Every so often I have the occasion to sit down and do a bit of reading. Often it can take me weeks or even months to finish a particular book because of my schedule but, eventually, I get to the end.
Well, except for this particular book on the history of the Knights Templar. One chapter to go and it still sits on my night stand where I put it over three months ago. Not that I have no interest. It’s just that other things keep getting in the way. Also, I am the type of person who needs absolute silence when I read. I cannot stand distractions like the radio or television or mindless background chatter. This of course limits my reading to great lengths of time of almost fifteen to twenty minutes every few days or so.
However, one book in particular that I have, quite intentionally, been putting off since it came out last year is the ‘latest shocker’ from our long-time friend Richard C Hoagland, founder of The Enterprise Mission, recipient of an Angstrom Medal, former science advisor to CBS News and Walter Cronkite, author of The Monuments of Mars, co-creator of the ‘Pioneer Plaque,’ originator of the ‘Europa Proposal,’ and principal investigator of The Enterprise Mission and a guy who clearly does a pretty mean impersonation of General Thade) and one of his periodic co-authors, the equally stern-looking Mr Michael (Mike) Bara, who is, according to The Dark Mission Blog he maintains, an engineering consultant.
Also, according to the ‘About the Authors’ page of the book, Mr Bara ‘is an aerospace structural engineer with more than twenty-five years’ experience in the field,’ which goes to show that the areas of speculative or edge science and conspiracy theory (perhaps even conspiranoia if you will) draw people from all walks of life and with all manner of background. That is not meant to be disparaging of Mr Bara’s abilities or background, but merely pointing out that really just about anyone with the drive, the interest, the ambition, the resources, and the intelligence to sort out the genuine anomalies or connections from the wealth of nonsense and misinformation, can delve into this field of study in its vast array of forms from alien agendas to xenobiology. It helps, obviously, to have some speciality on which one can draw but as long as you have a well-polished skill set and can keep a keen objective eye at all times, this area is wide open. Do any of these aforementioned notions apply? We shall see…
The reader of this blog knows that I, too, am greatly interested in all things conspiratorial and speculative (especially when it comes to the poorly named ‘edge sciences’) but of course I haven’t written a book so what I think really doesn’t matter.
The main reason I put off reading this book was due to the fact that, although I have been a faithful follower of Mr Hoagland’s theories and ideas for…well…just about from the very beginning (which means, kids, way back in the dark days before the advent of the internet and when computers were still the giant ungainly things seen in Colossus – The Forbin Project) I have begun to find, on an entirely subjective level, a certain sense of consummate irritation with his choice of delivery techniques, for lack of a better term. This should come as no secret or surprise to you, as I have never danced round the subject whenever I have addressed it in previous posts.
One might think, from the tongue-in-cheek jabs I have on occasion taken at Hoagland here in the Magical Land of Make Believe, that I do not appreciate what he is trying to accomplish or that I do not subscribe to his ideas, and that is not entirely true. Though more often than not I have my serious doubts. What has grated on my nerves for several years now (as either a listener to his radio appearances or as a reader of his sporadic written work) is what I perceive to be the absolutely incessant Chicken Little-ing, the never-ending tangents, the circuitous ramblings that finish in incomplete thoughts, the incomplete thoughts which dangle emptily without even the circuitous ramblings to prop them up, the needless aggrandisement of language to elevate simple base concepts to a pseudo-scientific level as if to somehow prove they are important and difficult concepts that only years of education and research can comprehend, and the abhorrent and completely unnecessary bombast with which absolutely everything is presented.
One could liken Hoagland’s chosen mode of delivery (in whatever media) to a car advertisement where the announcer is screaming and screaming and lights are flashing and loud music is clashing against disjointed jump-cuts to back up a barrage of numbers and words flying out at you as if desperately trying to induce in the viewer a grand mal seizure. You just want to scream back ‘I fucking GET it!’ And frankly, when it comes down to it, when I do finally buy a car it will probably end up being the Mercury that Jill Wagner is the spokesperson for because she delivers the information in a friendly, up-beat, enthusiastic, non-threatening, and level-headed way without making you feel violated and spent. And she looks great in that grey sweater. Really great.
But I digress…
Another reason I put off the inevitable was that I had, some time ago, begun to find so many of Hoagland’s threads to be largely directionless and, thus, thoroughly maddening – also discussed here from time to time. That is not to imply irrelevance, but simply that he has occasionally started a number of topics (mostly on his web site or blog – which is, as of this writing, now approaching the three year mark without an update) – and has never finished them, such as the now infamous Iapetus
Oh. Sorry. Did I just leave you dangling out there?
Anyway, Hoagland’s writing style, as it is, makes the editor in me want scream his bloody head off. It’s almost as maddening at Stephen King’s I Am Obscenely Well Paid And Therefore Do Not Care How Lazy You Think My Writing Is style that is simply a slap in the face to the ever belittled Constant Reader.
So I was apprehensive when Dark Mission first came out. I put off buying it because I just didn’t think I was capable of subjecting myself to the literary Bataan Death March I felt it would be just to come away with a few small nuggets of information I didn’t already know from Hoagland’s web site. Yet, seeing that Mike Bara was his co-author, I decided to take the chance. I held out such high hopes for Dark Mission when I first cracked it open. I’ve read Mike Bara’s Enterprise Mission (and every so often the Dark Mission blog) entries and they are, generally speaking, fairly well-written pieces that tend to get to the point quickly and pause for exposition only when necessary and explain what needs explaining in a concise and comprehensible way. And they are not riddled with ridiculous over-emphasis. I had hoped that, with Bara there to help guide and restrain Hoagland, to perhaps be a voice of reason (to some degree), and to assist in presenting Hoagland’s topics in a more mature, reasoned, level, and respectable format, perhaps Dark Mission would prove to be far more readable and approachable than its predecessor The Monuments of Mars.
And, thankfully, it is.
And then you get to page 15 – almost to the very end of Chapter One – and it all begins to go so thoroughly and horribly pair shaped.
I often wonder if these giant publishing houses have ever considered having English majors on staff, proof-readers, or perhaps someone who can sit down with a potential author (or authors) and tell them gently and in the nicest, most helpful way possible that, ‘Yes, this is a spectacular tale and, yes, the public must be made aware of it, but, well…you see…things is, your presentation is, in a manner of speaking, as it were, a pile of dog shit, not to put too fine a point on it, and if you really want us to publish your book, we will have to do some serious tweaking. And, no, I don’t mean on acid.’
A simple perusal of a basic style manual or any good writing class will teach you that there are certain cues, certain visual stumbling blocks, that break up the narrative, disrupt the smooth flow of information and distracts the reader to such a degree that they will finally stop reading altogether because it appears obvious to them that the author has little or no regard for either how their information is presented or how the reader perceives the content of their work. It effectively removes whatever willing suspension of disbelief a reader might have previously had because the structure and form overpower the information. As a Communications Major in college, I can tell you that the power of persuasion in the mass media is a remarkable thing when it is handled deftly, and a spectacular failure when it is not.
I first read Immanuel Velikovsky in 1977, when I was in what was then called ‘Junior High’ and now isn’t. Worlds In Collision was an eye-opener: I devoured the information with an unimaginable voracity and annoyed my science teacher to distraction with counter-arguments for the things we were being taught. It was the beginning of a life-long fascination with Catastrophism. And it was simply due to the fact that Velikovsky wrote with a scholarly sort of authority that, whether or not it was truly supported by education and research, was very persuasive. Zecharia Sitchin does much the same thing, but of course now I tend to be a bit more objective and can sit back and say, ‘Yes, it’s all very interesting. I do not disagree with your findings but I must ask why would a space-faring race build everything out of stone?’
Other writers in this broad and general arena – Graham Hitchcock (occasionally), Robert Bauval, David Icke (though only just), and a hundred others – seem to be able to examine and display their theories in such a rational manner that, by contrast, when I read Hoagland, I have to wonder who it is he is trying to convince with all the orotundity? Just because you’re the loudest voice does not necessarily make you right.
I’m certain I have addressed the idea here before, but I sometimes have to wonder if the reason he is metaphorically screaming and flailing his arms so much is because he is the very voice of ‘disinformation’ he so often rails against. That is not to say that his ideas and information are wrong, only to say that if NASA (or whomever) wants specific information to get out to the public but are unwilling for any number of political or social reasons to release it themselves, who better to rely on than the conspiracy theorist crowd? The researchers are quietly fed the pertinent information, later they suddenly ‘discover’ it (after painstaking research of course) and get it out to the eager public with their usual I Told You So aplomb. NASA (or ‘The Government’ or the notorious ‘They’) get their much needed ‘plausible deniability,’ all the while having a fringe element ‘someone’ to publicly throw stones at periodically just for show, and everyone is happy.
That of course is entirely wild speculation.
Whatever the case, as I read Hoagland I develop this visceral desire to take out a highlighter about the size of a Titan rocket and start attacking the book. Allow me to illustrate why:
‘From my experience I cannot doubt but that man, when lost to terrestrial consciousness, is indeed sojourning in another and uncorporeal life of far different nature from the life we know, and of only the slightest and most indistinct memories linger after waking.’
This is a quote from Beyond The Wall of Sleep by Howard Phillips Lovecraft, written in 1919. Now let’s take this well-considered and thoughtful quote and apply to it what I like to call a Hoaglandisation technique. We arrive at something like this:
‘The stunning rectilinear pattern (as one can “clearly” distinguish for themselves at any given set of random – and yet strikingly organised – points through the variable length of what has often been defined as a so-called “span” of a human lifetime..!) to which highly remarkable and clearly regular flow all sentient biological entities are inescapably linked in the course of time (as a scalar physical “form” as represented in the world view of classical “Newtonian” mechanics…) can effectively be disengaged, not by what one would consider an accepted Lorentz transformational model, but through the complex neurological “process” of participant non-remembered—
Did I lose you there? Exactly my point. The irksome grandiosity wears thin after about two sentences. Enthusiasm for your subject matter is one thing. Pointlessly putting off your reader with convoluted hyperbole is another. And quite frankly it’s pretty fucking stupid if you ever intend to be taken seriously or want people to understand what you’re talking about. Were it an academic thesis for a doctorate or a submission to a ‘peer reviewed’ journal it would be laughed out of the room no matter how often you claim it is a ‘major paper.’ I’ve read enough scholarly material in my time to know that there often isn’t much need for playing to the cheap seats. Save the exorcise in advanced pseudo-technical writing for someone else.
Here in the quasi-solitude of the so-called ‘blogosphere’ I can write formally or informally as the humour strikes me. I am not being paid, very few people really read my ramblings and whinging (although ‘KatieFun789’ seems to be a hugely popular instalment, according to my statistics page, which is odd), and I can play with whatever form I choose, allowing my fondness for etymology and linguistics – and language forms most ancient – to frolic about. I am fond of the aposiopesis, the well considered parenthetical, the infrequent ellipse, a bit of paronomasia, often a sardonic turn, and a dash of periphrasis went it suits. Because I can.
If, on the other hand, my intention were to persuade and inform – possibly even to disclose – in a published form, I would choose to address my audience – my paying audience – in as straightforward a manner as possible given the parameters of a specific topic.
And yet in Dark Mission the inconsistent and pleonastic over-use of ellipses (as if for some forced, incomprehensible dramatic effect), the staggering amount of seemingly unnecessarily italicised words, the droning homiletics – these are some of the many dead horses we see ruthlessly and endlessly beaten in this manuscript.
This obviously only addresses the underlying mechanics of the book, the methodology by which the information is delivered up to the audience, and my complete personal disdain for what I see as a pointless exorcise in structure over content. My view is entirely subjective. I think paid professional writers ought to exhibit some interest in and concern for their reading audience instead of displaying what amounts to contempt. Some people, however, might find it thoroughly engaging to be lead down the theoretical garden path only to find that their guide has double backed on them and left them alone in the dark and scary part of the woods in front of an incongruous gingerbread house. I don’t. It just irritates me to no fucking end.
In the next part of this review we will explore some classic Hoaglandisms and begin our journey into the heart of Dark Mission.