One of my favorite series is "Area 51" by Robert Doherty.

Among the things that attracted me was the formula of taking all (or at least a significant amount) of the worlds mythology, weirdness, and unexplained, and building a universe framework to tie ALL those disparate points into coherent explanation - frequently involving aliens :)

There are other works that use similar formula as well (X-Files, Langdon series by Dan Brown).

What I'm interested in is how did the idea/approach (of taking disparate mythological+historical+legendary+"weird" datapoints and explaining them as unified in-universe structure) originate and develop in the modern SFF literature? Are there classically recognized early examples?


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One very influential work in the genre of conspiracy fiction was The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea, published in 1975. It's an intentionally absurd blend of a huge number of conspiracy theories, both real (many inspired by letters from conspiracy theorists that Wilson got when working at Playboy) and invented by the authors. A paragraph from this review about the book's version of the Kennedy assassination gives a flavor:

Readers of The Illuminatus! Trilogy learn, for example, that John Dillinger, the infamous bank robber killed by the FBI outside a movie theater in 1934, actually survived the incident and turned up with a gun at Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963. But he was late to the event: several other organizations had already placed operatives on the scene with orders to shoot the President —and the real question, according to Wilson and Shea, isn't who planned the assassination of JFK, but which gunman managed to pull the trigger first. But if you seek ultimate answers, you need to dig below the scene of the crime, to the underground lair of the Dealey Lama, whose office is located under the sewers of Dallas. He’s a wise robed and bearded man who presides over a powerful secret society, and is perhaps more influential than either the President or conspirators up on ground level.

But as the review also notes, the books are designed to mess with your sense of reality in a sort of psychedelic, '60s counterculture style:

Yet as I look back at my description of this book, I realize that I have misled you. Because this book is just as serious as it is absurd. Even as Shea and Wilson pile up ludicrous incidents on top of one another, they also want to convey words of wisdom. As strange as it sounds, given my summary above, The Illuminatus! Trilogy wants to possess the authority of non-fiction. The authors add footnotes and appendices, and work hard to substantiate many of their claims with citations and evidence. Not all of the sources are real ones—I am rightly skeptical when any author backs up claims with references to the Necronomicon by the "mad Arab" Abdul Alhazred. But much of the documentation withstands scrutiny. Shea and Wilson add to the peculiar flavor of their work by frequently inserting long passages that can only be described as a counterculture philosophy of life. When you reach the final pages of this work, you will find that your greatest challenge as a reader is not evaluating the literary merits of the trilogy, but determining how much of it the authors themselves actually believe—and, by extension, how much credence you ought to give to their claims.


C.S. Lewis (of Narnia fame) wrote a series of novels in the 1930s which he called "The Space Trilogy". One of the key themes of these novels was that the supposed mythology of the ancient Greek and Roman world actually reflects the interplanetary politics of our own Solar System:

Ransom gets much information on cosmology from the Oyarsa (presiding angel) of Malacandra, or Mars. Maleldil, the son of the Old One, ruled the Field of Arbol, or solar system, directly. But then the Bent One (the Oyarsa of Earth) rebelled against Maleldil and all the eldila (similar to the Valar in Tolkien's Silmarillion) of Deep Heaven (outer space).

In a letter, Lewis described the book thusly:

I like the whole interplanetary ideas as a mythology and simply wished to conquer for my own (Christian) p[oin]t of view what has always hitherto been used by the opposite side.

A more recent example of a meta-mythology would be The Other Log of Phileas Fogg. It was originally written in 1971 and included a wide variety of mythological beings as well as fictional characters.

The story takes place within the internal reality first imagined in the 1872 Jules Verne novel, Around the World in Eighty Days. Farmer includes many of the story's original characters, including the eponymous Phileas Fogg as well as his French valet, Passepartout. He also establishes that all of Verne's published works take place within the same shared continuity including Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. In addition, he includes other elements of crossover fiction, incorporating the Arthur Conan Doyle characters of Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty into his setting. These elements place Phileas Fogg and his entire supporting cast into the Wold Newton family of literary characters.

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