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Archive for April, 2012

From China to Atlantis

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Some of you might remember the name Gavin Menzies from my “Bad History” post. Well, he’s on my mind again after a recent trip to the library, where I stumbled across his latest book, The Lost Empire of Atlantis: History’s Greatest Mystery Revealed (2011). I was unaware Menzies had chosen to tackle that particular subject and my first reaction was Oh thank God.

Because how can people possibly take Menzies seriously now that he’s written a book about the factual existence of Atlantis?

But the interior flap gave me pause–

New York Times bestselling historian Gavin Menzies…”

Historian? Oh no. Oh God no. Gavin Menzies is not a historian. That would imply Menzies has some historical training. He doesn’t. Even on an amateur historian level, that would imply his books have, um, history in them. They don’t.

So let’s go back to the beginning, folks…

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A question for your consideration:

In a world where written text has magical properties, what are the implications of the invention of a printing press?

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Hollow Earth theory doesn’t have much currency these days. There are a few conspiracy theorists, sure, but few really believe in realms unknown beneath our feet. And yet, the idea of the Hollow Earth has undeniable appeal. Ever since Sir Edmund Halley of comet fame came up with the model of nested earths the idea has appeared in all manner of fiction. The earliest was Ludwig Holberg’s A Journey to the World Underground (1741), a Swiftian-style satire about a man who plunges through a set of caverns into the Hollow Earth. It’s not very well known these days because, while the satire may have been Swiftian, the writing was not. Of more interest are the early scientific romances that used the idea. Again, most of this material is long forgotten, but there sure was a lot of it. Through much of the 19th century the Hollow Earth theory was still a possible proposition, leading to works like Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864). Even after the theory had been disproved by scientists, the Hollow Earth lived on in pulp fiction well into the 1930s.

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