I recently finished The Cult of Alien Gods: H. P. Lovecraft and Extraterrestrial Pop Culture, by Jason Colavito, which I highly recommend.
There's a couple of things going on here. First, Colavito makes a -
fairly convincing - argument that modern ancient astronaut theories
derive originally from the work of H. P. Lovecraft, via the proto-New
Age book Morning of the Magicians. Second, he traces the
development of ancient astronautics to the present day, though, since
the book was published in 2005, he stops before Ancient Aliens.
Third, he uses this to make a broader argument about the decadence of
Western culture, and a turning-away from science and rationalism.
To take these points in order: while Colavito's arguments are not quite conclusive, he demonstrates that the authors of Morning of the Magicians
were definitely familiar with Lovecraft's work, and makes a reasonable
argument for the descent of the rest of ancient astronautics from there.
If there's a flaw with this argument, it's that the rest of the
ancient astronauticists only know the theory via Morning - or, more commonly, via the work of van Daniken, who drew on Morning,
placing them one step further from the original source. This raises
the question of how much this matters: yes, there's a lineage from
Stitchin and Hancock to Lovecraft, but so what? There's no evidence of
any direct inspiration there, so I'm not sure how much that tells us.
However, despite the title, Lovecraft is only a small part of the book,
which is primarily concerned with tracing the history of ancient
astronautics, a task it succeeds admirably at. This is the meat of the
book, and it's a tasty meal indeed. Colavito takes us from Morning
to von Daniken to the Sirius mystery, Sitchin, Hancock, and then
ultimately to UFO cults like Heaven's Gate and the Raelians. This is
an admirable piece of scholarship, one I am sure I will consult in
However, while I'm sympathetic to his attempt to tie this into a broader
argument about cultural decadence, I don't think he really succeeds.
In particular, I don't think he really shows that there's a qualitative
or quantitative difference between modern pseudoscience beliefs and the
pseudoscientific beliefs of earlier periods. Does ancient astronautics
today have any more influence then the Theosophicals and spiritualists
of the 19th century, or the folk superstitions of the 18th? This is a
small part of the book, but an important one, and I don't think this
point is really addressed.
All in all, I highly recommend this book. 4/5 stars.