Arts

Alien Con: The Truth is Out There

Inaugural gathering to mix science fact with science fiction
Giorgio Tsoukalos, host of 'Ancient Aliens' became a bona fide internet meme, thanks to his wild hair and even wilder theories.

Are we alone in the universe? For millennia, humans have speculated about other worlds and the beings that might inhabit them. From the priests of ancient Carthage to Carl Sagan, sages and scientists have long pondered the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

This question strikes at the heart of our desire to understand our own origins—propelling both earnest, academic inquiries and kitschy pop culture.

The inaugural Alien Con, an entire convention geared toward fans of the television show Ancient Aliens, aims to cover everything alien. The three-day event, which comes to the Santa Clara Convention Center this weekend, casts a wide net. With its tagline—"Science Fact. Science Fiction. Science Future"—Alien Con will feature the latest in extraterrestrial science, sci-fi authors and actors, and plenty of speculation.

First aired as a one-off special in 2009, Ancient Aliens eventually morphed into a full-fledged series, drawing devotees who buy into far out theories—such as those espoused by Giorgio Tsoukalos, who has suggested that aliens may have visited and shared technology with ancient human civilizations—as well as those who just enjoy the show with tongue in cheek. The program just completed its 11th season on the cable channel HISTORY.

Among the many guests scheduled to appear at the convention is Kevin Burns, the creator and executive producer of the show. Burns says the idea behind Ancient Aliens was to update Chariots of the Gods?, a 1968 book by Erich von Daniken, which proposed that the religions and technologies of ancient civilizations could have been given to them by extraterrestrial beings.

"Why do archaeologists dig, why does humanity dig?" Burns asks. "The answer, to me, is we are looking for God, we're looking for evidence of where we come from. We are a species with collective amnesia. We do not know our origins. We have science and technology and archeology that attempts to tell us where we come from. And we have religion that attempts to tell us where we come from. But we really don't know."

In each episode, a variety of hosts and contributors are interviewed about ancient sites and stories. They then present possible explanations for each of them—including theories that aliens from another world helped influence life as we know it today.

"The beauty of the show is that the narrator presents some things that are absolutely fact, but everything else that the narrator presents is a question," Burns says of Ancient Aliens. "In other words, 'Could this be true?' We allow the people with the theories to present their interpretations of things that are not known."

In an attempt to broaden the convention's appeal and scope, Burns has also invited scientists from the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, comic book writers and illustrators, as well as many of the stars and creative minds behind hit science fiction franchises such as Alien, Lost in Space and Godzilla.

"I think the beauty of 'Ancient Aliens' is that we're open-minded," Burns says. "We're not telling people that aliens came here. We're saying: 'What if something else explains the things that we cannot get an answer to?' And I think that's the joy of the show. I think that's the reason people have come back to it over and over. We don't presume to put a period at the end of the sentence; we let the question marks speak for themselves."

Alien Con
Oct 28-30, $29+
Santa Clara Convention Center


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