We were assured by space writers and science fiction authors that the vastness of interstellar space could only be crossed by mammoth space vehicles – “generation ships”, in the parlance of some spinners of space yarns – crewed by generations of space travelers hoping to reach their destination centuries hence. The concept was ripe for speculation. What if the children of the children of the first crew became a series of stratified societies aboard their vehicle, and had forgotten the purpose of their mission? (Harlan Ellison’s Phoenix in Ashes, the novelized version of The Starlost), or the fate of the mission was entrusted to a single pilot while passengers endured dreamlike sleep until their destination was within reach (James White’s The Dream Millennium). This science fiction did not allow for super-passing gear of hyperdrive like space opera: crossing the blackness of space was a dangerous, laborious process whose ultimate payoff was never in sight.
“These children,” wrote Arthur C. Clarke in his landmark Report on Planet Three and Other Speculations, “knowing no parents, or indeed anyone of a different age, would grow up in the strange artificial world of their speeding ship, reaching maturity in time to explore the planets ahead of them – perhaps to be the ambassadors of humanity among alien races, or perhaps to find, too late, that there were no home for them there. If their mission succeded, it would be their duty, or that of their descendants, if the first generation could not complete the task, to see that the knowledge they had gained was someday carried back to Earth. Would any society be morally justified in planning so onerous and uncertain a future for its unborn – indeed unconceived – children?”
Speculative aliens may face a similar situation. Around this same time, Clarke also wrote about “worldlets” filled with extraterrestrials who might venture through our solar system, and perhaps this line of thought led him to write Rendezvous with Rama (1973), a work desperately calling for elevation to the silver screen for four decades. The British scientist’s Childhood’s End also introduced us to the concept of giant alien saucers hovering over our planet’s major cities as the mysterious Overlords changed the direction of human civilization.
Size matters, and many of us – this writer included – sat in wonderment at a movie theater as Darth Vader’s star destroyer dominated the entire screen in its pursuit of Princess Leia’s Tantive IV in the crucial opening minutes of Star Wars: A New Hope (just plain Star Wars in 1977). An even bigger surprise awaited viewers as Han Solo’s Corellian freighter was absorbed into the moon-sized Death Star. Here was a Clarkian “worldlet” capable not only of traveling from one planet to another, but also destroying it.
Using science-fiction as our springboard, we move on to the subject of gigantic vehicles – seemingly real – that are often reported in UFO chronicles. The presence of such behemoths has fuelled speculation about alien efforts at colonizing our own star system, although – referring back to pulp as a touchstone – such massive craft could be needed to pierce the barrier that separates one dimension from another, as suggested in Fritz Leiber’s The Wanderer.
A Forgotten Case: The Janos People
The story of The Janos People occupied the narrow middle ground between the UMMO hoax and contactee experiences of the 1950s and 1960s. In 1978, a family traveling down a lonely road somewhere in England found their routine journey intercepted by an unidentified flying object. During the course of this CE-3 experience, the humans were taken aboard the alleged craft. In the abduction-riddled ’90s, they would have been subjected to series of gruesome experiments; but things were different in the ’70s, even in matters involving extraterrestrial captors, who limited themselves to showing their unwilling guests a movie.
The projection – for want of a better term – told the story of the destruction of the planet Janos as one of its satellites – Saton – crumbled to bits and rained mountain-sized fragments on the planet below, destroying atomic power plants and enveloping the world in fallout.
The Janosians set themselves to work on a gargantuan spaceship constructed in the stricken planet’s orbit (somewhere free from the meteoroids left over from the destruction of Saton, one supposes) and this too was displayed to the captives. This unimaginably large, ring-shaped worldlet held ten million people, and waited at the edges of our solar system for permission to embark on a colonization mission: whether on Earth proper or perhaps terraforming another planet like Mars or Venus.
The story appeared in a book – aptly called The Janos People – by Frank Johnson in 1980. The description of the Janosian homeworld is straight out of the UMMO playbook and – if real – suggests some dark psychological operation, whether by the military or another shadowy organization. Taken at face value, the humanoid Janosians are politely awaiting permission to settle in our system, and may still be waiting out there (could all those blurry photographs of “rogue planets” and comets circulating on the Internet really be snapshots of the Janosian worldlet? Throw that into the pot of speculation for good measure).
“If they were desperate,” suggests the ever-quotable Arthur C. Clarke in his essay When The Aliens Come, “if, for example, they were the last survivors of an ancient race whose mobile worldlet had almost exhausted its supplies after aeons of voyaging, they might be tempted to make a fresh home in the solar system. The barren Moon and the drifting slag heaps of the asteroid belt would provide all the raw materials they needed, and the Sun, all the energy.” This seems like a more acceptable solution than the one proposed by author Frank Johnson, who proposed vacating New Zealand to turn it over to the Janosians.
Desperation must not be a factor for the ten million alien souls aboard the Janosian ring-ship.
The Worlds of Oahspe
Now we venture into an even more uncomfortable no-mans-land: border regions where spiritualism has points of contact with drug-induced visions, such as those produced by the consumption of ayahuasca and other substances. The Oahspe Bible, a work of automatic writing produced by John Ballou Newbrough in the late 19th century, occupies a respected place among new age and general esoteric writings. John A. Keel noted in his works that some of the terminology employed in contacteeism hails from this mysterious volume, but that most contactees had never heard of Dr. Newbrough’s nine hundred page long received work. It is not our intention here to delve into the theology of Oahspe or the reality of the spirits that dictated the huge document, but rather to only touch on a particular aspect – the fact that the world “star ship” makes its first appearance in written English (according to http://www.sacred-texts.com/oah/oah/).
“13. Onward moved the float, the fire-ship, with its ten million joyous souls, now nearing the borders of Horub, the boundary of Fragapatti’s honored regions, known for hundreds of thousands of years, and for his work on many worlds. Here, reaching C’vork’um, the roadway of the solar phalanx, near the post of dan, where were quartered five hundred million ethereans, on a voyage of exploration of more than four millions of years, rich stored with the glories of Great Jehovih’s universe. Their koa’loo, their ship, was almost like a world, so vast, and stored with all appurtenances. They talked of going home! Their pilots had coursed the firmament since long before the earth was made, and knew more than a million of roadways in the etherean worlds, and where best to travel to witness the grandest contrasting scenes.” (Book of Fragapatti, Son of Jehovih, Oahspe, 1912)
“Some of the giant starships are described in Oahspe as being from ethereal worlds,” observed Brinsley LePoer Trench – Lord Clancarty – in an article for SAGA UFO Report in 1976, “and others as from corporeal worlds such as our own. So almost 100 years ago Oahspe supported both the extra-dimensional theory and the extraterrestrial hypothesis. Indeed, Oahspe gives a history of both the etherean heavens and the corporeal worlds.” He concludes by saying: ‘In short, there may be a vast, galactic civilization in deep space, living not so much on physical planets but on giant spaceships the size of planets, as described in Oahspe.
The koa’loo certainly fits the bill for a Clarkian worldlet, – with room to spare – but it is a predecessor to other colossal conveyances described in the contactee tradition, such as the Ashtar Command’s flagship, the Shan Chea, depicted in contactee illustrations at a multi-leveled, football-shaped craft with a dozen separate decks ranging from a motor pool for flying saucers to the dome-shaped command deck from which Ashtarian officers survey the universe. Level Ten of this brobdingnagian craft contains “lodgings for visiting dignitaries from all dimensions” while Level Three contains a “zoo with animals of many worlds.” Level Eight contains housing for the evacuees from the impending destruction of planet Earth.
“Rest assured that the Mansions of Space are ready and awaiting their guests,” states the text accompanying the sketch of the giant spacecraft. “There will be no crowding of persons or things in these incredibly spacious, self-contained and extraordinarily organized floating aetheric ships. Seven of these pearly-white Space Cities are ready, and their sizes range from 10 miles in diameter (16 km) to the greatest of all, the one containing the headquarters of Lord Jesus Sananda, Lord Ashtar and the Ashtar Command, which is over one hundred miles in diameter.” An unwise tongue may be moved to quip that Tarkin’s Death Star was two hundred miles across, but did not contain such august characters.
The most attractive feature of this contactee vessel is the Grand Rotunda (on Level 11) where human visitors shall be summoned from their staterooms for a meeting with the space brothers. “Its impressive circular walls contain giant displays through which guests may enjoy the cosmic landscape, their own world, and events from the past and those yet to come.”
Part II of this series continues tomorrow: Wednesday, September 10, 2014!