In which The Author ponders the deep
structure of the Universe
(First published on MySpace, 14 July 2007)
I started reading the novels of the brilliant English SF writer Ian Watson when I was still in school. I don’t think I fully (or even partially) understood them at the time, but I’ve gone back to them on several occasions. The latest revival of interest was sparked by the sudden reappearance of The Embedding
(see ‘A Mysterious Book
‘) a couple of weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been rereading his backlist – except for Alien Embassy
, which I can’t find. I don’t recall lending it to anyone.
I’m currently halfway through Miracle Visitors. Now, there’s a whole wedge of weird coincidences connected with this book over the years. And it makes me wonder …
In the novel, Mr Watson’s characters all have strange paranormal experiences (alien encounters, animal mutilations, MIB visits, tape recordings suddenly being erased, and so forth). They agree to describe them as the external manifestations of an unknown force which they call ‘the Phenomenon’. They can’t agree whether the Phenomenon is an extraterrestrial intelligence, something from within the earth, or the unconscious mind connecting with quantum events across space and time (a bit like Jung and Pauli’s work on synchronicity). The events of the novel are set in train by a young student, under hypnosis, recalling an alien abduction around his sixteenth birthday. Everyone who comes into contact with him is in some way affected by the Phenomenon.
Since I reread the book in my late twenties, I’ve also become aware of the Phenomenon. Intriguing question: Was my awareness also triggered by reading the book?
Years ago, I struck up a conversation in the shop with a guy named Carl Blewitt. He was also interested in psychological phenomena and what we can loosely term ‘the Unexplained’. It turned out that we’d read some of the same books, and had had a number of similar bizarre experiences. We met up several times and corresponded for a time until he went to live in Australia. Carl promised he’d keep in touch, although he did say that it might not be by ‘conventional means’.
A few weeks later, one of the tabloids had a debate on the letters page about football teams. A reader called Carl had written in, slating off Manchester City. One reader wrote in to correct his errors, and the letter was published under the headline CARL REALLY BLUE IT! Or, read aloud – Carl Really Blewitt!
Anyway, while they were down under, Carl’s Irish girlfriend had a bad time at the hands of the Aussies – so much so that they split up and returned home a short time later. I bumped into Carl in Cardiff – the last person I expected to see – on his return to Wales. I’d also had a bad experience involving an Australian during this brief interlude (see ‘From a Land Down Under
‘). Mere coincidence, of course!
Before he went away, I’d told Carl to check out Ian Watson’s books – notably Alien Embassy and Miracle Visitors. To me, anyway, it was obvious on rereading them that Watson was au fait with the writings of Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson. Knowing that Carl was a fan of the aforementioned counterculture heroes, I reckoned they’d be right up his street.I wrote the details down for him, and he laughed.
‘I had a phone call last night,’ he said. ‘The caller said, “Hello, is that Ian?”‘
Carl swore that he didn’t know any Ians at the time. Was it the Phenomenon at work, somehow trying to point him in the direction of Ian Watson?
The Phenomenon has struck twice this week. I was flicking through the local rag on the train to work when I read a letter from a reader. He’d been surfing the Interweb and found an account of an eighteenth-century anomaly in Mountain Ash. Fish fell from the sky onto a house in the town. The event was recorded by the local vicar, and was amongst the thousands of unusual events catalogued by Charles Fort. Of course, I’m vaguely familiar with Fort’s work, and have been for a number of years. I’d read about the Mountain Ash event when I was a teenager. It wasn’t exactly news to me – but it obviously was newsworthy enough for the Cynon Valley Leader.
I put the paper away and turned back to Miracle Visitors. I’d only been reading it for a few minutes when I came across Charles Fort’s name in the book.
The second, spookier coincidence, happened last night. I got off the bus near my house and was heading for home when Mike from the local bakery called me over. He, his girlfriend, and Rhian were under the awning outside the pub. Rhian had finished work and called in for a drink with Mike. I wasn’t aiming for the pub – my plan was to go home and have an early night. Instead I joined Rhian and the others for a pint.
On the train home, I’d read a part of Miracle Visitors where a girl has an encounter with a green luminous creature described as ‘a goblin.’ I bought my beer and sat down. On the table was a beermat, advertising a bottled brew called Green Goblin.
Rationalists, I defy you to explain this!
Shanara almost accused me of being a Satanist this week, when we were talking about Darwinism and ‘Intelligent Design’. I believe in the Darwinian process of evolution by natural selection, because it makes more sense than any other theory. However, I also believe, with Hamlet, that ‘there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy’.
Is ‘God’ simply the Great Oz, a ‘man behind the curtain’, playing games with the universe? Einstein said ‘God does not play dice with the universe’, to which Nils Bohr replied, ‘He not only plays dice, he throws them where they cannot be seen.’
The older I get, and the more bizarre these events become, the less certain I am …