Here’s a somewhat more academic work then the last few books. It’s a review of various alternate theories of the origins of humanity from pseudo-scientist cranks, religious cults, and various grifters.
It includes multiple Ancient Astronaut theories, various Creationisms, and a couple of ideas so bizarre, as to defy any easy categorization.
Strange Creations: Aberrant Ideas of Human Origin from Ancient Astronauts to Aquatic Apes by Donna Kossy (Goodreads)
Note: As the book makes clear, all of these theories are evidence-free nonsense, and more than a few of them are straight-up racist.
Some games that might benefit from some of these ideas include:
Conspiracy X, GURPS Illuminati: One (or several) of these notions are the true origin of Humanity, covered up by the conspiracy.
Timewatch, Doctor Who (or any time travel game): Time travelers going back into deep time might find that human origins were not what they believed.
Fringeworthy, GURPS Alternate Worlds: None of these theories are true in our world, but might be valid in a parallel Earth.
Mage: Most of this is stuff the Sons of Ether might believe in. Some of it the Celestial Chorus might go for.
Call of Cthulhu: If you’ve read Lovecraft, a lot of these theories seem awfully familiar. Lovecraft clearly took a lot of inspiration from the crank archeology theories of H.P. Blavatsky and her Theosophy Society. He also seemed to buy into the old theories of degeneration.
Here’s some of my favorite gameable bits of nonsense:
- Humans are the descendants of apes that turned cannibal, feasting on the brains of other apes, which gradually increased their virility and intelligence, at the price of moral decay. This could easily show up in a horror game – If eating brains worked once, why couldn’t it work now?
- Many of the theories involve the idea that in the past, the poles of Earth shifted from a completely vertical axis to its current tilted axis. This has the advantage of making Antarctica temperate, and a possible birthplace for humans. This suggests there could be the ruins of ancient cities under the Antarctic ice (Lovecraft again!)
- Humans evolved through a phase in which they were either fully or semi-aquatic.
- Dinosaurs were intelligent and humans were originally bred as their pets. (We’d make great pets!)
- Sumerian mythology is a thinly-disguised description of alien races warring over the solar system and founding human civilization on Earth.
This is the fourth in my series of capsule reviews of non-fiction books that would be useful or inspiring in RPGs – Weird Books for Gamers