to incorporate that one missing piece of crucial evidence that supports not only a criminal case, but also a scientific assumption, or even a conspiracy theory.

I do love a good conspiracy theory. And the best ones seem to all be missing just that one smoking gun. If only the public could finally see the alien technology kept at Area 51 or the original unedited film from Stanley Kubricks’s moon landing hoax.

My new novel Smoke Rose to Heaven, which came out this week, was inspired by a smoking gun from history. In 1830, a man named Joseph Smith published a new sacred text called The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi.

He claimed to have found these golden plates buried in the Hill Cumorah in New York State and to have translated them from “Reformed Egyptian” by divine interpretation made possible with the use of seer stones thrown into a hat. Once he was finished, the plates were taken up to heaven.BoMSmoke

As you might imagine, not everyone was quick to swallow this unusual story. Though Smith’s book won him followers and started a religious movement that continues today, it also garnered a number of detractors. One of those was newspaper editor Eber D. Howe who in 1834 published Mormonism Unvailed. Howe’s book includes a large collection of affidavits swearing that Smith’s sacred text was really the plagiarized work of an unpublished and by then deceased novelist named Solomon Spalding.

Like most conspiracy theories, the claim is supported by a lot of circumstantial evidence, a few assumptions, and possibly some questionable motives, but also like most, it is plausible. At least it’s plausible enough for fiction.

SmokeFrontCover
Available now!

Because if true, this theory, which has come to be known as the Spalding Enigma, would be well served by the existence of the original manuscript of the Spalding novel, allegedly titled Manuscript Found. This particular smoking gun has thus far been lost to history.

But it’s not lost to historical fiction. My novel is the coming of age story of a woman who comes to possess that manuscript. It begins with the Spalding Enigma, but in the course of the story also seeks to explore the unique cultural environment that allowed several new religious movements to begin. The book is fiction. It’s intended neither to convince nor convert, but rather to look at an interesting moment in history.

I mean it’s certainly no Bigfoot caught on a Department of Transportation camera, but I’m pretty proud of the book and I hope you’ll consider checking it out.

 

Want to help me spread the word? If you’re willing to share about the book on social media, I’d be so grateful. You can share this post, the Amazon link, or the book trailer. Really, any mention at all would be great! I even have some ready-made tweets if you’d like to use them. Thanks!

Tweet this“A fascinating look at a historical mystery that spell-bindingly blends fact with fiction.” Smoke Rose to Heaven. #bookrelease #tbrlist #amreading

A girl abandoned becomes a woman pursued by a dark past, a dangerous secret and those who would kill to keep it hidden. Smoke Rose to Heaven. #bookrelease #tbrlist #amreading

A woman with a unique gift and a tragic past holds the key to unravelling one of history’s greatest deceptions. Smoke Rose to Heaven. #bookrelease #tbrlist #amreading