Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Lovecraftian Thing a Day (2018) No.171: The Slenderman Mysteries by Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern’s books are something of a guilty pleasure for me - his work is constituted of easily consumable, uncritical and problematically-researched takes on a range of pop-culturally-relevant paranormal and conspiratorial themes and ideas. I also consider him to be one of the more significant conduits by which Lovecraftian themes have been entering into contemporary paranormal, ufological and conspiratorial subcultures.

Needless to say, the shade of Lovecaft is invoked more than once in Redfern’s recent offering, The Slenderman Mysteries - unsurprising, given the acknowledged influence of Lovecraft’s work on this relatively recent piece of digital folk/fakelore. Simlarly, it has been recognised that the figure of Slenderman owes something to the modern ufological mythology of the Men in Black - an issue which Redfern explores in this book. Bear in mind the fact that I haven’t offered citations in support of the above claims, as I don’t want to be labelled a hypocritic in relation to what comes next (but message me if you require the relevant references, as I will be happy to provide them).

For my part, I’ve been predisposed toward the notion that the mythology of the MiBs was at least partially influenced by  Lovecraft’s fiction: specifically, an early analogue of the MiB appears in Lovecaft’s Whisperer in Darkness - a tale which also involves an early fictive example of alien abduction. Indeed, in his They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, Gray Barker notes that Alfred Bender - who, via Barker’s book (and Bender’s own Flying Saucers and the Three Men) shaped early ufological lore concerning the Men-in-Black - was an avid fan of science-fiction literature.

In relation to which, for a brief moment, Redfern’s The Slenderman Mysteries offered me the hope of additional evidence in support of a Lovecraft-Bender-MiB link by way of the author’s claim that Bender was ‘a big fan of the writings of H.P. Lovecraft’. Sadly, as is the case with so much of the rhetoric of contemporary pop-cultural paranormal and conspiratorial texts, this is presented, via a kind of occulted illocutionary act, as an authoritative fact for which documentary evidence or appropriate citations in support of the claim are deemed uneccessary. Indeed, as with so much of this material, even where one does encounter the concrete citation of sources, these often direct one to either a wikipedia entry, or some other dubious, wholly uncritical and non-peer-reviewf online source. In this respect, more than once have I had to point out to a student the error of treating the number of referenced footnotes in the work of someone like David Icke as evidence of the author’s academic credentials.

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