The redoubtable Mark Twain once wrote, "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn't."
Maybe I had that in mind a few months ago when talk show host Arthur Schwartz interviewed me about my sci-fi novella Eden. Eden is about a group of American GIs in Iraq who stumble upon an ancient secret about the beginnings of humankind. As I explain in the book’s author’s note, Eden was inspired by the ancient alien theory, which proposes that man's biological and cultural evolution was influenced by extraterrestrial beings who visited earth in pre-historic times.
Arthur wanted to discuss what influence the work of Zecharia Sitchin had on me while writing Eden. Sitchin was a Russian-born writer and, along with Erich Von Däniken, was an early proponent of the ancient alien theory. While Däniken's research focused largely on known archeological sites, Sitchin's research was largely focus on the ancient Sumerian civilization.
Sumerian civilization sprang up in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) between 5500 and 4000 BC, and is considered one of the earliest, if not the first, human civilizations. Sitchin taught himself to read cuneiform writing, and from reading ancient Sumerian tablets developed his own ancient alien theory.
In his 1976 book, The 12th Planet, Sitchin proposed that extraterrestrials called the Annunaki visited earth and influenced the development of human culture. In fact, that is the basic Sumerian creation myth, which claims "sky gods" called the Annunaki came to earth and created man to mine riches for them. I used this same basic mythology as part of the plot for Eden.
But Sitchin went far beyond the known Sumerian mythology. Based on his reading of the Sumerian texts, Sitchin proposed the Annunaki came from Nibiru, an undiscovered planet in our own solar system orbiting just beyond Neptune. Sitchin maintained Nibiru was unknown to astronomers because its large elliptical orbit meant the planet took thousands of years to complete one trip around the sun. Sitchin also claimed Nibiru's orbital plane was at an acute angle to the plane on which the known planets orbit the sun.
In our interview, I told Arthur this was where Sitchin and I parted company. I said I found the idea of such a planet existing preposterous. If it did exist, I insisted, astronomers would detect some evidence of its gravitational effect on other members of our solar system. In my considered opinion, it was far more plausible that some alien culture traveled here from some distant solar system using faster than light or worm-hole jumping technology.
I'm sure damn glad I didn't bet my hat on that assertion. I'd be eating it right now.
On January 20, Caltech astronomers Michael E. Brown and Konstantin Batygin announced they found gravitation indications of a ninth planet (Pluto no longer being considered a planet) orbiting the sun in an elongated orbit that takes the planet 10 to 20 thousand years to complete. Based on mathematical calculations and not direct observation, the astronomers believe the planet to be at least as large as earth and probably much larger, and orbiting at an acute angle from the normal orbital plane. Moreover, they theorized the planet's orbit would place it just beyond Neptune's orbit—right where Sitchin said Nibiru's orbit lay.
As I read the initial news story about the astronomers’ theory, I found myself speechless. The similarities between Sitchin's Nibiru and the planet predicted by the Caltech calculations are striking, perhaps too much so to be coincidence. If Drs. Brown and Batygin are correct, is this unseen planet Sitchin's Nibiru? And if it is, what does that mean for what most people believe is human history?
I am beginning to feel like Eden’s protagonist, Captain Adam Cadman, an archeologist turned soldier, who discovers everything he’s been told about human history is wrong.
Twain was certainly right. Truth is stranger than fiction.