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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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09/02/2004 Archived Entry: "Book Review: "Things That Never Were""

Things That Never Were: Fantasies, Lunacies, and Entertaining Lies
by Matthew Rossi
Publisher: Monkeybrain, Inc., 2003

Review by Chad Denton

What if the Boy Scouts are part of an occult conspiracy on par with the Illuminati? Was Roger Bacon engaged in a secret war against Kublai Khan in the thirteen century? And what if there is something behind the seemingly crackpot theories that a sentient reptilian race created humanity as part of their genetic experiments? In Things That Never were: Fantasies, Lunacies, and Entertaining Lies these and other important questions are asked by author Matthew Rossi, who draws upon not only his own eclectic imagination, but a wealth of sub-culture literature, historical obscurities, real-life oddities, and cultural abberations, in a collection of essays ranging in topics from the secret bloodline of Jesus Christ, nanotech, the Hellfire Club, and Lovecraftian prehistoric societies.

As the reader might have already guessed, it is difficult for any reviewer, especially myself, to really pin down a classification for Rossi's essays. Some are musings on real events or philosophical topics, such as chaos theory, strange artifacts, and still unexplained historical events (for instance, did you know that in 1944 residents of a town in Illinois reported being attacked with gas by a mysterious transvestite?); some are tellings of alternate histories or even alternate universes, such as a story that paints a picture of what would happen if 'Flash' Gordon failed to stop Mongo from initiating their dreaded invasion of Earth (hint: it involves both Orson Welles and Doc Savage fighting the good fight); and some are outlandish but strangely plausible explorations of our world, universe, and history. I suppose the best classification for Rossi's work would be 'speculative non-fiction,' but that seems too tame a phrase. At any rate, Rossi's work isn't only speculation, but an introduction of sorts into the study of the fantastic, of the art of trying to translate miracles out of an increasingly mundane world.

Rossi's narration, our tour guide to this underworld of the strange, mostly remains conversational and even intimate through out, although it stays scholarly. Sometimes the reader is flooded with the many and varied references Rossi pulls out, but Rossi's enthusiasm for all his subjects is infectious and it's simple enough to meet him at his conclusions.

In his introduction to Things That Never Were, Paul Di Filippo states that Rossi "may have invented an entire new art form." Indeed, to go back to my earlier question, Rossi's book may be an attempt to find the limbo between fiction and non-fiction and, in so doing, give us reason to hope that our world might not be as dull as currently advertised.

Things That Never Were can be ordered and sampled through

Read a sample essay: Fields of Force from Things That Never Were.

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