Edith Hamilton killed JFK
January 6, 2007 1:42 PM   Subscribe

Know any books that treat conspiracy theory as mythology?

I don't believe in conspiracy theories, but I love reading about them. To me it's a thrilling fictional world -- a modern mythology. Has anybody written perhaps an encylopedia or something that neither attempts to prove or debink conspiracy theories, but simply collects and organizes them like Edith Hamilton?

I'm also interested in ficition that is set in such a world -- some of my favorites include From Hell and James Ellroy's current American Underworld series. I also really enjoy JFK -- as fiction. I've got Robert Anton Wilson as well. Less interested in sci-fi stuff like the X-Files than stuff that keeps to the "real" world.
posted by Bookhouse to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Eco's Foucault's Pendulum might fit the bill of fiction that navigates a sprawling world of conspiracy theory.
posted by holgate at 1:50 PM on January 6, 2007

Best answer: It's not precisely what you're looking for, but I think you'd enjoy Devon Jackson's Conspiranoia!: The Mother of All Conspiracy Theories.
posted by box at 2:01 PM on January 6, 2007

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 2:40 PM on January 6, 2007

Electronic Revolution might be interesting to you.
posted by Area Control at 2:42 PM on January 6, 2007

I know you're not looking as much for alien-related conspiracy theories (Roswell, etc.), but if they interest you at all there are a number of books that treat these theories as a modern religion or new mythology. Some of the readings on this syllabus are good; I think I remember liking Jodi Dean's Aliens in America: Conspiracy Cultures from Outer Space to Cyberspace when I took that class.
posted by lemuria at 3:15 PM on January 6, 2007

When you say you have Robert Anton Wilson, are you including his book Everything Is Under of Control: Conspiracies, Cults, and Coverups--a conspiracy encyclopedia that sounds a lot like what you're looking for? Also, you might like Jon Ronson's work, like his book Them: Adventures with Extremists. A lot of his interviewees are conspiracy nuts like David Icke, and he ends up collating a bunch of data on the Bilderberg group.
posted by jbrjake at 3:22 PM on January 6, 2007

I watched a short film in college that might appeal to you. It was a Craig Baldwin piece called "Spectre of the Spectrum." A little bit sci-fi, but very self-referential conspiracy-theory fun with a lot of inventively-used found footage. No idea if you can even find copies, though.
posted by Alterscape at 3:38 PM on January 6, 2007

Best answer: I'll send you the booklist from a module I teach to your pm. Might not be until Monday when at work.
posted by A189Nut at 3:43 PM on January 6, 2007

Watch the Skies! by Curtis Peebles explicitly traces the origins and evolution of UFO mythology, which from the very beginning was rife with conspiracy, on Earth and Beyond!
posted by SPrintF at 3:56 PM on January 6, 2007

Everything Is Under Control : Conspiracies, Cults, and Cover-Ups by Robert Anton Wilson. Or any of RAW's fiction, for that matter.
posted by Malla at 5:31 PM on January 6, 2007

Response by poster: Great stuff so far ... and maybe I need to revist RAW.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:58 PM on January 6, 2007

Have emailed you - couldn't work out how to pm.
posted by A189Nut at 9:23 PM on January 6, 2007

Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer is a good book about the Conspiracy Mind and the psychology behind it. However, I think that Shermer views it as more of a pathology then a mythology, and I would tend to agree with him.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:27 PM on January 6, 2007

Also worth checking out is Kenneth Hite's Eliptony Core Sample, a series of livejournal posts where he sampled the bookshelf he uses for research into conspiracy theories, alternate histories, and that sort of thing.
posted by hades at 1:23 AM on January 7, 2007

David Icke writes some very compelling conspiracy theories as well as Alex Jones.
posted by mic stand at 9:31 AM on January 7, 2007

Tim Boucher at PopOcculture.com has a blog worth reading if you're interested in Conspiracy Theory as mythology. Not mythology as 'fake history' but mythology in the Jungian or Joseph Campbellian sense. His more recent entries have been a bit 'out there' from a conventional standpoint, but don't let that discourage you. Start with his 'Greatest Hits'.

Also for some real thrills down the rabbit hole, check out Jeff Well's Rigorous Intuition. If nothing else, he's a lot of fun to read.
posted by lyam at 9:36 AM on January 7, 2007

Wow, how is it that I'd never seen PopOcculture? That's awesome, lyam, thanks!
posted by hades at 10:43 AM on January 7, 2007

You'd probably love the Illuminatus! Trilogy. It pretty much covers every conspiracy theory, and it's very... mythic.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:13 PM on January 7, 2007

A number of anthropologists of religion have worked on conspiracy theory and similar phenomena. You might have a look at this for one sort of approach.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:54 AM on January 10, 2007

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