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"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
— Arthur C. Clarke
Who is John Frum? He is known to us by many names, this Visitor from Elsewhere, dispenser of endless abundance and wielder of mysterious technologies: John Frum, Quetzalcoatl, Osiris, "Bob." His cargo is splendid, his generosity boundless, his motives beyond our understanding. But across the ages and around the world, the stories all agree: one day he will return, bearing great gifts. Our theme this year asks three related questions; who is John Frum, where is he really from, and where, on spaceship Earth, are we all going?
"'E look like you an' me. 'E tall man. 'E live long."
— Melanesian informant
Cargo Cult Plane
Our story begins in Melanesia during World War II. Thousands of American GIs suddenly descended on this South Sea island chain, bearing with them unimaginable riches: magical foodstuffs that never spoiled, inconceivable power sources. Just as abruptly the troops departed, leaving only broken, rusted Jeeps, crumpled beer cans, and the memory of Spam. To the astonished eyes of the natives, this was a miraculous occurrence, and they yearned for the return of abundance. Accordingly, they built totemic sky-craft in an attempt to summon back these Visitors and their legendary leader, the man the Melanesians called John Frum. They had formed a Cargo Cult.