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Review of The Cryptoterrestrials

March 24, 2010

Mac Tonnies death hit me hard. I’ve been blogging since 2004 and have gone through waves of disinterest – finding new blogs to read, sometimes forgetting about them. But Posthuman Blues was a constant. Even as my interest in UFOs and Forteana sometimes waned, I would always come back to his blog, as MT had the perfect mixture of curiosity, honesty, bravery, and humor about these subjects. He was never afraid to reveal his personal weaknesses, while providing an amazing array of knowledge and discoveries on his site.

For someone with health problems – and health problems that relate to my heart – the death of someone 34 years old who’s obsessed with some of the same ideas as I am was a hit to the soul. He’d been a sort of online friend for many years. I’ve never met him, corresponded a few times via email, but one of the great things about his blog was that you were along for the ride with him. His mind was a community. Proud that he linked to The American Book of the Dead way back in 2004 when it was a different blog – proof that I’ve been working on this story forever. He was one of the first people I wanted to send my book.

To be perfectly honest, when MT would sometimes elucidate on his ideas in long-form prose on his blog it sometimes had the flavor of trying too hard – as if he was trying to write, and not letting it flow naturally. So I was wondering if his book would have the same type of issue. Not at all and The Cryptoterrestrials is one of the best books on the subject I’ve read. It condenses the ideas from myriad sources with a great sense of clarity and poetry. I’m not entirely sure how this would read to someone who knows nothing about the subject – in a sense it’s important to be a “believer” (by that all I mean is open) – to tackle the ideas in the book. But if you are open to these ideas, there’s limitless wisdom to extract from it.

I thought as well that John Shirley was being nice for a deceased friend in the quote on the back: “The most refreshing speculation I’ve seen on the paranormal in ages…Mac Tonnies’ final Fortean landmark is the Book of the Damned for the 21st Century.” Really: the number of ideas in this book condensed into just over 100 pages is remarkable and electrifying. It covers the gamut of possibilities about ET life, while not proselytizing about any of it. It’s the opposite of a fundamentalist book, as some UFO books can be, it’s really just a mind opener like the best of writing of this sort by Jacques Vallee or Robert Anton Wilson.

Which of course makes Mac Tonnies death even sadder. I wondered if Mac Tonnies was more of a born blogger than a born writer (I haven’t read his Mars book or book of stories). But this book shows that it could have been the beginning of a great career. He could have become one of the giants in the field. Judging by the Amazon rank for this book – #7 in UFOs – that’s happening regardless.

Someone on Amazon criticizes the book for offering too much hypothesis in the place of actual theory. In other words, MT could have said all aliens come from Pluto and it would have as much validity as saying they come from right here on earth. What’s useful and refreshing about the book is that it doesn’t purport to make any claims either way, which is important for something as elusive and unknowable as this subject tends to be. In any UFO literature it is absolutely wrong to talk of anything with any sense of certainty – right now we can only guess about what’s happening. So he doesn’t spend time listing the reports of, for example, craft seen coming out of the ocean to prove aliens live here right on earth. This book is more about the implications of alien life, not about proving their existence – which is incredibly smart and useful. The naysayers say, “Where’s the proof?” when the more-important question is, “What are the implications if this is real?”

As a solid hypothesis, Tonnies’ book is persuasive, if only because it’s written by someone who so deeply cares about the subject, and for the fact that he doesn’t claim any one theory is “true.” That’s all you can hope for in a book about these subjects – to actually solve this mystery is as impossible as saying, “This is what God looks like.” This book isn’t about one single answer – it’s about the importance of asking limitless questions.

The thought of someone so enamored with life’s mysteries dying so mysteriously is dramatic, to say the least. Again, I never met him, but he often seemed so disillusioned by his life – so much more comfortable in the ether of the weird. So I have a fantasy that the Ufonauts came to him during the night and said, “You want some answers?” As someone who was so insatiably curious about inner and outer space, and disaffected by the limits of this mortal coil, it would be surprising if he didn’t take them up on their offer. It really lends a different meaning to this illustration on the first page of the book:

Cross-posted at The American Book of the Dead.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2010 12:18 pm

    Really interesting.

    I drew that illustration of Mac at the door with his two cats. The creative act of drawing that image was a bit odd. The image was a sort of “compulsion” and that feels a little bit different than my “normal” creative process. I’m not sure how to articulate my feeling, but adding that little alien image in the distance seemed essential.

    Mike C!

    • March 24, 2010 5:53 pm

      Mike, that illustration got me, and a lot of us, where we live. Henry describes its impact perfectly. I’m not at all surprised to learn that it felt somewhat compulsively inspired. It’s at the same time a tear-jerker and a very comforting image. I wish I had your or Isoban’s abilities; there should be a whole series of cartoons of Mac exploring Cydonia!

  2. March 24, 2010 5:55 pm

    Henry, lovely review of the book! I’m taking my time working through my last communication from a friend whom I loved dearly, but agree it’s a wonderful distillation of what he was about and what he had to say. As I read through and admire Mike’s illustrations and see how well Mac finally put together all the ideas he tossed around with us over the last year or two, I am proud as hell of him and this book. We benefited from his visit among us, yes we did.

  3. isoban permalink
    March 25, 2010 12:22 am

    Great review, Henry. Thanks for sharing!

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